I have a lot of millennials in my life: my own children and their friends, nieces and nephews, youth from churches where I’ve served, plus college students I’ve met through ministry. I Snapchat™ and text, Facebook™ and Instagram™. I also visit students on their campuses and I meet them for coffee, lunch, or walks in the park. I’ve had lots of conversations with these folks over the years and since I’m in the business, we talk a lot about church. Despite all the time I’ve spent with them though, there are a number of things I’ve never heard millennials say about church. Here are a few of them.
- I just got so tired of people taking me out to lunch. Every single time I went to that church, they wanted to feed me. Sometimes they even invited me to their houses for home-cooked meals. I can’t be giving up my meals in the cafeteria like that; and anyway, what would I do with all my extra money?
- The Bible studies were just too engaging. I wanted thin theology and all I got was deep study and thought provoking discussion.
- I got sick of everyone remembering my name. What I really wanted was to attend church and have the exact same people greet me week after week with, “Hi, what’s your name? College? Year? Major?” I love answering those questions every Sunday.
- The church I attended felt too much like a warm community. They cared about me and about each other. I prefer to be a part of a large group of cold individuals.
- They always sent me care packages. Seriously, how many homemade cookies can one millennial eat?
- I felt too connected there. That church included me as an active part of ministry. I’d much rather be a project than a partner.
- The church was too open to my doubts and questions. If I had stayed at that church, I felt like I might experience true spiritual formation.
- I hated that the sermons challenged me to deeper understanding of God and that the music moved me spiritually. It was as if the worship leaders prayed over the content of the service and followed God’s leading.
- The ministers of the church wanted to get to know me. They were interested in my concerns and helped me wrestle with challenging theological issues. Stop caring about me, already!
- The people at that church were way too genuine. They were just too committed to living the lives God called them to live.
Nope, I’ve never heard any of those things. But, what I have heard makes me believe that in many ways, millennials are not that different from Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, or even first century believers. They want to break bread with us (particularly if it’s good bread and includes an entrée along with it). They want to follow Jesus and they want to know how to do that. They want to be a part of Kingdom work—not just for the sake of the hereafter but on earth, today–just as it is in heaven.
Oh, and they’d prefer we lose the label. They’d rather us just call them by name.
*This piece was first published on April 6, 2015, by Baptist News Global (formerly Associated Baptist Press). I’m delighted to be associated with this great organization and am honored to be among the gifted writers and thinkers featured there. Watch for my BNG column, appearing monthly at baptistnews.com.