I’m taking a quick break from our “What’s Wrong with Work Today” series to highlight an event I got to go to last night. David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group spoke at a You Lost Me. Live! event at Kings High School. It was geared towards parents of Millennials and they did an excellent job. I read the book almost a year ago and thought Kinnaman was spot on in his analysis of the reasons Millennials are leaving the church.
He explains that young people don’t leave church for the same reasons, and that leaving church does not necessarily mean leaving their faith. He breaks these different groups into three categories: Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles. In the latter half of the book, he looks at the top six reasons Millennials give as to why they leave the church and what we as the church can do to break down these barriers. If you have not read this book and you’re a pastor, parent or a Millennial yourself – please read it!
Here are a few quotes that I took away last night:
“We don’t have to like the trends, but we have to deal with them” – I loved this. Sometimes, I think all we want to do is complain about what’s happening rather than accepting the facts and moving on to a discussion of how we can engage and address the issues in our culture today.
“Typical churches reach married couples with children much better than single professionals” – Millennials are waiting much much longer than the last few generations to get married and have kids. Most churches are primarily set up to reach families. Programs, sermons, events are often family-oriented and it’s assumed that everyone is on the path to marriage and children. Many Millennials aren’t on that road yet and we lose them because of this.
“Millennials want to be part of coming to the conclusion themselves” – We don’t want parents or leaders to “solve” things for us or just hand down answers. Kinnaman writes in his book:
They are used to “having a say” in everything related to their lives. As we noted earlier, communication, fueled by technology, is moving from passive to interactive. Yet the structure of young adult development in most churches and parishes is classroom-style instruction. It is passive, one-sided communication – or at least that’s the perception most young people have of their religious education. They find little appetite within their faith communities for dialogue and interaction.
Our posture towards students and young adults should be more Socratic, more process-oriented, more willing to live with their questions and seek answers together. We need guides who know how to strike a better balance between talking and listening.
Hear this from a Millennial: YES PLEASE!
“We know from the research that they’re stunningly like the faith of their parents” – Confirmed in several other books I’ve read. If Millennials aren’t “on fire” for Jesus, a good possibility is that they haven’t seen parents or other adult role models “on fire” either. In Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean,
“Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issues, but ours.”
“Parents, part of your job in the church is to befriend other parents’ kids! You need to be the other adult in their lives” – Having at least one other adult at church who takes an interest in them is a major factor in kids keeping their faith. I can testify to the value of other adults in the community taking in an interest in our lives. I was incredibly blessed to grow up in a community where many other Christian adults regularly interacted with my siblings and me. Even today, a major reason that I value my church experience is because older adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s have taken the time to befriend and mentor me!
Kinnaman noted that Exiles tend to become Nomads and Prodigals because we in the church are not paying attention to their initial questions. By the time, we pay attention it’s often too late to engage well. We have to get better at listening to questions without fear, without condemnation and without jumping down people’s throats with the “right” answer on the first opportunity.
At the end of the evening, Kinnaman shared from Daniel. He explained that Babylon is a great example of what Christian Millennials are facing in this generation. Daniel was removed from his home culture to a foreign world, had to learn the language and literature of ultra-pagan Babylon, was renamed with a Babylonian deity’s name, was groomed for leadership in a secular government. We could imagine his parents also probably feared for his faith as he became immersed in this godless society. Kinnaman reminded parents to have hope because Daniel was able to remain faithful as an exile and God took his people into exile for the purpose of purifying and renewing them.
Last note: one person (a youth pastor) asked Kinnaman a question about how he can help his graduating seniors connect their calling with what job they’ll do later. I think that was a great question and I have a few thoughts on it:
First, Kinnaman made the great point that it’s so important to help them understand that God is going to use them and that they do have a calling in the first place. Secondly, I think youth pastors should take the time to preach/teach on the theology of work with their seniors. The more they can understand about how God views work in the Bible, the better! Thirdly, I think it’s extremely important that students recognize that they can do God’s work in whatever job they do. The secular/sacred divide needs to be broken down. And to end with a shameless plug: My whole book is basically geared directly at this question. So if you have a youth pastor friend, you should tell them to read it or contact me because I would love to come speak!
Have a great weekend, everyone!