Why Millennials (and Others) are leaving the church: Rachel Held Evans forgot one…
Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans has written an article for CNN addressing the issue “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church?” In it she lists a number of very valid reasons including the main point:
We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.
I would like to suggest another reason not only Millennials, but older Christians as well are giving church attendance the more frequent miss;
Their community isn’t there as well.
Traditionally mainline churches set themselves up in a manner similar to local schools with a particular congregation geared to meeting the spiritual needs of their local neighborhoods and community.
Whether you were Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or Presbyterian you found your local parish congregation and became part of that expression of the community.
If there is one thing the explosion of consumerism in society has taught us though, it is how to shop and how far we’re willing to travel to get to the product or service we desire.
Time was as a kid you walked to and attended your local school. But now if a school 30 minutes away has a better music or language program (or at least you heard they did) a parent will leapfrog over the local school 5 minute’s walk away to drive to another town if need be.
That same thinking has permeated the church. For the last 30 years or so people have traveled surrounding towns and cities looking for:
* a more charismatic and engaging pastor
* lively preaching
* musically gifted “worship team”
* a fully equipped children and youth ministry
Chances are the person you are sitting next to in church is NOT the same person you borrowed sugar from yesterday!
Growing, laughing, and sharing with the local community took a backseat to securing a better product and service. And churches responded in kind by marketing beyond their communities.
But now the problem begins…
With the explosion of technology, we don’t really need to travel or commit to a congregation to get really good teaching. We are no longer limited to the dynamic pastor in the next town; with the internet we have audio and video podcasts of some of the most dynamic speakers from around the globe.
If a main motivation for church attendance was securing a better product, what happens when an even better product becomes available from my living room couch?
Some Sundays I go to church…some Sundays I don’t…
My wife and I recently reconnected with some long time friends. In the conversation I happened to ask where they were going to church these days. They mentioned a church I was familiar with but then added, “But honestly Steve, we don’t even go so much for the preaching and worship as much as for the coffee and fellowship.”
That is a sentiment I have grown accustomed to hearing. In a social media drenched world where human interaction has been reduced to “likes”, “comments”, and “retweets”, people are instead reaching out for friends that they can laugh, cry, and discuss their their faith with face to face.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in prayer meetings where we’ll be in an engaging, life giving discussion on the things of God only to then be told “we need to start praying now.” And I’m thinking, “This was praying and now you want to start doing the thing where one person talks and everyone else fights to stay concentrated while their minds drift to what they have to do at work the next day.”
People aren’t leaving God, they are just attending meetings less and less. Older Christians will continue to attend by and large from habit and feelings of obligation but the Millennials that Rachel discusses in her article are less encumbered with historical baggage.
They just won’t come.
The traditional church service with an emphasis on the worship and the preach will be harder to sell to a generation looking for interaction and participation.
Hey, I love good teaching and worship…but the gathering of the Saints needs to be so much more.
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