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A few troubling studies have been released in the recent weeks depicting the ongoing decline of faith among Millennials in America. While the lack of church attendance and the growth of atheism in the Millennial generation have been widely discussed for some time, the bad news about the lack of faith in Millennials is that we don’t care enough to make a difference.

Every time I post about Millennials, someone asks me who Millennials are, so let me clarify here. Millennials are typically known to be people born between the years 1980 and 2000, and they will be the largest generation in the United States within a few years.

A Pew survey released earlier in June compared data points between 2007 and 2012. In 2007, 83% of Millennials in the U.S. said they never doubted God’s existence, but that number has now dropped to 68% in 2012. The survey’s report also stated, “People younger than 30 are substantially less likely than older people to say prayer is an important part of their lives.”

Focus on the Family released a report showing Millennials to be the least likely generation to say “religious life” was important to them. Only 43% of Millennials said yes, compared to 59% of Boomers.

A nation once founded upon the backs of Puritans and their values of hard work and love of God has been replaced by a pursuit of individual happiness and dissatisfaction with “organized religion.”

There’s no question these findings are troubling. The lack of faith among Millennials is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. In the circles I run in, we’re quick to throw blame on my fellow Millennials for being immature and to place the blame on them for why this country is going down in flames.

I’ve yet to see a single person react positively to these (and many other) reports. But I believe placing blame like this is shortsighted.

The studies of these findings highlight three major problems I see:

Standing on the Sidelines

What’s troubling to me is not the statistics and the studies depicting the lack of faith in Millennials. I’ve lived these statistics with almost all of my friends who lack intentional Christian community, church involvement, and consistent disciplines for engaging their so-called relationship with God. The statistics don’t scare me.

What’s troubling to me is how we’re responding to Millennials. Rather than extending a hand, we’re quick to place blame. It’s a lot easier to stand on the sidelines yelling at the refs than it is to put ourselves in the game.

Rather than being an influence, we watch television every night.

Rather than getting involved, we wait for our pastor’s vision to extend to the next generation first. After all, if he or she isn’t on board with this, why should we be?

At some point, we have to acknowledge that the excuses no longer cover up our lack of care for others.

Questions

I’ve yet to meet a single person who didn’t struggle with faith somewhere along the journey of life.

While I’d agree there is a big difference between doubting God’s existence and doubting His good and sovereign will, doubt is a part of the life of faith for all of us at some point.

I’ve seen the movie The Way two times now, and each time I’ve been struck with how much we give the Christian idea of unwavering faith a platform. With this picture of an ideal faith in one hand and our own reality of faith as an unending journey with struggles, doubts, and mistakes in the other hand, it’s no wonder we walk away to somewhere else that meets our needs instead.

The religious environment most of us have come to know is a rules-driven, legalistic, head disconnected from heart, sit up straight and pay attention, religious type of duty.

Disparaging statistics about the faith of Millennials aside, if we’re going to push for a Christian faith that doesn’t encourage the questioning of faith within life, I believe we’re only further alienating people who are searching for a place to share in the struggles and questions of life with others.

Millennials have often known church to be a place where put-together Christians put on their happy faces to fake their way through life. We need church to be a place where we engage the harsh realities of life.

Searching

People are constantly searching for hope, for love, and for someone to genuinely care for them right where they are.

The bad news about the lack of faith among Millennials is that we don’t see it as an opportunity.

I’m not advocating for passing off blame from Millennials. We have much to learn when it comes to navigating faith and life.

I’m just asking that you stop blaming Millennials and start getting to know them.

By engaging others in personal relationships, you’ll change statistics without realizing it.

Don’t throw around survey statistics; extend a hand instead.

Tyler lives in Portland. He is married to Rose and attends Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He is the student Ministry Worship and Praise Band Director at Sunset Presbyterian Church.

