Brea Jones/Staff Writer
With the declining numbers in church attendance and religious affiliation, our current generation seems to be more separated from religion than ever before, especially when compared to previous generations.
However, although many believe religion will quickly die out in the next few decades, that may not actually be the case.
Many millennials have a strong belief in God and consider themselves to be spiritual. Younger generations want a place to practice their beliefs but feel as though there is nowhere to go and feel welcomed.
There are a number of reasons as to why so many millennials feel this way, and have abandoned current established religions, particularly Christianity.
For starters, Christian churches have a tendency to condemn and shame members of the LGBT community. This practice drives millennials away because they are likely to have a friend who is apart of that community.
Many young people are also confused and feel like their churches send mixed messages. One common example would be preaching a message about how God loves everyone and then disgracing a person for being themselves.
While the number of female preachers are on the rise, there is still an overwhelming amount of male preachers in Christian churches.
This can become hard for some of the younger female millennials because they don’t have anyone they can relate to within the church. Some male preachers also have a tendency to call out women and tell them they should live their lives ‘‘according to the Bible.”
For instance, I once attended a church where the male pastor said that women should feel ashamed of themselves if they used birth control because it is unnatural and goes against God.
One of the most overlooked issues is the church’s stance on mental health. A lot of preachers say that you can pray the “evil spirit” of depression and anxiety away but in most cases, mental health isn’t something that can be prayed away.
All of the overlooked, problematic preaching and unexplained answers end up pushing younger generations away from churches. Most millennials actually want to attend church, but are unable to feel welcomed.
When this happens, millennials tend to lose faith in the church and organized religion.
In order to bring back millennials and younger generations to church settings, they have to feel comfortable with that church’s atmosphere. Millennials shouldn’t be forced to compromise on their beliefs just to become a part of a religion.
Parents should talk with their children and consider what they are looking for in a church. Parents and elders also need to stop forcing religion onto their children as it pushes them away from religious settings.
Also, instead of making assumptions about a person’s religious beliefs, church members should have a conversation with them. They may just be searching for the right church to attend or feel more comfortable practicing their beliefs in their own home.
Churches shouldn’t be afraid to be different from the norm. They should focus on creating a safe space where everyone can come as they are without being judged.
If these points are implemented in religious settings, churches will be once again be filled with younger people, which, in turn, can help modernize organized religion.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.
Photo by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash.
Nice editorial. I generally agree with the sentiment, but as a millenial member of a progressive Christian church (there are quite a few of us actually), I feel like the damage is done on the image of Christianity. Several progressive church denominations have existed well into the past, having participated in the Civil Rights movement, the LGBTQ+ movement, and have had women pastors since at least the 1800s (and LGBTQ+ pastors since at least 1968).
I think the root cause of low church attendance is slightly more complicated, but can be phrased simply: God/spirituality/communal spiritual practice ranks low on American’s life priorities. Churches in other countries are not suffering the same decline in attendance, and some in fact are growing and blossoming. Most Americans are no longer taught at a young age the value of spiritual or communal spiritual practice, and the mainstream Evangelical and fundamentalist churches drive that wedge deeper with more modern, progressive aligned youth.
In any case, the story is actually not new, but like everything else going on in our modern world, the truth is just bubbling up to the surface. Without the threat of violence (hell or your parent’s wrath on Sunday morning), people have to find intrinsic worth in the church community. That is a harder pill to swallow: what do you do with your freedom?
Side note – you use the word “apart” in your 5th paragraph, but I think you meant “a part” which convey different meanings.
My grammar eyes are burning… In my 2nd paragraph, it should read “… ranks low on Americans’ life priorities.” Misplaced apostrophe! Sorry. :)