Monday Morning Insights

Photo of Todd

    Why are the Millennials Dropping Out of Church?

    Why are the Millennials Dropping Out of Church?

    According to a Pew Center report on "millenials" (Americans who are younger than 30):  "Fewer young adults belong to any particular faith than older people do today. They also are less likely to be affiliated than their parents' and grandparents' generations were when they were young. Fully one-in-four members of the Millennial generation -- so called because they were born after 1980 and began to come of age around the year 2000 -- are unaffiliated with any particular faith. Indeed, Millennials are significantly more unaffiliated than Generation Xers were at a comparable point in their life cycle (20 percent in the late 1990s) and twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults (13 percent in the late 1970s)."

    The Dallas Morning News writer Jeff Weiss did some digging into the Pew study and found what he thought was a contradiction:

    "Young adults' beliefs about life after death and the existence of heaven, hell and miracles closely resemble the beliefs of older people today. Though young adults pray less often than their elders do today, the number of young adults who say they pray every day rivals the portion of young people who said the same in prior decades. And though belief in God is lower among young adults than among older adults, Millennials say they believe in God with absolute certainty at rates similar to those seen among Gen Xers a decade ago."

    What's the deal?

    Here's the conclusion that Weiss comes to: young adults are not losing faith, just unplugging from religious institutions at a rate unprecedented in U.S. history.


    Not that we didn't already know this.

    My question:  Why?

    Why are young people dropping out of the church like flies?

    Do you think they'll ever come back?

    What do we need to do to change the trend?

    What is YOUR church doing to reach 'millenials' with great success?

    Share your thoughts... please!


    Read more here.



    if you want a Globally Recognized Avatar (the images next to your profile) get them here. Once you sign up, your picture will displayed on any website that supports gravitars.

    1. Oliver on Tue, March 09, 2010

      I am one of those between the gen xer’s and millennials, as a twenty something, I have tried to let people know exactly how I feel and many others of my age group.  But I feel that older people don’t want to listen, I think that many older christians are really stuck on themselves.  They do so much ministry out of their own insecurities, its unbelievable that they can’t see it themselves.  I think we are the first generation to really call a spade a spade, and see things as they really are. For example, Church is nothing more than a spectator sport, most “leaders” have no idea what they are doing, they just go from one program to another, from one cool “topic of the day” to another, never growing any, and always confused as to the direction of the church or why young people are leaving the church.  Everything is done for the institution, and most church follow personalities.  “leaders” adopt business principles and apply them willy nilly to the church on sunday, I work at a stupid corporation mon-fri, why do I want to go to church and get more of the same?!  Its insane!  Our generation wants people that are authentic, not fake, that will stop trying to run from one program to the next and stop for one second to try to understand what the church is really about.  Basically, if you need to ask why millennials are leaving, then you are probably part of the problem, and part of the reason they are leaving!

    2. Matt on Tue, March 09, 2010

      Thank you, Oliver, for your honesty.

    3. Ken Eastburn on Tue, March 09, 2010

      Pretty sure Oliver nailed it.

      The unfortunate part is that instead of figuring out what we’re actually supposed to be about, many churches are looking towards the next program to fix the problem not realizing that the programs are part of the problem.

    4. Oliver on Tue, March 09, 2010

      I am trying really hard to offer up solutions, not just be negative, so here are a few and I wish others can suggest some probably better than mine. First, to leaders, please stop attending conferences!!!  I will die if I go to one more conference.  Second, stop copying what the other church is doing down the street, be creative and try to do something original, third, stop hiring the slickest charismatic next chuch swindoll pastor, try to look for someone that actually cares about people, after all people won’t care how much you know if they don’t know how much you care.  Stop worrying about numbers, growing the church and and programs that only relate to that coveted demographic, white anglo saxon, married with children- with fat wallets.  Ok- Do, Do start learning about your neighbors around you, do really care about visitors, do start listening to people, (really listening), do start trying to actually live out the gospel of Jesus, caring for the poor, caring for the immigrant, caring about our neighbors health care, stop caring about your bank account, your 401 K, do start trying to eradicate racism, and social problems, start caring about the environment, do learn a second language, maybe spanish so you can talk to those ‘spanish’ people down the street, and oh here’s a thought, get messy with issues of poverty and crime, visit people in jail, and just maybe the church might become relevant again.

