4 Key Strategies to Help Millennials Find Their Way Back to God (and the Church) Blog Feature

By: Aspen Group on August 14, 2014

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4 Key Strategies to Help Millennials Find Their Way Back to God (and the Church)

Events | Leadership | Millennials

“Imagine a group photo of all the students who come to your church (or live within your community of believers) in a typical year. Take a big fat marker and cross out three out of every four faces. That’s the probable toll of spiritual disengagement as students navigate through their faith during the next two decades.” – David Kinnaman

That’s a sobering way to start a presentation, especially to a group of pastors and church leaders. But that’s how Drew Dyck, author of Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Church…and How to Bring Them Back and Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying, began last week’s Pastors Lunch. As Kinnaman’s quote illustrates, Millennials—today’s older teens and 20somethings—are leaving the church in record numbers. And it’s unlike any generational exodus seen before.

Though it’s not uncommon for young adults to leave the church (typically they return once they’ve started on a career path, married, and are raising their own families,) Dyck cited three reasons why this pattern may not hold true with Millennials.

First, young adults today are dropping religion at a greater rate than young adults of yesteryear. In their research, Robert Putnam and David Campbell concluded that young Americans are dropping out of religion at 5 to 6 times the historic rate (30 to 40 percent have no religion today, versus 5 to 10 percent a generation ago).

Second, adulthood now arrives later in life. According to Dyck, “marriage, career, and children—the primary sociological forces that drive adults back to religious commitment—are now delayed until the late 20s, even into the 30s. And so coming back into the fold after more than a decade is considerably more unlikely.”

And third, Dyck says there’s been a “tectonic shift” in today’s culture. While past generations left the church for a season, they still mainly maintained their Judeo-Christian beliefs. Not so anymore.

Instead of sitting idly on the sidelines waiting for them to come back to God and the church, Dyck offered four key strategies to help them find their way:

1. Foster Intergenerational Relationships

The Fuller Youth Institute did a longitudinal study of 500 youth group graduates, examining 13 different youth group participation variables such as service/justice work, student leadership, Sunday school, etc. They discovered that the primary factor impacting mature faith in both high school and college was intergenerational worship and relationships. Dyck believes we need to break down some of the age-related walls we’ve constructed in the church. We need to focus on creating ways for generations to mix and getting parents more involved in influencing faith. Otherwise, the younger generations will only follow the paths of their peers.

2. Study Worldviews

Many Millennials follow a post-modern worldview in which truth is more about experience and feelings and less about truth claims. Dyck suggested we study these post-modern worldviews so that we can understand the way this generation processes reality so that we can respond accordingly. Think of Paul and his study of the Athenian mind. We need to be students of our culture and learn enough to speak in ways that resonate and not offend.

3. Preach a Harder Gospel

To Dyck, we’ve done a good job of getting kids through the door on a Friday night and showing them a good time. But we’ve done a poor job of forming them into disciples of Jesus Christ. “We need to preach a harder gospel,” he said.

“We’ve watered down the message to make it easier for them to swallow, and as a result, they’re choking on our concoction. They don't want pizza and video games. They want revolution and dynamism. They want unvarnished truth. They want a cause to live and die for. In other words, they want the true gospel. When we present that gospel, with all its hard demands and radical implications, we'll finally be speaking the language they long to—and need to—hear!”

4. Proclaim a Bigger God

Millennials are suspicious of institutions and organized religion, but they still want something that transcends life here. Many have gravitated toward sacred traditions. Dyck believes this is because we’ve sliced and diced the vision of God.

“We talk of his love, but not his holiness. We stress his immanence, but not his transcendence. And when we lose sight of God's greatness, his love loses meaning,” he said.

To Dyck, we need to get back to presenting a “ravishing vision of a loving and holy God.” And then, it just might get Millennials’ attention and capture their hearts.

If you’d like to see and hear Drew Dyck’s entire presentation from Aspen Group’s Pastors Lunch on August 7, 2014, watch this video. To learn more about how to make room for Millennials in your church, register today for the 2014 Alignment Conference.