If this is your first time tuning into the series, welcome! You may want to check out Our Emptying Church and When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving or will leave the church.
This week, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a study that is eerily similar to David Kinnaman’s research. You can check out the data here. The research showed that a third of Millennials (18-29) say they have no religious affiliation.
The growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans – sometimes called the rise of the “nones” – is largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones. A third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation (32%), compared with just one-in-ten who are 65 and older (9%). And young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
A blind eye can no longer be turned to the decline of the American evangelical church. It is a reality. I am interested in finding out the motive(s) behind these statistics and I am not afraid to ask hard questions. Honest dialogue is the critical component here.
Stories are important for Millennials. It is often much more socially acceptable to ask a Millennial about his/her story instead of what job position or highest degree he/she holds. A story encompasses someone’s life in the whole rather than simply focusing on a career, which is one aspect of a story. I am a sucker for a good story. Some of my best friendships began with an invitation to get coffee and to trade life stories. I am most grateful for those friends who keep looking me into the eyes and encouraging me to grow and ask questions.
In the next few days, I’m excited to be posting multiple interviews with Millennials here on the blog. My prayer is that by reading other stories, we’ll gain a better perspective of our own and that we’ll embrace each other as brothers and sisters instead of enemies. Because I asked very personal questions about church experiences, I’ve decided to keep the interviewees fairly anonymous; I hope you’ll be as blessed from these interviews as I have been.
Today I’m happy to start off the interview series with a 23 year old woman and a dear friend of mine.
–Did you grow up regularly attending a church? No.
–Are you currently actively attending a church? No.
–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?
I do not feel accepted in the church anymore. I feel like as soon as I walk in, there are judging eyes. I worked in the church daycare a long time ago and moved in with my fiancé. The church told me I needed to not live with him anymore and they would let me keep my job. They also said I could not get married there if I was living with him. I understand not getting married in the church, but I do not understand what the purpose of me losing my job was. My personal life had no interference with my job. I felt the church was very hypocritical. Because they said I was not living the life of a Christian? That is circumstantial, every sin is the same. They also fired a girl who got pregnant out of wedlock. The one time they could have shown the love Christ showed, they fired her, but told her she could come back once the baby was born. It disgusted me.
–If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).
Most of my experiences are listed above. I started really attending church when I was in middle school. I love the youth trips. But I feel like once highschool is over we are left to fend for ourselves. There really isn’t that much for my age group where I feel they have experienced what I have. And where I could give my testimony without judging eyes.
–What is the purpose of the church?
That’s a great question. I feel like the purpose of the church has gotten lost in money and how big the church can get. I feel like the purpose of the church is to gather with people who believe Christ died on the cross for our sins. A place to worship, learn, and pray together. A place you can find shelter and comfort in.
–Feel pressure to attend church?
Yes and No. Because my generation is not the church going generation because there is too much hypocrisy in the church
–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (I.e.: loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)
All of the above. I feel like Christians are very closed minded and most of them usually are. I feel like Christians are scared of what is different from what they have grown up with. You cannot expect someone who was not raised in church to know Christ the way you do. You have to bring it to their level, and most Christians are not willing to get out of their comfort zones.
–In October 2012, a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed that thirty percent of Millennials (age 18-31) identify as having no religious affiliation. Does this surprise you?
Doesn’t Surprise me at all.
–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?
I feel like there will be a huge decline if churches do not do something that will allow EVERYONE to feel like they are welcome. And no fake smiles… I get that A LOT when I visit places.
-Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience?
Things I would like to see in the church: More diverse cultures in the pews and more woman behind the pulpit
As always, I welcome graceful dialogue in the comment section. Can you identify with this woman’s story?
Not to link the church with the Republican party, but neither have had a good history of adapting themselves to the rapidly changing demographics of America. Before the end of this century, the hispanic population will be the majority in the U.S. Other demographics such as sexual orientation may not be changing as rapidly, but they have been marginalized by the church for far too long. The role of women has expanded in many churches, but there are few churches where they enjoy equal footing with men. The general populus is sometimes slow to adapt itself to change, but the church is even slower.
I think you've made some really good points here as demographics are quickly changing while our institutions are not. This creates kind of a sticky juxtaposition for many of us to love God but do not always love the church's mold or interpretation of God. I appreciate your perspective!