Since every Monday is a Millennial Monday at The Focus Press Blog, I want to address some of the basics of what that means for newer readers and for those who might be unsure of what the Millennial discussion is about or why it’s important. Both on the blog and in Think magazine (and in my seminar series, as well) we dedicate a lot of words to the relationship between Millennials and the church, and so it seems necessary to make sure people understand why. We’ve seen questions and criticisms about why we do this, so hopefully this article will clear up some of those doubts.
What is a Millennial?
“Millennial” is simply the term used for those in the Millennial generation. Just like “Baby Boomer” or “Gen-Xer,” Millennial is the name given to people born during a specific time period. While the exact time period of Millennial birth years isn’t exact, when we at Focus Press use the term we generally refer to those who are 30 and under, from young adults to “twenty-somethings.”
Why focus on Millennials?
One of the issues we discuss frequently in our articles, in our lessons, and on the radio is the mass exodus from the church that we see occurring among younger people. Various studies put the number between 50 and 80 percent, but whatever the precise number is, we can be almost certain that over half of those who grow up in the church will eventually abandon it.
Of all the challenges facing the church today, the inability to keep our own is, in my opinion, the #1 problem we need to address. So, in writing about Millennials each week, my goal is to talk about how the church can best reach and relate to Millennials. In some articles we’ll focus on what Millennials can do, but much of my aim is to encourage churches to build an environment that makes young people a part of the church so they can fulfill the roles they’re supposed to fill with the talents they’ve been given. While every person will give an account for him or herself at the judgment, those who have responsibility over the souls of the young (parents and elders, namely) need to do everything in their power to encourage and develop faithfulness. It is that particular work of the family and the church that I’m interested in.
Why should we write articles addressed to one particular age group?
I’ve seen criticism of those, like us, who spend time focusing on Millennials and the faithfulness issue of this particular generation. “The church just needs to preach the Gospel, it’s strong enough to reach everybody.” “There’s no secret to reaching young people, they just need to understand that they are sinful and that Jesus offers salvation.”
First things first: yes, the saving message of the Gospel is something every generation needs equally. Nobody is claiming that we can or should circumvent the basic truth of the Gospel to reach people of different ages. Additionally, we agree as much as anybody (probably more, considering what we’ve written on age segregation in Think) that the church is not to be seen as separate groups of people but as one family. Therefore we don’t believe in focusing on groups within our ministerial or evangelistic efforts. And, for one final note of agreement, we believe everyone should be seen as individuals. We can’t assume they believe or think a certain way based on what age they are.
Having said all of that, here’s my answer to those who object to our focus on this particular (statistically more unfaithful) generation. Read the Gospel accounts. Did they differ in their presentation style? Of course they did. Why? Because they had different audiences. Matthew wrote extensively about the kingdom and mentioned dozens of Old Testament texts because he wrote to Jews. Those references would have meant nothing to Luke’s Gentile audience, but his focus on the salvation of all nations and the love poured out on those typically not accepted (Gentiles, tax collectors, prostitutes, etc.) throughout Luke and Acts show why he differed from Matthew.
This is why we realize that different people of different ages will need to receive the same, uncompromised message of the Gospel in different ways. While folks are still individuals and think differently from others, it’s not a stretch to make generally applicable observations. Take, for one example, the fact that young people are more tech-savvy than their parents and grandparents. Beyond that, the church in a number of places has treated young people differently for many years, treating them like the junior church with dumbed down classes and lowered expectations for involvement. Many of our Millennial articles seek to reverse that and help the church know how to treat them and where they fit.
To summarize, we write about Millennials because we see a need – a huge, critical, largely unaddressed need. Any time we see a number of people leaving the church, it makes sense to start looking for what they have in common. When what they have in common includes growing up in the church and being under 30 and we’ve long had programs in place for those specific people (in many cases to no avail), it’s time we sit down and start talking about what we’re doing wrong and what needs to change.
By Jack Wilkie