You Lost Me. Live! is an event hosted by Barna Group, a research group started in 1984 that is focused on the intersection of faith and culture. This one-day, completely free conference took place on this past Tuesday at the Younger Generation Church located at the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church. Barna Group president and author David Kinnaman led most of the conference in a thoughtful discussion about reasons young people leave the church and what we can do about it.
Kinnaman focused on the 59% of young people in the millennial generation who grow up in the church but leave and do not come back. Based on research of the Barna Group, there are many reasons why they leave the church, but it all stems from the idea that the church does not relate to their culture. According to Kinnaman, Christianity doesn’t seem to answer the challenge that young people face in a deep, thoughtful, or challenging way.
In order to reach, bring back, or share Christ with this generation, the church needs to understand their complex culture. For example, Millenials experience incredible student loan debt and a very high unemployment rate. In 2011 one in three millenials was unemployed. Their culture is changing nearly everyday because of the emergence of technology. In order to share Christ with these young people, we need to understand their vocational and financial hardships. We have the ability to assist them, give them tangible resources, and help them realize their dreams.
Kinnaman describes the tension the church is in as a digital Babylon. Young people are exiles living in between culture and the church. They are not losing their faith; they are losing the church. The church is not a place where they can be in action, held accountable, or live out their dreams.
My favorite part of the conference was when producer Jim Henderson brought up two young ladies to share their faith journey. One young woman grew up in the church, went to church as a teen, and went into the Army to serve as a chaplain. After leaving the Army, she attempted to reenter the church, she struggled to find her place. As a server at a restaurant, she met a Muslim family. She began studying Arabic and learned more about the Muslim culture. She ended up turning away from Christianity and reverting to Islam because she felt that Christianity was not active enough. She found the requirements and action she was looking for in Islam.
Young people are not looking for easy, watered-down versions of Christianity. They are looking for a way to change the world. They are looking for support to make a better life. They are seeking community with others. They aren’t looking for answers, but they are looking for deep discussion and intelligent conversation. We have that and can provide that, but they are turning away from us because we are not going to where they are. They live in a world that is complicated and almost entirely virtual. They don’t enter the bank to make deposits anymore and for a lot of them, the institutionalized church has become obsolete.
We have requirements, community, and an opportunity for deep conversation. Providing a space for meaningful intergenerational relationships to occur will help bring back those 59% in exile. If we’re living in the modern day Babylon, we need to talk about culture, film, technology, Sabbath, environmental stewardship, and thankfully we have an avenue to do so in the Social Principles. Because we have a rich heritage, we have an opportunity to model the faith for younger generations. Through faith-sharing, mentoring relationships, and teaching how to listen for the voice of God, we can literally move a generation back to Jesus Christ, God, and the church.
For more information about the Barna Group, please visit www.barna.org. For more information about You Lost Me, check out David Kinnaman’s book. For more information about how to reach the millennial generation, please contact Leanne Johnston.