An honest letter from a Millennial believer.
I am a 23-year-old who refuses to give to your church.
My parents made me attend your Christmas program. I have to admit, it was quite a spectacle: real animals, fake snow, and lights that bathed the actors in red, green, and gold. The production cost thousands of dollars. And gee-whiz, it was worth every penny!
By the way, if you're going to understand anything about our generation, it should be that we love sarcasm.
The truth is, I could not have been more put off by what you put on. It was gaudy and awkward. Your jokes were not funny, your script was predictable, and the only lights that mattered were the ones coming from the exit signs.
My generation loves technology yet we're minimalists. We're highly educated; we don't like to read. We're comfortable with uncertainty, I think. We're skeptical of corporations, and we're pretty much an expert on everything because of Google and Wikipedia.
We realize we're arrogant, and in many ways, contradictory. We're OK with that, but we're not OK with you being unwilling to admit to the same.
More than half of us will leave the church at some point. Those of us still here find it increasingly difficult to stay.
So what is it that we're looking for? What's the magic answer?
There is none. What will satisfy one person my age may not satisfy me, and vice versa. But for what it's worth, here are my ideas, frustrations, and yes, a little advice.
We're not a "target demographic"
We've been "marketed to" since childhood, and we can smell it a mile away. When we step into a church and sense it, it's patronizing and offensive. Your "Young Adult Outreach" may be well intentioned, but it comes off as phony. When we sense you're preoccupied with attendance among our demographic, we feel like you're making us into a number, or even a dollar sign.
We want to be known and valued as individuals. We may be the same age, but we have a diverse array of passions, dreams, and callings. Until the church recognizes this, like the rest of the world has, we will continue to be absent from your pews and our giving from your offering plates.
Use your money wisely
In politics it is common to criticize spending. People passionately debate spending on education, welfare, campaigning, and the military—and complain how the government is wasting our precious tax dollars. Government spending is always under scrutiny.
The same applies to churches. Where exactly is our money going? Is it helping others? Or is it being spent on elaborate Christmas pageants? Are you building the kingdom? Or are you building your kingdom?
Millennials are extremely conscious of how our money is spent. We are the generation that demands fair trade coffee and supports eco-friendly companies, but will dump them just as quickly if they're caught "greenwashing."
Impact your community and the world
What are you doing in your community? Are you feeding and clothing the homeless? Are you hosting support groups for addicts? Are you finding childcare for single parents? These are things my generation respects. We want to help the people around us. You'll win us over if you do the same.
What are you doing abroad? Organizations like Compassion International and World Vision make it so easy to care for God's children. There are too many people living in poverty, and far too many churches doing nothing about it. In America alone, there are approximately 315,000 Protestant houses of worship. If each church sponsored at least one beautiful child of God, perhaps we would begin to see the kind of global impact God desires the church to have.