Should The Church Be Trying To Win Millennials Back? (Or Following Their Lead)

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There is a classic The Simpsons episode where Homer, after a frustrating morning getting ready, skips church.  Much to the chagrin of family and friends he has such a great day skipping church he decides to give up church altogether.  Suddenly there is a knock at the door and Homer opens it to reveal Ned Flanders armed with a guitar and a determination to win Homer back to the church fold:

Ned: Neighbor, we’ve heard about your heresy and we’ve made it our mission to win you back to the flock

Homer: No sale

Ned: Homer, Christian life isn’t all praying and sacrifice.  Hey dig this… (breaks into song on his guitar with family) “God said to Noah there’s going to be a floody, floody….”

Homer: (Slams door)

 

Winning Millennials Back?

A lot has been written about the Millennials (those born after 1990) and their exodus from the traditional Sunday morning centric church.  And like Ned Flanders there has been many well intentioned, yet largely humorous and ineffective, attempts at winning them back.

We’ve tried organic coffee, hip sermon videos, and concert like worship services in attempt to reach a social media savvy generation back to our Sunday morning services.

It’s been mostly ineffective.

But I want to pose a question

Should we be trying to win Millennials back?

Unlike previous generations, the Millennial Generation has access to knowledge and information on a level unprecedented in human history. For this reason they are less likely accept to a single cultural narrative regardless of whether that cultural narrative is nationalistic, ethnocentric, or relating to matters of faith.

Whereas older Christian generations tend to get their understanding of the world through a few select sources (a pastor, a newspaper, a particular news station or talk radio host), the Millennial Generation Christians accesses news and events from a multiple range of sources and viewpoints.

Like the Berearens of old (Acts 17:11) they can examine the facts to see if the message they are receiving is true.  Millennials are becoming global citizens, which comes in handy since the Kingdom of Heaven is global in nature.

Jesus-as-a-Millennial

Last week I was talking to a Millennial Christian (who has about as much interest in going to a Sunday service as he would the dentist.)  He had been watching documentaries on Youtube and telling me about the horrors going on in Africa regarding forced conscription of children for fighting, sex trafficking, and slavery.  When I asked him why he would spend time watching that kind of thing he said he wanted to educate himself about what was happening in the world and how maybe he could help do something about it.

I thought to myself, “Churches are trying to win this type of guy back to ‘the flock’ seeing him as gone astray, but could he be instrumental in helping win ‘the flock’ back to what Jesus cares about.

As an evangelical I grew up trying to get people on Earth to Heaven one day. Millennials seem more interested in bringing Heaven to Earth.

Which is pretty cool since that seemed to be what Jesus was interested in as well.

your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:9

I’m not suggesting Millennials have the whole package or complete revelation. They need the wise counsel and mentoring of saints who have gone before them.

Millennials have a lot to learn…

but they also have a lot to teach us.

So church, my suggestion is this:

Let’s not be in such a rush to “win Millennials back” but instead  be a little more open to their leading us to where they are going.

2 comments

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  • This sums it up so well!

    “Churches are trying to win this type of guy back to ‘the flock’ seeing him as gone astray, but could he be instrumental in helping win ‘the flock’ back to what Jesus cares about.”

    It seems like the modern church has constructed an artificial, zoo-like habitat that it expects to serve as home for the flock, but our nature is to be free and to graze in the open fields and pastures with the other sheep, not in a concrete encased prison with bad coffee and fake, surface relationships.

  • Ann Locasio

    Reply

    Although not a millennial, I work with a lot of them. These young adults care passionately about the state of the world. They’re also highly disenchanted with organized religion. They relate to what Anne Rice posted when she said, “I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.” That Facebook post got 4000 Likes in 24 hours. Evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans said that the first thing 92% of young adults under 30 hear when they hear “Christian” is “antihomosexual.” Jesus said that his church on earth was such that nothing could prevail against it. That’s true. He never said, however, that the American institutional church would endure forever! We seem to be moving toward an organic, grassroots Christianity that more directly challenges our American Empire and its warmongering ways, and is passionately concerned with helping the poor and caring for the Creation. I welcome this trend. Good reads for anyone who’s interested: Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass and The Underground Church by Robin Meyers.

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