Preaching Green to Fill the Pews: Millennials Want Substance, Not Gimmicks

Rachel Evans has faced a lot of scrutiny following the release her Washington Post article. And, while I will not speak to the surface level complaints she has of church conduct, I will weigh in on the underpinning of her argument. 

For those that haven’t read it, Evans details the many ways in which gimmicky church efforts have pushed away millennials. Alas, it’s not quite that simple. Evans chronicles her own movement away from the church after, ‘questions about science and faith, biblical interpretation and theology,’ went unanswered. Evans was not pushed away, rather, let go by the churches’ inability to address the social issues of her generation. Issues that millennials, and future generations to come, will be forced to address such as climate change.

Are you addressing the concerns of your flock?

Want Millennials Back in the Pews? Stop Trying to Make Church ‘Cool.’

By Rachel Held Evans for the Washington Post

Bass reverberates through the auditorium floor as a heavily bearded worship leader pauses to invite the congregation, bathed in the light of two giant screens, to tweet using #JesusLives. The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafts in from the lobby, where you can order macchiatos and purchase mugs boasting a sleek church logo. The chairs are comfortable, and the music sounds like something from the top of the charts. At the end of the service, someone will win an iPad. 

This, in the view of many churches, is what millennials like me want. And no wonder pastors think so. Church attendance has plummeted among young adults. In the United States, 59 percent of people ages 18 to 29 with a Christian background have, at some point, dropped out. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, among those of us who came of age around the year 2000, a solid quarter claim no religious affiliation at all, making my generation significantly more disconnected from faith than members of Generation X were at a comparable point in their lives and twice as detached as baby boomers were as young adults.

In response, many churches have sought to lure millennials back by focusing on style points: cooler bands, hipper worship, edgier programming, impressive technology. Yet while these aren’t inherently bad ideas and might in some cases be effective, they are not the key to drawing millennials back to God in a lasting and meaningful way. Young people don’t simply want a better show. And trying to be cool might be making things worse.

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