Review of Eaton's "12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church"
About a month ago a friend of mine asked me to give him my opinion about a blog post entitled "12 Reasons Millennials Are OVER Church" by Sam Eaton (The headings 1-12 in quotes are quotes of his 12 reasons with my commentary appearing under). I read over it quickly and decided either I could give him a quick answer or sometimes actually take the time to review it for him. Well, I put it off until I all but forgot to get back to him so I decided to write him a whole blog post about what I think of it. Here is my response and review:
First of all, I HATE being called a millennial. I’d rather be called Generation Y which isn’t a real thing (I would call it from 1982-1996). I’ve talked to some people older than me who feel the same way, so I feel like we unofficially opt-in to a different group together.
Whether or not someone agrees with the 12 reasons, one must applaud Mr. Eaton for actually proposing solutions (though some of them are a little weak). I have read too many “____ are leaving the church” blogs that are more about blame than actually working together.
1) “Nobody’s Listening to Us”
I think that this is a sentiment that most generations share: that the other generations don’t care to listen. Now, generally speaking, he’s not wrong.
Age groups tend to think the ones above and below them don’t understand. I think we need to stop saying that no one is listening and just get together and have conversations. If nothing happens after that, then maybe someone isn’t listening, but I think everyone is guilty of wanting to be heard but not wanting to listen.
The same with hiring a pastor who can connect with millennials, it feels like a way for old school pastors to not have to listen to the younger generation. Almost like what happens with youth or children when we put them in a corner somewhere with a “babysitter” so we don't have to deal with them.
As people, we certainly connect easier with certain types of people, but for someone to say I can’t (or won’t) work with ____ is to be ignorant.
If Peter or Paul had ignored the gentiles you wouldn’t have the privilege of being able to select who you are “called” to. Jesus himself said that he was called to the children of Israel but still healed and attended to outsiders.
If you want a young adults pastor just so you don’t have to interact with them, then you might want to check your heart, but that’s me trying to take your speck out I suppose.
2) “We’re Sick of Hearing About Values and Mission Statements”
I second this! Some of them are pretty catchy, but I echo his echo that we already have a Biblical command to love God and love people with a mission to make disciples. Churches do get pretty wrapped up in statements to the point where they forget to make a plan on how to enact it.
I do want to stress the importance of an organization to have a mission and vision. Here at Empty Church, we talk about the 6 days between Sundays with the church buildings are empty.
What's that mean?
As an organization, we have to help equip people to have faith 7 days a week rather than 1. I personally believe that ties in perfectly with the greatest commandment and the great commission. Our statement came out of what we started Empty Church for: faith being built through conversation. All our online content it meant to help people have a starting point for such conversations.
3) “Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority"
I'm not sure when the church started to forget this. It might have been when Republican became synonymous with Christian. It might be that the churches actually helping the poor don’t get PR so we don't know that they are doing it.
I think he hit the nail on the head with this one. There is a love component that seems to be missing without service to the poor. The EC Crew definitely feels that we must serve outside of our organization to help others.
I like his solutions of asking the people in the church about needs of people they know as well as being intentional abut setting up times to help out. Careful, though, that the “I served for this month” attitude does not arise, but cultivate an “anywhere anytime” culture that looks more like the good samaritan story.
4) ”We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture”
I do think the church does a lot of blaming. The problem is we pick and choose things from the culture deeming them either good or bad and we are too afraid to be rejected based on a Godly culture. We want acceptance and affirmation way too badly ( I am SUPER guilty of this). So we blame the world’s culture for the things we don't like and appropriate the “okay” things. Problem is, everyone has their own idea of what is okay since we aren’t looking to God for our morality.
He said to stop talking about the end times or at least in regards to, “how bad culture is” and I am half and half on this one. If he means we need to stop over reacting saying that the end is near only because the world looks like the world, then I agree. BUT we cannot stop talking about Jesus returning.
5) “The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect”
I agree with this. Some churches even have unofficial assigned seating. Here's my take on the whole thing: Humans naturally form groups with people we connect with. One of his solutions is to create authentic communities centered around service. 1) that is easier said than done. 2) communities have sub-groups which either count as a clique or eventually become one. Once a group starts to grow new smaller groups tend to emerge as well.
At college I watched groups form, grow, explode, and merge. I saw how groups can look more like a molecule where some groups share common members but are not one large group but two groups linked. How is that a molecule? The molecule is the school community. All of the interconnected but distinct sub-groups of the school are the atoms.
Am I defending “cliques?” No. that word carries a negative connotation of exclusivity which the author indicates by his likening church to Mean Girls. I completely agree. Churches often are a molecule with no available connections left and we turn people away.
We must be intentional about not becoming so closed off that someone seeking to be a part of the faith community is not allowed. Sometimes they are turned away only because they are not wearing pink on Wednesday. Sometimes people visit a church gathering and realize that, although everyone is close and loving, they would never be included.
