The conversation about the absence of Millennials in churches has been front and center recently. The largest generation to ever be alive in our country is not connecting to our churches the way previous generations have. The question remains…why not?
In a previous post, I started the conversation concerning four markers that are important to young adults and college students (read that post HERE). For young adult ministry leaders, these are components we must consider if we genuinely desire to connect with the young adults in our communities. It’s not a simple formula, but it is a heartfelt passion to witness young adults and college students grow deep in their understanding of what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus.
The second marker is Depth – because I care about who I’m becoming.
What do young adults mean when you hear them say, “I’m looking for something deeper?”
As Lifeway research from Context shows, depth is the second most important marker we must consider as we develop ministries focused on engaging young adults and college students. Following community, the second most important desire among young adult churchgoers is participation in small-group meetings to discuss the life application of Scripture (71%). And among unchurched young adults, 40% desire to know how Scripture actually intersects with life application.
Depth is so much more than information – it’s where life meets the words. Historically, our educational system has influenced the way we teach in our churches. The master teacher/learner style has been and continues to be used in many settings. Millennials appreciate the opportunity to intersect with the information in ways that bring about transformation. Basically, it comes down to “So now what?”
Here are three things to consider when we think about depth and young adults:
1. Be willing to ask good questions.
When a small group of young adults gets together to study/discuss the Bible, there must be much thought put into the questions being asked during that gathering. The way young adults engage with the content and context of Scripture allows them to see the depth in which Scripture is written. There isn’t room for surface questions or answers when we talk about the depth young adults desire.
It’s a good thing to struggle. Let’s be honest, we’ve all wrestled with the reality of what Scripture means in our lives. When Jesus says “Love your neighbor,” I need to be honest about what that really looks like in my life. On the surface, I agree completely with that statement. But as I wrestle with that passage of Scripture, I come to the reality that, often, I want to choose who my neighbor is.
When we ask questions that go below the surface, it can bring about honest, yet needed, conversations that young adults are desiring in our church settings.
Will we always end with the answer? In some situations, we won’t land on the answer immediately–and that’s OK with young adults. Just be honest about it.
2. God will never fit into a box.
Young adults are not keen on pat answers. In the past, many Millennials have come to the conclusion that we’ve reduced God to a formula and set of facts which are meant to be proven. There’s an increased emphasis with the Millennials on the mysterious nature of faith and the mysteries of God.
For young adults, they understand life is not easy. There are questions which arise each day regarding the way they do work, relationships, and faith. When young adults are involved in church, they desire to see that God is much bigger than a simple answer. They embrace the genuine search for a God who’s bigger than a box which fits into our small groups or Sunday morning Bible study gatherings. A God who’s part of their every moment is who young adults are searching for. So, what does it look like for us to meet young adults in that quest?
3. There’s a deep desire to simply study the Bible.
I’m going to go out on a limb with this assertion, but I truly believe Millennials are more concerned about studying the Bible itself than the latest new book release from the biggest name author. Do young adults like to read and discuss those books? Absolutely. However, I’m convinced that they have a deep passion for dwelling in God’s Word in a way that will be relevant and important to their daily life. Young adult ministries must point individuals toward studying the Bible in a genuine and relevant way.
In our churches, we provide many avenues for finding resources to help young adults and college students grow in their walk with Christ. Our first question must always be: Are we directing young adults to God’s Word first? If we want young adults and college students to fall in love with the Bible, we must lead them there. When we give Millennials the opportunity to intersect with the power of Scripture, we help them see the depth of the God they’re seeking.
When young adults say they’re looking for “something deeper”, they mean “something genuine that speaks to their life’s context.” An in-depth study of Scripture allows for transformation that we can never produce on our own.
Depth is a significant contributor to the way young adults and college students will connect to and with our churches. The question is, “Are we willing to go there?”
Mark Whitt is the Collegiate and Young Adult Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. Before joining Lifeway, he spent many years on the campus of Murray State University as a campus minister. Connect with Mark via Twitter.