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Jack Lawrence

commented on Aug 28, 2012

"The religious environment most of us have come to know is a rules-driven, legalistic, head disconnected from heart, sit up straight and pay attention, religious type of duty." This is a troubling paragraph from the article and points to a definite problem but from a different perspective than the author would have us understand. The Millenials ( large numbers) have a problem with God's eternal moral truths and expectations. The label the preaching and teaching of such truths as "legalistic" and unloving; labeling the church irrelevant and unimportant. 2 Scripture passages comes to mind: John 6:66 and the story of the "Rich Young Ruler." These are the best examples of the so-called "Millenials" Progblem

Denise Douglas

commented on Aug 28, 2012

Tyler, I agree with much of what you say - especially the encouragement for all of us to reach a hand, get to know, walk along side those in the millinial generation. I meet regularly with an 18 year old who doesn't think very highly of Christians (gay haters to her) who are indeed seen as legalistic and unloving. Trying to change that, help her see Christians can't all be lumped into one group. She has not been raised with any kind of faith and is unclear if her parents believe anything at all. But I do understand Jack's perspective of millinials who have been raised in the faith, not wanting to accept God's moral truths and expectations. The problem seems different inside and outside the church. Lets keep taking it before Jesus to understand the most effective witness we can have to this generation both inside and outside the church.

Michael Dissmore

commented on Aug 28, 2012

I agree with this article. I'm 54 and have been in the church all my life. It would be arrogant to allow a generation to be lost just because they didn't take the same path I did. If we?re going to reach them, we have to go out into the ?highways and byways? to where they are. I've tried to educate myself on Millennials by reading books and speaking to them (my 3 kids are in this group too). What I?ve found is that they tend to be brutally honest about their faith. If they feel that God let them down, they say so rather than pretending otherwise as my generation does. There?s something refreshing about that. As for those with no spiritual background, aren?t they just as vulnerable to the gospel as the unreached Africans of 100 years ago? What a harvest field we have all around us!

Dan O'' Donnell

commented on Aug 28, 2012

The Boomer generation, of which I am a part, needs to involve themselves with the millennials. This is a cause centered generation. We need to point the way and along the way, learn some things from them.

Steven K. Beckett

commented on Aug 28, 2012

I believe this is true for every generation. Jesus demonstrated the perfect model for us, yet we continually look for new and exciting ways to "reach people." We look to "so called experts" to teach us how to reach people when the Creator gave us the example for all people, in all times. In my private devotional time a few weeks ago the Lord laid this on my heart and I came way with this "if we do not walk with people in their pain and suffering, in their doubt and fears, they will never walk with Him." That is exactly what Jesus did, what the Apostles did, they walked with people in the hardships and that is what we should be doing!

Mark Noonan

commented on Aug 28, 2012

Something I would add to the mix is the issue of busyness. I live in Canada, but culturally there are many similarities. One of the things i notice about this age group and the up-coming generations is the busyness factor. Parents put them into sports and music and such (not bad things) but for the most part these activities take priority on Sunday instead of family worship. Church becomes an issue of convenience. They are not saying so, but the parents actions cause their kids to think along these lines, so being part of a church is no longer a priority as they grow. Regardless of the issues surrounding reaching them, we first have to be part of their lives to do so. it will take time and patience in ministering to this group.

Arturo Muro

commented on Aug 28, 2012

I have been ministering in Puebla, Mexico for over 30 years, most of these in church planting, leadership development and pastoral ministries. While I do not see the same things here as I saw in this article there is quite a resemblance as young people today are much harder to reach and are not as involved as they were 25-30 years ago. Thanks for touching such an untouched subject for pastors. At the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit Gregg Groeschel also talked a little about these different generations and it was quite helpful. back to the drawing board to craft new strategies! PTL that God is the same for every generation despite the difference in needs and culture!

David Watts

commented on Aug 28, 2012

Remember what our Lord and savior did to help with faith and believing with the generation he wailked on this earth in the flesh. He healed the broken hearted ,open the eyes to the blind ,set captive them that were bound. Even with the Y generation (Millenials) need the ministry of Jesus our Lord. Live the word and pray and signs will follow you walk for all to see and believe.