    5. Geoff on Tue, March 09, 2010

      I think Oliver has nailed this question with complete honesty and some frustration. Couldn’t agree more Oliver. When I served a church as a young adult pastor I only had two young adults. Why they hired a young adult pastor still puzzles me! I found a old youth phone list and literally cold called the 20 or so names on it. For the next 6 months, I drank far to much coffee, spent way to many late nights with different guys and didn’t have a “Service” that impressed any leaders. In fact, for the first 6 months, only a few came. My group was largely upset with the institution we called church and I realized I needed to show them I cared and build relationsips. I learned why they weren’t at church, what they did for fun and spiritual stuff. To make a long story short. We launched a really relevant gathering on Friday nights that was extremely flexible. I would preach, but asked them to bring up any questions they had about the topice. Often I would end up putting my sermon away and talking with them. We started with 2, but grew to over 30 in short time. The success was that many young adults who didn’t think like the church found community at the church when I let them create the enviroment. A truly special peroid in my ministry.

    6. Dave on Wed, March 10, 2010

      I think Oliver has hit the nail on the head as it relates to issues, but he has not addressed the underlying attitude of millenials…It is all about ME. There is nothing in me that is wrong or needs to change. All I’m looking for is an external cause that I can contribute toward so that I can feel like I am making a difference.

      Please don’t jump down my throat like I am all negative about Millennials and all OK with older generations. I agree that too many Boomers and Busters are looking for programs and activities rather than genuine spiritual formation. Many older generations have locked SF into formulas like “40 Days of…”

      Oliver is RIGHT in that the solution is found in relationship, but don’t throw out looking for “the next Chuck Swindoll preacher.” We need genuine relationships that work together in pursuing absolute truth about who we are, what we need to do to be conformed to Christ, and pursuing God’s justice for His creation .

    7. Leonard on Wed, March 10, 2010

      Oliver, thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I see you are trying to communicate here and I appreciate that.

    8. Matt Steen on Wed, March 10, 2010

      Dave, I understand that you are not trying to be contentious by your comment about the millenials being all about me.  I am curious about why you believe this to be important…

      I ask this because I think that it is just what we are up against, and not something that we have any power against in the beginning.  I think we need to be considering how to best care for this age (people?) group, and as they experience Christ, the me-first perspective will change.

    9. Travis Seitler on Wed, March 10, 2010

      “the underlying attitude of millenials…It is all about ME.”

      Really? Where’d you hear that? I’ve always read that the Baby Boomers were the ones called “the ME generation.”

      The underlying attitude of Millennials is “give me something real.” The biggest difference between them and previous generations is their utter disregard of tradition for tradition’s sake. (Don’t confuse this with the 60s- and 70s-era rebellion against tradition; Millennials simply don’t care.)

      Millennials hunger for purpose; for meaning. Their pursuit of social causes is an effort to be part of something that matters. Your whole Sunday-morning-sermon thing? They’ve watched it while growing up, and they’ve determined that it doesn’t matter.

      Maybe instead of telling them to get with the program, you should find out what makes it so meaningless to them. Oliver covered some key points (he basically exposited James 2:15-17 for you).

      And all you need to understand the gist of how Millennials feel about the “traditional church” is to read Matthew 23. Because what Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees is what they’re trying to say to you.

