In my search for input and understanding regarding how Millennials fit in the church, I listened to “Up for Debate Radio” with Julie Roys about Millennials and Baby Boomers. Much of the conversation surrounded the practical differences between Millennials and Boomers: church practice, political alignment, sexuality and tattoos and piercings. It was refreshing to see Millennial Christians getting a chance to speak for themselves, especially when much of the older church is talking about how Millennials fit into the church today.
Each of the guests on the show had slightly different views and nuances on how they see Christianity and how they believe it should be walked out in culture. Overall though they differ pretty sharply from the faith of Boomers. It seems our two generations continue to talk past one another.
I believe it is because both groups are working with different sets of definitions and governing understanding when it comes to Christianity. Unfortunately, many people young and old have learned to speak in a “Christian” manner, but may not understand their own definitions or foundations of their belief systems. So of course when we try to discuss the values, beliefs and practices that each generation holds regarding faith, we are going to differ.
For many, there is no denying that issues concerning the bible, politics, sexuality, marriage, money and a whole host of other topics are very important. If we do not get back to the basics and examine the foundations and definitions of our individual and institutionally held belief systems, we are never going to get anywhere.
I believe that there is still a place for the authority of the bible to speak into the lives of individuals and cultures. If we want to get there we will all need to be willing to define and discuss the foundational beliefs we hold and seek to listen and understand others.
If you would like to check out the "Up for Debate" podcast and listen for yourself check out https://www.moodyradio.org/programs/up-for-debate/2016/04-2016/2016-04-30-can-christian-millennials-and-boomers-come-together/
I would like to start off by sharing some background on my own faith. As I interview others and explore where young people fit in Christianity, I want to make sure I am honest and forthcoming as I am hoping others will be when discussing these topics.
I grew up in the church. I was baptized Catholic, as a kid I attended a Baptist church, became a part of an evangelical youth group, graduated high school and volunteered at a Covenant church, moved to the cities and became heavily involved in a non-denominational church, moved back home and became a youth director at my high school church, then moved back to the cities again to attend a conservative Christian college to get my journalism and bible degrees.
My time in these churches taught me many different things about what it meant to be a Christian. The main ones being that Jesus died for my sins to save me by grace and that the bible alone was authoritative. My question was this: If the bible is authoritative, how is it that each of these churches have such different interpretations and conclusions that they come to?
We live in a post-modern world where individuals are encouraged to seek out the truth for themselves. Does this extend to institutions as well? For as long as I can remember, I have believed in the authority and validity of the bible, but as I got older and saw the many ways people read and follow the bible, it caused a great amount of confusion for me.
My reaction to this was to say that apart from the gospel message (and even that in some parts), everything is subjective. There must not be a truth of the matter, or at least we must not have access to it. That was the only way I could compartmentalize things in my head and make sense of it all. I became more and more liberal and disillusioned as time went on. Looking back, had I not come to the understanding of the bible I now hold, I am sure I would have left the church within a handful of years.
I again hold to the conservative values and beliefs laid out in the bible and it was no easy task getting to that place. With a culture that is continually changing around us at an ever growing rate how do Millenials still hold on to conservative values in a pluralistic, scientific, postmodern age or is Christianity changing?
American Christianity is in a state of transition and controversy regarding millennials and their place in the church today. There have been many studies that have come out claiming that more young people are leaving the church than ever before while other studies are standing on the claim that there has always been large groups of young people leaving the church in every generation.
As a Millenial myself, I don't know how to respond to these claims. My assessment would be that things are much more complicated than a simple study or answer can supply. This is why I will be seeking to question, interview, write and process my own findings in pursuit of answers. My hope is that through the accounts of many young people of faith a picture of what is going on in the lives of millennials and the church at large would become clearer.