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Stop saying Millennials are lazy


Millennials? They live at home with their parents!”

“When I was their age, I had a job, spouse, and a car!”

“Young people today… these Millennials are just lazy.”

Those are comments I have heard in coffee shops, restaurants, and surprisingly in churches. Many of the people making such comments are Baby Boomers, who are known for experiencing historical gains in post-war job growth and increased standard of living. Frankly, it is disturbing for me as a young adult to hear such comments. As a younger Generation Xer or older Millennial pastor (depending on how you measure the generations) it is extremely vexing to hear negative comments about young people.

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5 phrases that frustrate Millennials in church


In an age where Millennials in church are a scarcity, long term church members often find trouble with how to relate to newer church goers. No matter if the young people are Millennials, or Gen-Xers,  younger church goers and members must be encouraged and allowed to take leadership roles. With 66% of Millennials in church say that churches are hypocritical, church leaders need to understand that cultural church language and behavior are important.

With all of these considerations, here’s what send Millennials in church running from churches in frustration:

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#1 reason why churches have lost millennials


After recently writing about misconceptions of millennials, I stumbled on study that discovered the strongest contributing factor of the millennial’s departure from churches.  The study revealed something so basic it amazing that more research is not being done.

There are groups like Barna and church trackers like Ed Stetzer who have listed several major reasons why millennials and young people are leaving churches. According to the research about 60% of young people stop going to church altogether. These studies quoted take a pretty dynamic approach looking at many factors. However, the answer to the millennial exodus is simpler and more troubling.

The Christian Century cited a report by the Association of Religion Data Archives that went under the radar. I was shocked when I read it. The study found that 1% of youth ages “15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid to late twenties.” Here is what else they found about millennials and young people:

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What you know about Millennials is wrong


The hype surrounding millennials has been heavily documented. You know the millennials. Those trophy-for-everything-kids who live with their parents. The millennials who grew up as the “me” generation. Millennials, with their technology, social media, and heavy cell phone use. As employees, millennials are high maintenance, liberal, and self-serving.

Everyone thinks they know the millennials, but they don’t. Here’s why.

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Millennials losing faith in record numbers

This should not surprise us, but it should alarm us. Millennials, 18-24 year olds, are not only leaving churches in record numbers, but they are also losing their faith too. The Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, just released a shocking study on these young people.

Many Christians think young people are leaving churches for other religions and that is just not true. Young people are leaving their faith behind and quickly becoming the generation of “unaffiliated”.

Daniel Cox, the Public Religion Research Institute’s research director said,

“These younger unaffiliated adults are very nonreligious. “They demonstrate much lower levels of religiosity than we see in the general population,” including participation in religious rituals or worship services.

The hard numbers:

  • 1 in 4 young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion
  • 25% say religion is unimportant
  • 1 in 4 Millennials said that they attend religious services at least once a week
  • Among Catholics, whites were twice as likely as Hispanics to say they are no longer affiliated with the church
  • 37% say that they never pray
  • Fewer than half (40%) say that religion is either very important or most important thing in their life
  • 45% who attend or attended a religiously affiliated college reported attending worship services once a week compared with just 13% attending or attended a private college
  • 6-in-10 (62%) Millennials also believe that present-day Christianity is “judgmental.”

The crucial bit of information within this data is that within the “unaffiliated group”, 55% identified with a religious group when they were younger.  Meaning, we are seeing a growing segment of younger people not only leaving their church, but also losing their affiliation with their faith.

The study also found that  Catholics are losing the highest number of childhood believers, with about 8%.  White mainline Protestant adherents lost 5%. For those who reported a change in their childhood and young adulthood religious affiliation was the unaffiliated, which moved from 11% to 25%.

Compared with other generations, Millennials do not have a bright future ahead for religious faith and worship attendance. Denominations and churches must act quickly, but decisively to change their strategies. Instead of pumping money into dying churches, denominations must support growing churches.

Pastors and churches must understand that Millennials are a values based generation. That means, they will affiliate with causes that embody their conviction for ethical causes. They care about the oppression of peoples, injustice of poverty, and have compassion for the lowly. Churches must see their outreach as a missional outreach to their community.  By embodying the Gospel message, churches must share the salvation of Christ and Jesus’ mission to uplift the oppressed.   If 62% of Millennials believe that Christianity is judgmental, then we churches and believers have a lot of work to do to change.

Church giving increases, but hurts Millennials

As the economy rebounds it appears that contributions to churches are increasing as well.   According to 4th annual “State of the Plate” survey , 51% of churches last year saw an increase in church giving, up from 43% in 2010 and 36% in 2009. That should make all churches rejoice. However, if you look deeper into this report, we see that we shouldn’t celebrate just yet.

This study shows increase support of churches, but concerns arise from which churches see an increase in giving:

The increase seen in 2011 was most noticeable in the most mega of megachurches: 86 percent of churches with more than 10,000 congregants saw an greatest rise in giving, compared to 39 percent of churches with fewer than 100 people saw an increase.

Still, nearly one-third (32 percent) of churches said giving was down in 2011 — although a smaller share than the 39 percent of churches that reported a decline two years ago, according to the survey.

This means that mega churches, which tend to be populated by affluent Christians, saw a rebound in giving compared to smaller churches, which tend to be populated by less affluent churches goers.  This followers the pattern in our society: the rich are getting richer, and the poor are becoming poorer.  Even in churches, we see an income and giving gap. As the economy rebounded for the more wealthy, the lower-income segment of the population continues to struggle. How can a wealthy mega church continue to pump money into their large buildings and staffs when their neighbors are suffering to survive?

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Millennials value Parenting more than Marriage

A recent Pew Poll and study among 18-25 year-old adults found that parenting is more important than marriage. The majority of Millennials, (generally those born between 1982 and 1995) about 52%, said being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. About 30% said the same about having a successful marriage. This Pew Poll points out that there is a 22 percentage point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.

Sometimes called “Generation Y”, Millennials differed from their Generation X counterparts:

When this same question was posed to 18- to 29-year-olds in 1997, the gap was just 7 percentage points. Back then, 42% of the members of what is known as Generation X said being a good parent was one of the most important things in life, while 35% said the same about having a successful marriage.

What does this mean?

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Shocker: Young Adults Want ‘Religion’

In churches, we often hear the warning giving to youth off to college, “You’ll lose your faith in college.”  All those competing ideas about religion, philosophy, and knowledge working against everything a church has built up!  I once had an old timer in my home church tell me right before I left for seminary, “Be careful, you can lose your faith in seminary!” Is there something about education and youth that are dangerous?  Sordid stories of youth going wild in early adulthood often lead people to think that young people want nothing to do with church, God, religion or faith.

In a surprising new study, we have learned that young adults/youth actually want a life of faith and religious practices.  Duke Divinity’s Faith and Leadership blog sums up the study:

In the National Study of Youth and Religion, 72 percent of young adults said they had positive feelings about the religious tradition in which they were raised. And nearly half of the young adults in the religion panel study said they would like to attend worship services more often.

The fact that most young people have “positive feelings” towards their religious tradition and nearly half of respondents want to go to church more, should tell us something about Generation Y.

So, how can churches reach these young people?

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