Millennials aren’t flocking to the church like the generation before. Fact or fiction?

North Carolina

Southeast / North Carolina 48 Views

As the religion reporter for The Chronicle newspaper, I have been to well over 100 churches in and around the Forsyth County area. One of the most common topics of conversation has revolved around young people in the church. Many people believe that teenagers and young adults are not growing up in the church like they did in the past. But is that really what’s happening?

I was born in 1981, so my childhood consisted of both the 80s and 90s. Growing up, I had no choice in whether I wanted to go to church. It was mandatory that I attended every Sunday. It was the same way with so many of my friends and family during that time that it seemed like the norm for me.

Fast forward to the new millennium and to some folks, it doesn’t seem like the younger generation is making the church a priority like in years past, but for others, things have not changed as much as people make it out to be.

I collected my thoughts for a few days as to how I wanted to approach this article, as I know it could be a sensitive subject for some. My main goal was to stay objective, but at the same time to spark some debate among those with different points of view. The best way to accomplish this was to speak to several people of varying ages that were on both sides of the equation.

First, I thought I would give my perspective from someone who has had the privilege of visiting many churches of different denominations in the area. In addition, we are in the Bible Belt where religion is still very important to a large number of individuals from all age groups due to their upbringing, so this area obviously does not reflect all areas of the country.

Once I sat down and gave this topic some thought, I realized that many smaller churches have seen their average church age rise in the last 20 years. I have noticed that with many small churches, most of the church population is over the age of 50. On the other side, medium and large churches have a more varied population, so I guess it depends on where you visit.

I have also noticed that many of the younger pastors seem to have the ability to bring in the younger generation at a higher level. I am not sure if that is due to their age or rather to how they relate their biblical messages. 

I spoke with a young local pastor who broke it down from his perspective. He said he does not think the younger generation has “abandoned” the church, but instead they have access to so many other things than the previous generation that they “worship differently.”  (I kept the identities of the contributors hidden as to not sway anyone’s opinion).

“I think many young people today like to worship their own way,” he said. “There are many things out there that the church has to compete with that it did not have to 25 years ago. For me, I don’t think they are leaving the church, I just think they are coming later than before.”

His point of view has some valid points. Some people may not grow up in the church like 25 years ago, but that does not mean they do not worship in their own way. 

Another pastor had another point of view. She felt young people may be turned away from the church because they feel the church does not target them. She said many churches are stuck in the “old way of thinking” and they are not willing to evolve.

“Everything changes; the question is whether or not the church is willing to follow suit,” she said. “I see that some churches have made it a point to reach out to the younger generation. It’s a new day so everyone needs to get on board or get left behind.”

Another perspective that I really had not thought about that was brought up during my research was the spotlight that is placed on today’s news. Unlike 25 years ago, anything that is newsworthy, good or bad, can hit the wire in an instant. A young man I spoke with stated that his apprehension to join a church is mainly due to the news that has surrounded church scandals over the past decade or so. 

With such scandals such as the Catholic churches’ priests, church embezzlement, and mega church pastors being investigated by the federal government, young people are more aware of the shortcomings by those in the religious community. 

I have spoken with other individuals who feel that the media portrays the church in a way that fits their own agenda.  A prominent pastor in the area says he does not feel young people are shying away from the church, but instead are gravitating toward the churches they feel are “real.”

He said that young people have access to more information than the previous generation, so they are not going to “just go to any church,” but rather do their due diligence and research where they want to go and attend there.

“These kids are not stupid,” he said. “They have access to all sorts of information at their fingertips, so they know everything that’s happening the moment it happens. For a church to pretend that is not how the world is nowadays is just being blind to the obvious.”

It was interesting to hear all the different perspectives from people about the topic. Other people I have spoken with touched on the family dynamic of the African-American community now versus then as a reason why the church has struggled with bringing in the younger generation.

Whatever the reason, it is an interesting debate that warrants conversation. The point of this article was to spark conversation, so for any individuals who wish to express your opinion, please email The Chronicle at news@nullwschronicle.com. We welcome a healthy debate and look forward to your opinion on this subject as well as other religious topics you would like to discuss.

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