Yesterday I shared seven observations that I’ve recently made based upon personal experience and conversation with leaders in the Millennial generation. These reflections are not all rooted in scientific social data but most that I say here can be seen in this kind of data if you look at it carefully.
- Most churches tell Millennials, at least by their actions: “We have a program for you. Get married and have a family and you will find a place to join in with our community.” Given the large numbers of single Millennials, and the large number of Millennial couples who do not have children, this message pushes Millennials away from the church more and more. Large numbers of Christians who are now single young adults have left the church and have no plan to return. Thinking they will come home like previous generations is a huge mistake in my view.
- Millennial Christians would rather not start another “generational” church but this will inevitably happen because of the reality of what I stated above.
- Millennials can be reached but very few will be discipled well unless and until the church realizes that the mission of Jesus has profoundly changed in North America. The gospel is the same joyful good news but the way in which we reach and teach must change. We have moved from a religious, denominational, Christendom culture to a post-Christendom, post-denominational culture. Until we see this and embrace it missiologically we will fail.
- Millennial leaders generally do not have the patience to put up with “what’s happening now” in the church culture so they will go where they find meaningful friendships, even if these friendships are not church-connected friendships.
- Churches cannot fix these problems by “reaching out to Millennials.” Congregations must become communities, and this means more than starting and running small groups. Large churches, at least mega-churches as we’ve known them since the 1980s, will not be the same in the next two decades. Many large buildings will not be church buildings in my lifetime or slightly beyond. Again, very few current leaders are willing to address this problem before it overwhelms them.
- Denominations and church groups desperately need to become ecumenical in every practical and possible way. Millennials are not going to embrace a fractured and divided Christianity the way my generation did. I believe there is growing evidence that they will embrace mission and unity if they see how the two are related in Christ’s teaching (John 13-17). This is why I believe even more deeply in the vision that God gave to me for the church back in the early 1990s.
- Millennials hunger for silence, space and nature. They may be connected socially but they desire even more to be connected incarnationally. They hunger for significance in human relationships that reflect real diversity and true openness to all people; even to the whole of the biosphere on this planet.
- Millennials have a strong and growing sense that they want to make a difference. It is more than interesting to see how they have voted. Now they seem to have “buyer’s remorse.” They will likely fall away from the political process in even greater numbers in the coming years, underscoring why the culture wars can not succeed in any meaningful way. The only way to change culture is to disciple leaders who create new structures, or renew old ones. This can only happen if we who are older listen and embrace the young leaders who are speaking to us boldly at the present moment.
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Interstingly, back in the late 60’s there was a song “The Revolution Will not be Televised” Strangely enough I think the cultural revolution we are undergoing will likely be YouTubed, Instagramed, Skyped and Tweeted. Perhaps that indeed is the revolution. We oldsters are still marvelling at the invention of the wall phone now available in colors I think sometimes. It is exciting and frightening at the same time.
Community, community, community… Thanks John!
How can a large church become a community John H. Armstrong? What are the elements of it?
“We have moved from a religious, denominational, Christendom culture to a post-Christendom, post-denominational culture. Until we see this and embrace it missiologically we will fail.”– John H. Armstrong you nailed this one, I grew up Free Methodist went to a FM college and ran as far from it as I could after that. My generation dislikes the taste of the denominational separatism within the body.
Large churches can only have community if they find a way to create “smaller communities who exist to serve” not to receive.
One big piece here. The church needs to preach repentance. Repentance for the unspoken sins within our midst (pride, fame, money, lack of hospitality, bad reputation with outsiders, the passions, etc.). The one who humbles himself will be exalted. Millennials will not judge any leader who is humble and leads from a vulnerability if they can see Jesus modeled through the life. So for instance if we seek first the kingdom in all we do, repent of our sins, and seek true unity than the Lord will help us be fruitful. Time to stop blaming others for what’s happening around us and realize all of this may be happening because the Lord has a word for the church in this season.
Thanks for these posts John. I am grateful for you and your heart for unity and LOVE. There’s a lot of fruitfulness ahead for what the Lord has set you aside to do. Amen.
Large churches, in my opinion, can create community. What a church needs to do is build around interest. Allow individuals to get involved in service, sports, healthcare, etc. Large churches can do one thing for the whole community: Have coffee and donuts or lunch after a service. Catholic churches do this often. Catholic schools have usually a few hundred people at a Mass.
One question I have for you on this John, is if these characteristics regarding millennials are as clear among non-whites and Hispanics as among whites. I have read an article making the case that these trends are especially true for whites. If so the all-white churches so many of us have attended have much less of a future in America and that may be a very necessary thing.
I have in mind mostly white young adults though I have worked with more than a few Asian and Hispanic young adults as well. If they are “Americanized” then this generally holds true for them as well. If first generation it is different.
John, you could not be more correct in your observations. My deepest, dearest friends are in their 20’s & 30’s. All of them but one, do not attend church. Two of them are Christians. I have invested a great deal of time cultivating genuine friendship with these folks. There is hope. However, you are correct…They are NOT coming to church anytime soon. But boy do they respond to authentic love…And they will respond positively to the truths of the Gospel when it is lived out before them. Use the standard evangelical language and you can forget about it. While there are pockets of wonderful things happening, the cold hard truth is church as you know it is over. Which is great news!
I have not found no.1 to be true in my experience, although others I know have.
My generation thumb our noses at the historical divisions in the Church, although we sometimes have our own.
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