by Ken Rolheiser

Millennials and Church and jumping the S curve

I want to send global, sky-writing airplanes telling the life-change that happens beneath a steeple. I want to install a police microphone on top of my car and cruise the streets screaming to the masses about the magical Utopian community of believers waiting for them just down the street! (Ned Flanders)

Do we want Millennials, 22 to 35-year-olds, to be as excited as Ned Flanders about going to church on Sunday mornings?

In his article “12 Reasons Millennials are over Church” Sam Eaton cites: only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending church is important. 59 % of millennials raised in the church have dropped out. 35 % of millennials have an anti-church stance believing the church does more harm than good. Ouch!

Eaton suggests what is needed in his metaphorical nailing of 12 theses to the wooden church door of the Millennial-less church:
1.Nobody’s Listening to Us - Nobody cares what we think.
2.We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements – get back to the heart of the Gospel…actions and service.
3.Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority – clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these.
4.We’re tired of You blaming the Culture – focus on real solutions and real impact in our immediate community.
5.The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Effect – Church hasn’t always felt exclusive and “cliquey” to some.
6.Distrust & Misallocation of Resources – frugality and transparency are needed…dollars to be used to better serve the Kingdom.
7.We want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At.
8.We Want to Feel Valued not manipulated: We want to be heard and thanked – not “you’re letting your church down.”
9.We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (No One Is).
10.The Public Perception – Church needs to be visibly involved and serving the community…being the aroma of Christ.
11.Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something).
12.You’re Failing to Adapt – talk to the millennials you already have before they ask themselves, what am I still doing here?

Dramatic changes are needed to reach our millennial church avoiders. To prepare our minds for these changes let me borrow a metaphor Father Brendan McGuire used in discussing the “Abundance Theory”.

Imaging you have a beautiful orange tree in your garden. You pick all the oranges you can reach. Now you say the tree is done. Then someone brings a ladder. You climb the ladder and take all the oranges you can now reach. Next someone invents a cherry picker and you can pick the ones on top. The business world calls this “Jumping the S Curve”.

It is time for Jumping the S Curve. We, the church, have picked all the oranges we can reach. We need a ladder. More radically, we need a cherry picker and more advanced technology to reach the millennials.

Three things needed in the church are: prayer, discerning the Spirit’s guidance and commitment to action. Tawnya Huhn responding to “12 Reasons” said, “Intense, deep pondering over scriptures is vital as it shows us the Father’s story…Good deeds flow from a heart surrendered.”

Part of the solution suggested in #12 of Eaton’s “12 Reasons” is to 1)Look at the data and take a risk. Don’t keep trying the same things. 2)Admit that you’re out of your element…and talk to the millennials.

(557 words)