(Side note: as I write this I see pictures on social media of some party where it looks like everyone was included except me. It feels like I am no longer their friend. People naturally cut off old connections to make room for new ones. But a loss of friendship is still a loss and it hurts.)
6) “Distrust and Misallocation of Resources”
I hear the heart of this one. I have seen money wars in churches and how it can destroy. I do believe churches need to be more thoughtful on how they spend money, especially in the coming years (as I believe there will be less exemptions from the government).
But I don't know if people need to know where every cent goes. That sentiment sounds like a control and trust issue to me. Why are churches the only organization that we want to see every cent? People donate to causes all the time that have HUGE overhead, but in the church world, we’ll pull our tithe if we thought money should have been spent on children rather than the homeless.
Sure churches to use money for “better things.” But that is a slippery slope. Why? There is always something else we could be spending money on. Always. Oh, your church doesn’t have a huge mortgage? How much does it cost in upkeep? Couldn’t that money be spent better elsewhere? What about the people on payroll? Shouldn’t they donate their time and talent? What keeps the church from taking every cent they receive and giving it away? Isn’t that the ultimate end in this line of thinking?
People expect the church to put money wherever they think the money should go and then under the guise of “transparency” complain when they money is spent elsewhere. Look it is true that churches buy some extravagant things that make us question if they money is being spent in the best ways, but money always makes people itchy.
Churches split over which color carpet to buy, I’m not sure if the solution is a line item list where people can see when gram crackers were bought for a snack for kids (remember that money could have been used for the homeless). Before we say that our use of funds is the most correct we must have some empathy to see why someone else would want the money used for their cause - if we truly believe in our cause then money we personally should give to it rather than expecting the church to do it for us.
7) “We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At”
Empty Church certainly values mentoring and discipleship. Josh wrote a bunch of blogs about mentoring. Although I personally don’t have an “official” mentor, I definitely see Josh as a mentor as well as my friend.
Empty Church strives to have a dialogue and not merely a monologue, which is why we have a time of discussion after the sermon every Sunday. We are trying to have something more than being preached at but a full exchange of ideas. I see the dialogue as a time for mentorship/ discipleship within the group but is not the traditional sense of a mentor.
8) “We Want to Feel Valued”
Everyone wants to feel valued. That’s a fact. I understand what the author is getting at as he describes churches that merely want millennials to be warm bodies to serve rather than interacting members of the group.
I’ve been asked why we started a church rather than joining an already existing one and I think some of the answer comes from the fact that I don't think anyone would have let us try what we are doing.
The trust and exchange of ideas and methodologies between the generations is pretty piss-poor. Older people don’t want to try what the younger people think of and the younger people don’t think there is anything valuable from the older methods. Both thought processes are wrong. There needs to be a meeting of ideas. But both groups have to value each other first.
9) “We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)”
This one is a good one. The church is famous for ignoring taboo things and then people learn about it from other sources. Example: children encounter porn and sexualized everything everywhere, way after children are over exposed or even addicted then we say “this is all bad” and it's too late.
The author says that he does not expect a sex series, but I question why not? The vast majority of families see movies with sexual innuendos if not implied sex in them but the pastor cannot preach on biblical sex? Some would argue that that's for the parents to do when the time comes, but let's be realistic, most never cover it. Maybe I just don't know since I don't have kids, but even the earliest you could ever talk to them about it, they have already been exposed to it. Let’s stop the silence.
The same goes for now. There isn’t a dialogue going on about anything. Just unwritten rules about all kinds of things. Many people don't believe that science and religion and ever been compatible and then we wonder why one of the most scientifically informed generations no longer goes to church.
10) “The Public Perception”
This one is a no-brainer. People do not trust churches anymore. People see churches more as greedy entities rather than the generous, loving, and serving groups that they should be. Public perception is that Christians are hypocrites. That hurts me. They can call us fools. That's fine with me. But we should be fools to the point that we follow the foolishness. Not fools who don't even believe their own foolishness.
11) “Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)”
I read articles all the time about how crappy millennials are. I read articles all the time about how millennials are leaving the church. I read many articles that voice complaints about millennials. I love that they author issues a challenge for people to actually do something rather than just talking.
12) You’re Failing to Adapt
I like his appeal to try new things and to take risks. It makes me think of the Magic School bus quote about taking risks, make mistakes, and get messy.
I see a lot of blame from both sides. Even this article seems to blame the older generation for not acknowledging millennials. There is many “we’s” and “you’s” - showing a divide.
I feel as if the article as a whole is the same old story of two generations not understanding each other. It shows how we need more communication and less blame. The only problem is that people do not want to listen but want to be right. Until we have a dialogue, each generation will continue to not to understand each other.