Dear America’s churches,
That seven-minute drum solo during worship last Sunday was epic.
And don’t even get me started on those snazzy unisex graphic tees. You can’t even tell that I have five slices of free pizza at youth group every week.
Oh and by the way, I finally saved that five-digit number in my phone contacts. You know—the one you have us text our Bible question answers to? Seeing as we will be using that instead of raising our hands and answering aloud from now on, I thought it’d be a wise move.
I also want to let you know that I really feel special when I get to be a little tan smudge in the background of my youth pastor’s #churchselfie every other weekend. #nofilter #blessed #so #much #love
You put so much effort into making us young people feel welcome and prioritized in the Church. So, on behalf of all millennials, I want to say thank you. And cut it out.
We Are Living in Post-Christian America
In today’s post-Christian America, many churches around the country have transitioned from fellowships of discipled Christians into religious corporations with secular business practices and “spreading the love of God” as their mission statement. Unfortunately, these churches have decided that teaching people the truth of the Scriptures is not enough to be culturally relevant and to draw new people to the Church. So basically, we love people so much that we wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings with the truth, am I right? I’m virtually rolling my eyes in case you missed my sarcasm. These churches market to specific subcultures in their area, sometimes changing their own church culture to draw new people in. And what better way is there to spike up attendance and make the church more youthful and relevant than to market specifically to the youth? That’s right, churches. We’re on to you.
Free T-shirts Have Their Place
Now I’m not saying that all churches are falling away from the Scriptures or that it’s wrong to use some practical business knowledge to help keep your church economically afloat. But what I am saying is that if your church has a quota of reaching, say, 100,000 people for Christ, you might want to take a step back and think about where your church’s priorities truly lay. In the Bible, numerical church growth was never the ultimate goal. Success wasn’t measured by how many people came up during the weekly alter call or the amount of t-shirts sold at the church gift shop. So why is that the standard of measuring God’s work in the Church now?
Don’t get me wrong; free pizza, fun worship, alter calls, and gift shops with t-shirt sales are all great things that can be appropriately incorporated into the church environment. It’s okay to have those things in church, but when every week’s worship looks like a rave and every Wednesday night we sit around in circles and talk about our feelings or how we can see the power of Jesus Christ in the sunlight shining through the leaves of the magical happy tree or whatever, it all begins to feel just repetitive and childish.
Millennials do not want to be treated like just children. Even though we’re young, we want to be part of something big. So give us something big to be a part of! We go to church obviously expecting to hear about God. Instead, we talk about our feelings, read a Bible verse out of context, and then play foosball and Pokémon Go until our parents pick us up! Frankly, the logic of this so-called “youth ministry” is baffling. Yet this is happening in so many churches, big and small, all over the US. What we’re telling you is this: if you truly want us to mature in our faith and relationship with Christ, stop feeding us pizza and ice cream and start feeding us the Word of the Sovereign God of the entire universe. Because if you don’t give millennials something big to be a part of, we will look elsewhere. And churches, that’s on you.
With the most sincerity,
A Hopeful Millennial
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
Sarah Thielen is NETAFIRM’s student intern and is currently a sophomore at Liberty University. Her interests include reading, animals, movies, video games, and exploring new places.
NETAFIRM’s book, Saving the Saved, is available in paperback or Kindle editions at Amazon.