Has the church really “lost” the millennials?

LostThere is so much good and challenging information in the blogosphere. I am grateful when I have time to read through blog posts from friends and colleagues around the church.

Of late, the “loss” of the millennials in church has been a particularly popular blogging topic. Recently, I was checking-in on Matt Marino’s blog, The Gospel Side, reading his post challenging the notion of the church having “lost” the millennial generation, when this paragraph caught my attention:

Because youth pastors are generally people of spiritual passion and commitment, many students graduate from high school having had a real experience of spiritual transformation but without having ever seen the inside of the sanctuary or meeting the senior pastor. In effect, without having ever connected with the larger Church. In this model, older adults no longer have a role in the formation of the young. Parents, who have outsourced their children’s spiritual formation, often oppose a rigorous transformational faith, and the young have no interest in taking their place in the concerns and councils of the church…so students graduate from the youth group into the next thing that will cater to their preferenceslike the local Starbucks. (Read the full article.)

Much in this article might cause defensiveness among youth ministers, and I would also point out that the Episcopal Church has not made some of the more significant mistakes he is reporting in evangelical settings. That being said, I do appreciate Matt’s conclusion:

…Let’s put students into the sanctuary on Sunday morning. Reclaim rigorous discipleship, multi-generational relationships, and youth serving as full members of the church. Challenge and equip parents to spiritually lead in their homes. Re-invision youth ministry as youth who DO ministry, pursuing and extending the faith connected to the entirety of the community of faith, the church.

And to that I add a hearty Amen!


  1. I agree that Episcopal congregations who have active youth programs generally haven’t made some of the mistakes evangelicals have (maybe only because we aren’t big enough to have designated youth pastors). But we also haven’t been willing to make any changes to our liturgies to help welcome youth as active participants. (Seeing teens come back from worship at EYE and sitting through a “normal” service can be a real eye opener and indictment of the way things usually go.) When we are able to get over ourselves and open up to other ways of expressing worship and devotion, then maybe, just maybe, the millennials in the pews will move from being passive to active members.


    • Hi Laura,
      Great comment!

      The smartest guy I know is a big firm lawyer who spends 4 weeks every summer working with the college aged counselors at camp. His conviction is “music is the realm of the young.” He advocates the 15-30 year-olds set the musical agenda of the church and the over 40 set the theology.

      He is one of three people in my life that I have learned to assume is 100% right about 90% of the time.


  2. Love the bit in the second quote about equipping parents to pass on faith at home. The research is clear that *that* formation matters so much more than anything we can do at church, however well we do the church part.


  3. Hi Bronwyn. Thank you for posting my story. I am honored. You correctly picked up that article was written to the megachurch world. You are also picked up that much of what I am writing is disturbing to many megachurch youth pastors. 25 years of youth ministry in the evangelical parachurch and megachurch world, though, generally gives me the benefit of the doubt to at least make the argument.

    I am also pleased to notice that Vibrant Faith is an “affiliate”!

    Blessings as you go into planning mode for EYE.


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