The questions are constant anymore.
“Why are young people leaving the church?”
“What does this generation want from church?”
“How do we get millenials to stay/come back?”
It’s the great existential crisis of the 21st century church. Every denomination every where is bleeding people my age, for a myriad of reasons, some known, some unknown.
We want authenticity. We want authentic, unmanufactured experiences of the Divine.
My generation has been sold to since the day we were born. Advertising and commercialized products have been our constant environment. Every where we go, everything we do is marketed and analyzed and fine tuned to appeal to this or that demographic.
And frankly, we are sick of it.
We are sick of being told what to buy, what is important, what is cool enough for us. We are sick of being treated as numbered consumers, rather than individuals with a full, unique complement of desires and needs and ideas.
So when we walk into a church, the last thing we want is for that church to being hawking a product. We don’t need slick, PR-certified tracts of watered-down theology; we don’t need hip pastors and loud rock music and coffee bars and strobe lights.
We don’t need church to be sold to us.
When we walk into a church, we want to see a caring, authentic community of authentic people. We want to see real people enjoying being together. We want to be made felt welcome, warts and all. We want to see church happen in an authentic way.
My generation values authenticity very, very highly. We want real experiences, not more stuff we’ll throw away in a couple years. We want to feel a part of something bigger than us, part of a community. We want people who genuinely care about us. We want to be a valued part of a church, not a butt in a pew, not a check mark on the diversity list. We want to be asked to be a leader, to serve on committees, to cook meals, to be trusted with the responsibility of being a member of a church. We need to feel like we are making a difference when we go to church, not just in our lives, but in the world. We need church to be about more than evangelizing; we need it to be a place of welcome and acceptance and authentic community.
My generation is telling church, get real.
Accept people for who they are.
Mess us sometimes.
Stop being a rock concert.
Stop being a glorified PR firm.
Stop being a retail experience.
Then, maybe we will come back to church,