As your Millennial correspondent has said for years, if only to his parents: If churches want to bring young people back to worship, give us what we’re not getting anywhere else. It’s really that simple. Maybe boomers needed something “different”; maybe they responded to making the church more like “the world” but we’re not the boomers. We’ve already had the church-like-the-world. We need something “different,” as in “not like the world.”
We want more. We want more than the caramel macchiato that we can get anywhere. We don’t need the church to give us access to what is “cool.” We have more access to what is cool than we can consume. We want what is true. We want what is beautiful. We want access to that. We want access to meaning that goes beyond what is cool, or what’s trending.
We want what is eternal. If the churches can’t give us that — if the church can’t give us a break from the world because it has become too much of the world — then what’s the point?
That’s why millennials aren’t in the pews.
This is not rocket science. Millennials are born with the same potential for spiritual growth that every other generation has been. The marketing has simply, completely, misread us.
Marshall McLuhan was maybe too right when he said “The medium is the message…” Seems to me if the churches want to help Millennials find their way back into the pews, their message will have to transcend the medium, instead of getting lost in it.
And Rachel Held Evans, writing from a Protestant point of view, is spelling it out at the WaPo:
Bass reverberates through the auditorium floor as a heavily bearded worship leader pauses to invite the congregation, bathed in the light of two giant screens, to tweet using #JesusLives. The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafts in from the lobby, where you can order macchiatos and purchase mugs boasting a sleek church logo. The chairs are comfortable, and the music sounds like something from the top of the charts. At the end of the service, someone will win an iPad.
This, in the view of many churches, is what millennials like me want.
We don’t. Catholic or Protestant, we don’t. We don’t want this. You know what we want? As the disciples said to Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1). Without that, we haven’t a clue how to deal.
And then, help us to walk as Jesus walked, crosses and all. Which is what he said he wanted, after all.