    10. Sue on Wed, March 10, 2010

      I appreciate Oliver engaging this topic with “church folks.”  Oliver, here is what my heart is saying:  I hear what you say about wanting it to be authentic and real, but I wonder, where are the growing Christian millennials who will come into a church of older people and determine to love those people?  Why do those young people who are serious about Jesus, never consider that there are older people in churches right in front of them who actually love Jesus and would care for them, if they would be willing to get to know them?  It breaks my heart that there are younger Christians who presume that they know what is in the hearts of people in the church, because they didn’t like the program of the church.  They’re right about a number of things, but they also are wrong. There are older people in my church who sacrificially care for their neighbors, visit prisons and care for the poor - but they aren’t cool-looking at all and if you visit church on Sunday, how would you know that’s what they do?  I understand that we church folks need to get out of the building and get to know the millennials, but while their critique has merit, it also lacks humility.  I will say that I am surprised that so few have ever thought about things this way.

    11. Geoff on Wed, March 10, 2010

      Sue, I appreciate your comment. You are right in that there needs to be some real effort into building community. At least that is what I’m hearing in your words. I myself relate more to the questions and journey of the millenials, yet I also can see and appreciate the older generations. I’m in the middle. I’m a bridge hopefully. Serving as a young adults pastor in a very traditional “older demographic” church was a challenge. The struggle was made harder because some people are very committed to what they have experienced and believe that is the only way to “do ministry”. To me, there is value in both. I’m forever grateful for the older generations and the love and passion they have shown about their faith and Church. I can learn from that passion. However, I also see that the millenials can teach me and older generations passion for God too. It’s not either or, but together. We need each other and can learn from each other. We all can offer something, and we may not all agree, but that is ok.

    12. Matt Steen on Wed, March 10, 2010

      Sue, I hear you saying that we (as the church) need to be more passionate about valuing intergenerational ministry… I see a HUGE need in the church to have generations caring for one another, the problem is that few do this well.  As a former youth pastor, and then a church planter I have seen far too many friends of mine try to embrace the approach that you have described only to find that it was not reciprocated.  I have also seen friends of mine go into a church guns a blazing…  both situations turn out badly.

      I honestly think that it is the responsibility of the older generation to extend grace to the younger.  This is not going to be a popular opinion, as I think that even my generation is struggling with this (I am an Xer).  But I think that we too often forget how our own “youthful exuberance” was misunderstood.  Too often older generations think that “I can teach them how it REALLY is” rather than take the time to listen and interact.

    13. Sue on Wed, March 10, 2010

      Oh, yes, I agree:  the older generations have been immature believers as well - they need to make the journey to know younger people and not be too quick to offer critique.  I have been disappointed over the years to see how few believers ever grow up enough to pour themselves out for others.  That is a fair criticism.
      At the same time, I wonder who has the authority/credibility to tell the millennials seeking “real” that “real” comes with its blemishes, and it is standing right in front of them.  The most mature Christians I have ever known had blind spots - that’s how it is on this side of eternity.
      More telling, I think, are the millennials whose real criticism is that “there isn’t anyone there just like me.”  (that’s a real quote!)  Actually, that’s probably what most immature believers (or nonbelievers) say when they give up on church - they didn’t see that the point was to make a body out of very disparate people - that they aren’t like “me” IS the point!
      Therein lies the problem:  we’re needing to attract immature people into a maturing process, while they get to act as consumers.  Imagine if you had to market kids into going to school! 
      I’d say the whole thing is sunk, but since it is the Holy Spirit’s thing, I guess we will see His solution!

    14. Peter Hamm on Thu, March 11, 2010

      EVERY generation is the “me” generation, not just these younger folks.

      Authenticity, following Jesus by believing what HE believed and doing what HE did and does, though, as Oliver presented it, has actually always been the key.

    15. Richard on Thu, March 11, 2010

      I like what Peter says…the more things change, the more they stay the same.  30 years from now, the next generation will be critical of the millennials, claiming that they, the generation 30 years from now, are the only ones to get it, whatever it happens to be.

    16. Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >

      Post a Comment

    17. (will not be published)

      Remember my personal information

      Notify me of follow-up comments?