Skip to main content
Faith Leaders 4min read

Want To Talk To Millennials? Try Listening To Them First

A blog post called “12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church” went viral not too long ago, and it caused quite an uproar in segments of the church community.

The author is Sam Eaton, a 28-year-old music teacher and, according to his bio, “founder of Recklessly Alive, a suicide prevention ministry sprinting towards a world with zero deaths from suicide.”

Sam will soon release his first memoir entitled Recklessly Alive: What My Suicide Attempt Taught Me About God and Living Life to the Fullest.”

I’m not going to get into debating some of the points he makes about why millennials are falling out of the church. Rather, I intend to use some of his points to illustrate how a growing dissatisfaction within the millennial generation will have lasting impacts on church giving and sustainability unless they are addressed immediately.

In the post he cites a study by the Barna Group called “Americans Divided On the Importance of Church,” and highlights some key statistics as they relate to younger demographics:

  • Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59% percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
  • 35% of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).

Church Giving for New Generations

These statistics may be a cold slap to many. How can you possibly expect to increase church giving when millennials are increasingly tuning out? Let’s turn to Sam’s post for a couple of insights. Not all of these criticisms may apply to your church, but the sentiments are difficult to ignore. Sam speaks for a great many millennials, as illustrated by the statistics above.

Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority

Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discussing a new mission statement…

Now let’s clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these. 

Oooooo, awkward.

Clearly, millennials are driven to give and driven to help those in need. Whether true or not, this is how many young people feel about the church today. With the sheer number or worthy causes available for people to directly help their communities, if they feel the church isn’t doing it they’ll put their time and money into those organizations that do. And that relates directly to the next point…

Distrust & Misallocation of Resources

Over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10% of our incomes to the church but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.

We want painstaking transparency. We want to see on the church homepage a document where we can track every dollar.

Churches have traditionally been averse to financial transparency, relying instead on the trust of their members rather than hard church giving data. Millennials have grown up in an era of omnipresent advertising, constantly being hawked at and sold to. How do we know who to trust? To many younger people, without accountability for their finances, the church is viewed with the same skepticism as multi-national corporations.

So What To Do?

I urge you to read Sam’s post and give it some serious thought as it relates to church giving and sustainability. It’s possible that some of the ideas he puts forth may make you feel uncomfortable. I’m not expressing any kind of endorsement or disavowal of what he writes. But we all know sometimes facing truths can be disconcerting, and for Sam (and many like him) these are the truths at hand.

The key here is to listen to what millennials are saying. They’re willing to tell you what they want, need, and expect. And since they’re the largest segment of the population, it is vital to thoughtfully consider what they are telling you about your church.

Recommended for you:

About the Author

Matt is dedicated to making the world a better place. He works passionately to help charitable causes use mobile technology to raise the funds they need. In addition to his role at Givelify, he volunteers with the Southside Animal Shelter and Kentuckiana Pug Rescue.

Matt Chandler