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Millennials and the Challenge of Relevance

POSTED: July 24, 2017 11:14 a.m.

Recently, the Barna research group reported that Millennials have significantly lower church attendance rates than their parents.

This group, born in early 1980’s to early 2000’s – about 17-35 years old now – represents much of the future of a church as they are in prime child-bearing years.

That Millennials are backing away from church is a dynamic all churches must pay attention to.

When Barna asked those in this age group who have stopped attending church why they did so, the group as a whole highlighted a few main reasons.

The number one reason Millennials have generally stopped attending church?

“The church is irrelevant, the leaders are hypocritical and leaders have experienced too much moral failure.”

Okay, so that’s three reasons in one.

Barna, however, lumps all three reasons together as one reason.

And come to think of it, that’s kind of the way the conversation goes with an unchurched person, isn’t it?

How many times have you heard, “The church doesn’t speak to me and is full of hypocrisy; just look at the moral failure of so many of its leaders”?

And who can blame them, at least to some extent.

How do we address this?

First, we must create a culture of humility and grace.

The church needs to be clear that it is a church of sinners – from the top down.

Every single person in church needs what everyone else is there for.

This is where we must be careful not to let judgmentalism take over. Beware the “they are bigger sinners than we are” mentality.

It is not only un-Christian, but it can also be a cancer in a church.

That we are all sinners in need of redemption – regardless of who we are, what we have done, how much money we have, how long we have been in that church, or how we are dressed – is the one thing we all have in common.

Second, we must do all we can to stop placing pastors or other church leaders on a pedestal.

We are in need of God’s forgiveness and grace like everyone else.

And if you look closely enough or wait long enough, you will see that we are all very, very fallible people.

When we pastors go beyond teaching and ministering and begin to present ourselves as moral leaders (i.e., morally superior or moral examples), we set ourselves up for failure.

And we will fail every time.

Unfortunately, when that does occur those in the church who need to see a genuine faith and humility in the midst of sinful and redeemed humanity only see hypocrisy.

In those situations, we are no longer “real” to many people. Therefore, we – and the church – seem irrelevant.

These issues lead us to ask tough questions.

Does your church have an “All Welcome” sign and really mean it? Honestly, think about it.

Do your church leaders represent humility and grace? Or is it simply a panel of judges?

Tough questions that challenge us.

We will either meet those challenges or run the risk of losing more than one generation – of not just seeming irrelevant, but of actually becoming irrelevant to them.

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