Larry E Mason

commented on Aug 28, 2012

Hey Tyler, your article is right on. My son is a 32 year old twin. I was very encouraged by what he posted on facebook on his birthday: Okay this is for Christians (which I am). We need to examine first the word of God and second ourselves. I see so many people that reject Christ because of us. Many times their only view of who God is, will be the way we love them or in some cases don't. You see very few people can reject a real encounter with the love of God. Show them who Jesus is! He saved an adultress from being stoned. Only after she encountered his love was he able to say "go and leave your life of sin." We have to follow his example and get things in order. He was called names by religious people because of who he ministered to. Remember we are called to be salt and light, a city on a hill. The world is dying and He has life. Show them the place of refuge. The bible says "God is Love." If you believe, then yield yourself to him and allow that love to flow through you from the indside out. I'm not saying we shouldn't stand in the gap for those who can't defend themselves or stand up for the truth and what is right, but we must operate from a place of Love. Understanding that what people need more than anything else is freedom that comes from the truth of Christ, not the guilt that comes from condemnation. The problem is many will refuse to know Jesus because they see us first. A final thought... If you bare the name of Jesus publically then please be sure it is worthy of who he is.

Frank L Johnson

commented on Aug 28, 2012

Prayerfully you are spot on. Worship more and more is depicted as an experience within walls of grandeur. Yes I agree fully, no person having personally experienced Christ will turn back as the rich young man. You will fare well though if you understand the context in which this young man speaks. Simply respond by examining ones self in the context of Christs example and commands, move out of your individual comfort zones and love a millennial if you have not done so. Michael consider Acts 13:1 where Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene ordained Saul and Barnabus as they carried Christianity westward; the Ethiopian Queens treasurer after his Baptisim, and even Simon the bearer of our Saviors cross. Food for thought. In His Grace!

Joel Rutherford

commented on Aug 28, 2012

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Joel Rutherford

commented on Aug 28, 2012

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Frank L Johnson

commented on Aug 28, 2012

Prayerfully you are spot on. Worship more and more is depicted as an experience within walls of grandeur. Yes I agree fully, no person having personally experienced Christ will turn back as the rich young man. You will fare well though if you understand the context in which this young man speaks. Simply respond by examining ones self in the context of Christs example and commands, move out of your individual comfort zones and love a millennial if you have not done so. Michael consider Acts 13:1 where Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene ordained Saul and Barnabus as they carried Christianity westward; the Ethiopian Queens treasurer after his Baptisim, and even Simon the bearer of our Saviors cross. Food for thought. In His Grace!

Mark Baker

commented on Aug 28, 2012

I guess I have a different take on this. It seems there is an assumption that M's are being blamed for their lack of faith. Well, I think we need to be accurate here, not too much NOR too little. I think BB"S (or whatever "generation" or group of people you want to call them) have a lot of responsibility here. They raised them. But I would go further, I think it is the ideology under which they have been raised. I believe they were not taught or trained well to accurately appreciate responsibility and TRUTH. They were trained (all of this is generally speaking, of course) more on feelings, pop-psychology, and "relative truths" than on absolute truth and the principles of God's Word. So, ironically, the blame/responsibility is more on the previous generations. But what has made it far worse is that the emerging church has come along with a faulty premise and solution: "They don't like "rigid" truth and "bible teaching" (it is those old-school 'legalistic' 'Christians fault, don't you know), so we are going to be more 'agreeable.' We, too, will follow our feelings through providing experiences; this will draw them in. We, too, believe that doubt is better than certainty (see Gen 3:1; no wonder they have so many doubts!). We'll try to be cool and trendy, so that they will see how authentic we are." I could go on and on. I believe the best section of Scripture to describe this is 2 Timothy 2:20-4:7. The understanding and solutions are there (especially 3:15-4:5). One main solution is for the previous generation--and for all of us--to repent of their errors and get back to faithful, loving, teaching of the Word (that is precisely what the apostles did in Acts), but we know that our hearts to not like this. It is about time we lovingly taught M' how to take responsibility, because that is what life, even eternal life and the gospel, hinges on.

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