Blog Feature

By: Aspen Group on September 04, 2013

Print/Save as PDF

"I'm Lost Right Now"

Events | Millennials | Church Construction

A father’s true story of his struggle to transmit faith to the next generation

TH-GillisWritten by T.H. Gillis, a father to four Millennials outside Washington, DC

As a parent of four millennials, I would have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in truth. But truth, for this generation in the United States, seems uniquely elusive; and I am humiliated by my inability to help them along this part of their journey.

At 50, I have broken relationships, seen death fall—suddenly or painfully and slowly—on or near my dearest friends, learned of priests abusing children with impunity, heard reports of a dictator using poison gas on his own people, and witnessed refugees in long lines fleeing their homes and leaving all their possessions behind. All these things—the incredibly hard stuff of life—persuade me that the gospel is such great news: this mortal life is not all there is; God will make all things new; Christ will reconcile everything to himself; and His restoration will turn ashes into beauty. Somehow, this faith is unmistakably alive within me.

But I confess that I'm lost right now when it comes to transmitting faith to the next generation. Somewhere along the way, truth claims about Christianity became tied up in legalism and political positions like a kite string hopelessly tangled up in a tree. And truth claims about some other religions have flamed into incomprehensible acts of terror. At the same time, new frontiers in science and technology have offered relief from such radicalism with methodical processes to explain chemicals, explore subatomic particles, enhance productivity, and enhance access to all this new knowledge.

In a culture so increasingly secularized, the millennial children of faithful women and men question the disorder they see as permitted by God and often caused by religion. Doubting aloud in church is unthinkable for two reasons: (1) there are few forums that permit discussion about doubt, and (2) where such forums are provided, doubts are often answered with stock replies that will not work for this generation. Maybe it's true that fear grips the faithful that doubts, if expressed, would turn the many away.

Many, however, are turning away already. In his book entitled "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith," author and Barna Group President, David Kinnaman, documents the results of recent research into the present state of faith among millenials from Christian families. Although the documented results trouble me, they did not surprise me. Oddly, because the results confirm my own observations, I found the results comforting. My perception does seem to be reality. With that comfort, though, comes a very real sense of urgency.

Kinnaman draws certain conclusions that warrant the Church's immediate attention. Specifically, church leaders should act to reconcile long-held historical divides so that the love of Christ can be united and more visible in the world. But the call to transmit faith from generation to generation extends also to the laity. The Spirit may even now be calling the laity to prayer, fasting and creative action for this generation.

As I think more deeply about the revolutionary changes that have shaped millennial culture, I hope that I may understand them better and engage them more creatively with the kind of love Christ had for all. One thing I'm already learning to appreciate is the transparency of millennials leaving the faith. In my limited experience, they seem to be quite willing to express doubts, even antagonism, openly. They ask questions that I'm not sure my generation would have dared ask; they disclose their antipathy to religion readily in debate; and they can deny the faith during a passionate dialogue. That, I think, is a good thing. Come to think of it: they can sound a lot like Thomas, Paul, and Peter.

It gives me great comfort and hope for the future.

And so we pray now for the Spirit to open our ears and hearts and minds to enter into these discussions with our children with gentleness and respect; and we ask the Spirit to do the work that we cannot do—to transform the hearts and renew the minds of our millennial children—in the midst of significant cultural realignment.

What are parents in your churches saying about their struggles in raising Millennials? We invite you to take part in a discussion about Millennials and the church at this year's Alignment Conference on Oct 22, 2013. Hear from David Kinnaman as he outlines what guided his book "You Lost Me," and be the very first to hear findings from the groundbreaking new research on facilities and millennials.