Why don’t millennials go to church?
As a teen, I remember carpooling with my classmates to Bahamas Harvest Church every Friday night to attend youth group.
Although my friends and I were no saints, we hardly missed it. It was the thing to do. Perhaps it was the atmosphere or knowing that it was the place for friends from other schools to meet up. Whatever the reason, we were there.
Recently, I came across an event controversially titled: “Where they at? Why are millennials not attending church?”
As soon as I read the title, I thought about the last time I attended a church service. Admittedly, apart from funerals, weddings or work, I haven’t set foot in a church on my own accord since I graduated high school five years ago. But until now, I never considered the reason.
The event was hosted by Shaquille Hanna and the panel was led by Kyle Walkine featuring five panelists. Raquel Pinder, DJ Counsellor, Shannon Hepburn, Travis Robinson, and Sylvian Rahming spoke as dozens of young audience members listened attentively.
The panel commenced with a video of a young man citing research on the topic from Barna Group, which is a visionary research and resource company widely considered to be a leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture.
The top five reasons millennials don’t go to church, according to Barna, are because of the two-faced nature of most church congregations; the judgmental atmosphere; the lack of care for the poor despite the copious amounts of money churches rake in; the hypercritical nature towards unfamiliar culture, and the lack of openness regarding controversial discussions.
As the panelists spoke, their responses seemed to adhere to these five reasons.
Rahming said that although she remains in her faith as a Christian, she feels as though millennials are tired of the routine and judgmental nature of the church.
“I think, pretty much, we’re just tired,” Rahming said.
“Not only just tired [but] it’s been the same routine from since I was small.
“Like why do we keep going to the church?
“…My thing is, we need to see the power of God.
“The word of God says, ‘The world will know us by our love’.
“The church should be a place of love.
“When most persons [want to] get saved now, when they enter the church, it’s mostly judgment that’s cast on them.
“We see the young lady [who’s] probably wearing tight fitted clothing, or the young man [whose] pants [are] dropped below his hip and we judge him instantly, instead of us embracing them with love and showing them.”
She added that she feels there are more judging eyes than leading mentors.
Walkine asked the thought-provoking question, “If I go on the road for carnival on Saturday, should that prevent me [from] singing in the choir on Sunday?”, to which Pinder responded with a story of guilt due to a clash between her lifestyle and her faith.
Pinder said she had always had a gift and love for singing and wanted to sing in the choir but felt as though because of her past alcohol use and smoking she felt that somehow, she wasn’t holy enough.
One day her pastor called on her to lead the praise team at her church and she said it felt like a choice between friends or faith.
Eventually she said she accepted the leadership role but admittedly fell short, which made her relinquish the role.
She said that the experience taught her the importance of the old saying, “come as you are”.
She added that the lack of role models in the church is discouraging because confidants are sometimes two-faced.
Robinson said that the church has become boring and mundane in the eyes of millennials.
“If I speak for myself as a millennial, I can’t go to the bar, I can’t go to the club, I can’t go to carnival and I can’t go to the high school dance. So where must I go?” Robinson asked.
“Now, we [have] prayer meeting, we [have] Bible study, but as young people, let’s be real now, I think we get so spiritual at times that we take the excitement out of God.
“I don’t think that God is just this person sitting up all face screwed as if it is some military brigade or something of that sort…”
One member of the audience, Randy, challenged Robinson’s perspective.
He said he believes that the church is a necessary part of spiritual growth.
He said there is a certain level of accountability and responsibility that a Christian should have in regards to their consistency in attending church.
Walkine pushed the conversation further by asking if there is any place in the church for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (or queer) (LGBTQ) community.
DJ Counsellor replied that the church is open to everyone.
However, he said that it is the church’s responsibility to know their congregation in order to tailor an all-encompassing message.
Hepburn ended the conversation by saying, “Welcoming somebody into the church is different from condoning their actions.”
Education: Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) 3rd Year