The Exit Millennials

Presented at the 2014 Messenger Fellowship Summit

In contemporary culture, the relationship between young people and the church can be rather complicated. As recent undergraduates and now current youth pastors, we’ve seen many peers struggle to connect with the church. But while young people aren't necessarily turning their backs on faith, they are turning their backs on appearances of godliness that are powerless. Right or wrong they feel that church people are hypocritical; saying that they’re loving, but really marked by partial tolerance. So though many youth are leaving the church in droves, they still carry a desire for the church to be the church. When young adults walk out on church, they often aren’t walking out on God.

Youth, today, possess unprecedented sensitivity. For instance, if young people feel they are the target of an evangelistic agenda, chances are it will rub them the wrong way. Why? Because youth are groomed to value perpetual movement in a distraction-heavy culture. Hence, if a church's mission is focused on devising “relevant” programs, young people may be out the door  nursing unanswered heart-cries before they can be reached. 

The question is: how can the church  connect to a youth culture terrified by vulnerability, deceived by unrealizable fantasies, when our efforts at discipleship and evangelism are lifeless? Perhaps it should be no surprise why young people value relationships over intimacy, open-mindedness over openness and authenticity over commitment.

Truth is: Despite our wired world, young adults remain thirsty for real encounter, worship without agenda and an authenticity unafraid of dysfunction. Yet all too often, entitlement, insecurity and dependence on “moves” of God often result in disillusionment and offense. The result? Cynicism

And as cynicism enlarges the barriers between the younger generation and the church, it’s no wonder youth are exiting church doors, idolizing acceptance, and confusing calls for holiness with judgment, love for tolerance, compliance for compassion and relativism for respect.

At the end of the day, Christian young people need to experience courageous love unconditionally, see their fire for the relevant church recognized and know the church is willing to grow them in their relationship with Christ. And in a world full of competing voices, the church must speak and pray louder than it ever has before, so that young Christians will not only be empowered to acknowledge Christ with their lips, but also stand for Him by their lifestyle.


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