Everywhere we look, studies on millennials and the church are telling us something different: Millennials aren’t attending church; they are attending church, but not traditional churches; no, wait, they prefer small, traditional churches and liturgy to hip megachurches; they don’t like to identify themselves as religious, but they’re as spiritual as the generations that came before them.
These studies and surveys show all sides of one trait of a generation that is, frankly, probably too young (and as we’ve seen through other observations, fickle) to have their minds made up about something as complex as religion. It’s no wonder the results of these studies seem to change with each passing year. How many people feel the same about religion in college as they do after they’ve had kids? The age range is wide, folks, so take these results with a grain of salt.
Let me lay out the latest study: Pew Research Center released survey results last week stating that American millennials’ view of religious organizations has become drastically more negative in the last five years. In 2010, 73 percent of millennials surveyed said churches have a positive impact on the country. Today, only 55 percent feel that way, a difference of 18 percent. With that change, millennials are now less likely than older generations to view religious organizations positively.
While I can understand how a percentage of my generation is less than pleased with religious institutions today, I think it’s often because the loudest voices of those institutions—the ones seen on the news and all over social media—do not, in fact, represent them as a whole. Not every Christian agrees with Westboro Baptist Church. Not every Muslim agrees with al-Qaida. In fact, the percentage of people who do agree with those radical views is miniscule. But when horrific things happen in the name of religion, it’s hard for the general public not to question the foundations from which those acts supposedly stem.
I’m a Christian. By no means do I speak for every religious institution out there. However, I do feel strongly that religious institutions, and the faith-based events under their respective umbrellas, historically and presently have a positive impact on our society. This is a country founded on religious freedom, and different religious institutions have been the champions—together and separately—of some of the most important causes in our history.
I stand firmly in the camp that the biblical church has a positive impact on our country. The church is a place of refuge, fellowship, hope and sound moral teaching. That’s not to say I’m naive to the blunders of the church today, but from a 10,000-ft. view, I believe the church is a positive and instrumental piece of our society, regardless of how studies paint its supposed growing irrelevancy.
Photo credit: Stefan Kunze