Millennials, the Church, & John Wesley

Posted on August 5, 2013

There are tons of conversations happening right now about the relationship between Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1990, roughly) and the Church, or the lack thereof. Rachel Held Evans has recently written two articles on the CNN Belief Blog, “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church” and “Why Millennials Need the Church.” Over at the Washington Post On Faith Blog, Brett McCracken wrote a response entitled, “How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool.” I would encourage you to read all three sometime.

I write this as someone who was born in 1979, finding myself straddling the generational fence with one foot in Gen X and the other in Gen Y. Evans and McCracken both make great points about why the Church struggles to connect with Millennials and how Millennials need to be intentional about the ways they seek to connect with the Church. Words like “authenticity,” “community,” and “justice” resonate with this generation, as they do with many other generations before.

The Church has certainly used various gimmicks throughout the centuries to attract individuals, some as a success and others as a giant #fail. Evans says, “[Millennials are] not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.” No amount of lasers, lights, or fog machines can make up for the absence of Jesus. When the Church overlooks her most attractive feature, the relational Christ, it will struggle to attract not just Millennials, but any generation of people.

The emphasis on grace and holiness, as John Wesley, the father of Methodism preached, is just the kind of voice that can connect with Millennials. This looks at the Gospel Message through a lens of holiness that highlights social justice, the journey of being perfected in love, and sharing life together in authentic community and a lens of grace that is present in all, free for all, and able to transform all.

What a great take on the great Message! Wesleyan theology provides a solid framework to view our lives, our relationships, our communities, and our world in the light of God’s love and grace. This is a voice that must be heard and shared.

The Message of the Church remains the same, life in and through Christ. How it gets communicated changes. Perhaps we focus too much on being “cool” or “uncool” and need to focus on being real and doing it well. Whatever approach or style we take, may it be done with quality, authenticity, and Jesus.