"it’s a constant battle between culture and your biblical worldview" - Youth Pastor Nate Interview Part 2
Pastor Nate has spent over fifteen years working as a youth pastor in the Evangelical denomination. Because of his experience and unique vantage point on youth and the various culture shifts that have taken place over the last decade or so, I thought he was a good person to talk to about Millennials and the church. Here is the second part of the interview I had with Pastor Nate.
Z: With a more transparent generation (Millennials), what difficulties and topics are you seeing from young people concerning Christianity? What are they passionate about and what are they struggling with?
N: I think the issues Millennials are dealing with are cultural. It’s totally the norm to hook up with somebody before entering a relationship with them. That’s the natural progression now. This will totally mess with someone’s theology because they might know biblically their wrong but culturally it’s right.
I think it’s a constant battle between culture and your biblical worldview. They are so immersed in the culture and it’s so messed up at times I think they start falling into it.
I think many don’t know where they stand. This is because it is such a commitment to walk away from the culture and it’s so frowned upon by the culture to say that you follow the Bible. If you take all the controversial issues right now, Millennials are all about equality and standing up for what’s right, but standing up for what’s right may not be biblically right. It’s what is culturally right. They are really a torn generation. They may be trying to walk it out but they also be torn between making religion what they think is right rather than what is biblically right.
More than ever people are picking and choosing what they like out of the Bible. The salvation message stays the same but so much of the other stuff has been greyed out and rewritten by their own cultural view.
Z: There is a lot of criticism that is directed at Millennials; they don’t have the same commitment to the bible, they are far too liberal, all of those things. How would you respond to an older person speaking about the situation with Millennials?
N: Well they are not all wrong. There is a fair amount of truth to those things but, at the same time Millennials want to do something. They are doers.
I think a big hang-up is many people just talk about the change they want to see but Millennials want to go do something about it.
If you give Millennials something to do and a cause to get behind, they will get behind it. If you can get them passionate about something, even in the church, that thing is going to go because there is passion behind it. If you can get them on board to see truth they would run with that as well. You put a Millennial in ministry their passion is different from those in the past.
Z: What’s does that look like? Many churches say having a twitter account is the way to do that. If you have relevant music, a nice stage and lights then young people will show up. How should the church connect with young people?
N: I think that is where things have been for a long time. I think that has been the view of young people for the last 20 years. You have to have lights on stage, you have to have your pastor tweeting constantly, you have to have up to date music. I think that has been the strategy, but I don’t think that is working. Does having these things mean we are winning? You would think the numbers would be climbing back up, but they’re not.
I think Millennials are tech-savvy and have access to all they could want. It doesn’t matter what you do in the church, they are not impressed. If you are trying to put on a show on Sunday morning they are not impressed. They see this through their whole lives. I don’t think those things are impressive to Millennials at all. I think the thing Millennials are drawn to is the authenticity piece. Identifying with a pastor or a church because of its authenticity is what I think they are drawn to. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get them there because you’re authentic. You still need to find a way to get them there. I’m not sure how to do that necessarily. But once they’re there the show isn’t going to be the thing that keeps them. I really think it’s just about being real with them.
Everybody’s got lights now. Everyone has lights, everyone has the same music, nobody’s got pews, but it’s not making a difference.
Pastor Nate has spent over fifteen years working as a youth pastor in the Evangelical denomination. Because of his experience and unique vantage point on youth and the various culture shifts that have taken place over the last decade or so, I thought he was a good person to talk to about Millennials and the church. Here is part one of the interview I had with Pastor Nate.
Zak: There’s all kinds of articles online discussing Millennials and their future in the church right now. I know you have been in youth ministry for fifteen years. Statistics are saying that there is a decrease in the church, in your experience would you say that is accurate?
Nate: N: I would say that’s accurate. I think Millennials are a by-product of their parents. When my parents grew up, everyone went to church. You just went to church because it was the social norm, whether or not someone was necessarily a believer is a different question.
Regardless, you went to church, because that was your social outing. Sundays you went to church and afterwards you might go to someone’s house. The next generation wasn’t quite like that. There were so many other outlets by that time for socialization so church didn’t need to be high on their priority list.
Ideally Jesus would be someone’s most important relationship and everything else would filter through that, where now everything is on the same level. If you look at people’s hobbies and religion now, everything is on the same shelf. This is what has been modeled for the Millennial generation, so the millennial generation is the most non-religious as a result. Religion and a relationship with Christ are very different things. In the past there were at least many people who were somewhat religious and attended church.
I think you just find a whole lot less of that now. So are less people attending? I think so, but I think it has progressively gotten there. I think it has happened partly because of culture and partly because of the generations before them.
Millennials in particular are not impressed with inconsistencies and that is so much of what generation x and baby boomers have modeled to them; inconsistent faith.
I think we (as previous generations) have done a lousy job of modeling what a relationship with Christ should look like. Living our lives as Christians has been so inconsistent with the priorities of our everyday life. The inconsistences didn’t impress us (generation x) with our parents and now I think it is even more so with Millennials. When they see an inconsistency they are not impressed at all.
Now for the Millennials who have seen legitimate faith it is sticking, because they have seen what true faith can do. But when it comes to those who are inconsistent, Millennials are looking at that and saying “What’s the point? It’s just another thing.”
Z: Over your 15 years in ministry have you seen any changes in how young people are expressing their faith?
N: I think there are less people faking it. I feel early on there were many people who would say one thing but would be totally inconsistent. Now, they are pretty honest with where they are at. If they are trying to live it out, they will say they are trying to live it out. If they are struggling they will tell you that too. They are just real about it. I’m not so sure people would have admitted that 15 years ago; admitting that they were living a double life.
Z: In the larger church as a whole would you say you still see that unwillingness to come forward with the double life in the older generations that are still involved in church? Do you see a distinction in the honesty of the generations today?
N: I don’t think the older ones are honest at all. I see so many adults that are inconsistent, but they wouldn’t admit that. It’s pretty clear in watching them for ten minutes, or talking to them. There is definitely a shallowness of people’s faith from people who would call themselves solid Christians and may even consider themselves leaders in the church. Don’t get me wrong there are some real solid leaders in the church but you also have the ones that leave you asking “Where are you? Where do you stand?”