Many Young Adults Have Walked Away.
According to research, 40-50% of Millennials connected to the church in their teens will walk away after their senior year of high school. This trend has happened for almost a decade and it’s time to ask why?
This thought stems from Conversation (Chapter) 5 of Carey Nieuwhof’s book, Lasting Impact, “Why Are Young Adults Walking Away From Church?”
Today I’d like to take a deeper look at this problem, but through the lens of Acts 20. Though the problem of young adults leaving the church is not directly addressed, Acts 20 gives us a fly on the wall perspective into Paul’s final message for the Ephesian Elders.
In Paul’s instruction, we find the clues to discuss our Millennial crisis
1. Are People Finding God Here?
- Lasting Impact, Convo. 5, “Why Many Millennials Have Stopped Attending Church” reason #2: “God is missing in the church.” and #4, “People aren’t learning about God.“
Before Paul leaves the Ephesian Elders, he gives them some clear warnings:
“28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” (Acts 20:28-31)
Note that Paul states, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and all the flock…” Then a few verses down, we see the warning that even from within their leadership ranks, the Elders will twist the truth and pull disciples away.
I think this is a key warning in addressing the Millennial crisis in the Western church.
Young adults who grew up in the church were challenged in Youth Ministries to grow spiritually and grow the youth group (church) numerically. Many of them answered that call, reading their Bibles and praying, and inviting their unsaved friends.
Then they realized the jig is up!
As young adults they looked around, realizing the same adults who challenged them, and even church leadership, were seemingly frozen in their spiritual walk. And that the church, was not experiencing any numeric growth through ongoing Gospel witness.
Without significant signs of growth, its like church was happening, but God never showed up.
In Acts 20, Paul challenged the Elders to pay attention to themselves and all the flock. The alarm should have sounded 10 years ago, when Millennials started walking away.
1. Are People Finding Community Here?
- Lasting Impact, Convo. 5, “Why Many Millennials Have Stopped Attending Church” reason #5: “They’re not finding community.“
As Paul continues his instruction to the Ephesian Elders, he moves from doctrine to conduct.
“32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:32-35)
Paul’s words are so relevant for today. Teaching will only go so far. A community of service must be the connected to the theology. Teaching and preaching are necessary, but must be matched with the hard work of helping those in need.
Paul shows wisdom and strategy by leaving the Elders with a service-based quote from Christ. That a giving heart is vital to the Gospel! And this is the type of quote that resonates with the Millennial generation.
Many young adults witnessed church activities focused heavily on knowledge and primarily self-serving. More troubling for the Millennial, that church activities rarely reached any significant relational depth. And definitely not with the outside world!
We put the evidence on paper.
Budget lines were not connected to any form of community outreach. Sermons were written about living a good Christian life, not reaching the lost. Policies and procedures were almost entirely built on internal structures and fellowship activities (potlucks).
In contrast, the book of Acts presents a compelling challenge that meeting needs and sharing life in community, is a significant factor in the spread of the Gospel. This type of church resonates with many young adults.
Moreover, for 2000 years, 18-30 year olds have been the driving force of the Gospel and the local church. By focusing on community, including deep relationships, serving the weak and reaching the lost; they’ve been the front-runners in bringing Christ to culture.
Losing half of this generation is a new journey for the church. The Western church must sound the alarm and do the hard work to get them back.
There are many more questions.
I really encourage you to visit LastingImpactBook.com and purchase Carey’s book. It will challenge your view of church. It will bring up questions that you never thought to ask.
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
What other questions do you believe young adults are asking, as they walk into our churches?