on December 6, 2011
As a youth pastor, I am overwhelmed by the number of books available outlining the current crises of the church when it comes to the Millennial generation and their exodus from the institutional church. Often these books fail to adequately describe this reality, in terms of our surrounding culture and its impact on church culture, preferring to rely on alarmist rhetoric and faulty analysis. Moreover, the answers proposed by these books do little, in my opinion, to uproot the underlying factors driving this exodus.
In addition, discussions surrounding this issue by church leadership and laity alike are often grounded in blatant ignorance at worst and baffled confusion at best. One cannot doubt the good intentions that motivate their concern for the younger generations. However, regardless of the tone of the discussion, the result is almost always the same ' an unfortunate unwillingness to listen and engage with the root causes of this exodus and a refusal to make the necessary changes in order to address the concerns of younger generations.
My youth ministry colleagues and I share similar frustrations when it comes to these kinds of discussions. Often a concerned parent, grandparent, or church leader will approach us, seeking an answer for the absence of teens and young adults in our congregations. However, their legitimate concern for youth is quickly undone with intonations of: 'This kind of behavior is typical of young people ' all they do is complain! When I was young, I did the same thing, but at least I stuck around. Young people today are too entitled ' instead of trying to be part of the solution, all they do is sulk and walk away when they don't get their own way!'
As a member of the Millennial generation who works with younger members of this generation, I cannot emphasize enough how wrong this perception is. Indeed, it is precisely this kind of attitude that is causing young people to walk away from the church. Millennials are not leaving church simply because they aren't getting their own way. Rather, it is because they realize they don't even have a place at the leadership table. The question is - how can we expect a generation to stick things out simply in order for them to maintain the status quo once they are finally given the opportunity to lead, especially when the diagnoses they are presently offering concerning the state of the church are uncomfortably accurate?
It seems as though we are ignoring the prophetic utterances of the younger generation at our own peril, completely blind to the fact that 'business as usual' when it comes to church is bearing bad fruit. The painful irony is that the church leadership who are so quick to stonewall the ideas and passions of Millenials are often from the 'Greatest Generation', a generation that shares much in common with the Millenials, particularly a strong civic-mindedness and entrepreneurial spirit. Inversely, one of the biggest differences between these two generations concerns their relationship to institutional religion ' whereas the Greatest Generation felt at home in churches, Millenials, for better or worse, remain highly suspicious of religious institutions.
When it comes to addressing this issue, churches are in a bind. Lead by well-meaning members of a generation who are reluctant to engage a younger generation by actively listening to their concerns and risking their proposals for change, a siege mentality often grips the hearts and minds of older generations who, while concerned for their children and grandchildren, are unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to become a truly intergenerational church family. And the exodus continues.
We are reaping what we've sown. Driven by a strong sense of fair-play, Millenials are interested in collaboration among equals. This also means that they are not interested in fighting, so when conflict looms, they simply walk away. They are also highly community oriented ' if they don't find community in one place, they will look for it elsewhere. And in our highly digitally connected world, they will certainly find it. This means that if younger generations are not given the opportunity to participate in meaningful discussions that will shape the present and future of the church and if they are denied leadership roles, they will not bother investing their time and energy into what they see as a fruitless endeavor. They will go to where the action is and where they can have an important role to play.
This is precisely why David Kinnaman's new book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church'And Rethinking Faith, is so important. It provides a clear and incisive picture of both the Millenial generation and why they are leaving the church. Kinnaman wants to explore the question: 'Is Christianity's dropout problem a unique sociological phenomenon of the early part of the twenty-first century or just a natural part of the human life cycle in which youth people experience faith maturation?' In other words, is this exodus of young adults from the church something new or is it something that every generation of young adults goes through? Rather than taking an either/or approach, Kinnaman adeptly argues why this phenomenon is both a new and old problem and outlines his proposals for how to reach this generation.
What I especially appreciated about You Lost Me was the careful distinctions made in distinguishing groups of 'dropouts' and the very different reasons each is disengaging from church. Kinnaman's discussion of the importance of intergenerational relationships in fostering life-long discipleship also struck home for me as I am currently developing a mentoring program in my congregation to serve as the foundation for our youth ministry.
To be clear, the primary focus of You Lost Me is so-called 'churched' young adults. However, the proposals Kinnaman and others (such as Shane Claiborne, Kenda Creasy Dean, Scot McKnight, and Kara Powell) offer to engage the Millenial generation are also applicable in address the flip-side of this issue (i.e. why are 'un-churched' young adults avoiding faith and church altogether). Rather than demanding that the older generations simply aquiese to the ideas of the Millenials, the proposals offered are pragmatic and constructive and, for congregations willing to take the risk of implementing them, will produce good fruit.
I don't often recommend books on youth ministry/culture because I find many that are not worth recommending for one reason or another. However, You Lost Me is certainly an exception. It is not simply a book for youth pastors - it should be mandatory reading for youth pastors, senior pastors, church leadership, parents, and anyone concerned about addressing the reasons for the exodus of young adults from the church and from faith.
'Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group'.
on December 8, 2011
There are a lot of books in the Christian publishing industry and most of them are garbage.
It's no one's fault really, publishing is an industry and as such there is a systematic need to fill millions of pages a year with content. Christian publishing, while popular, is a microcosmic niche in comparison to the broader world of publishing and as such has a smaller number of quality producers to fill the hopper with. So what you get is a lot of filler. You get Amish romance novels that are shameful at best and Christian porn at worst. You get conspiracy minded apocalyptic writers who present subjects like eschatology in a pseudo-theological way all the while fanning the flames of racism and xenophobia creating Christians full of fear and anger.
I say all this because a book like David Kinnaman's You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church... is a refreshing glass of cool water in the dry, parched desert that Christian publishing can often be.
The book is an example of what a good non-fiction mass market text should be - it is accessible, based on solid research and best of all - well written.
Kinnaman avoids alarmist language but the message of the book is clear - the body of Christ in the western world is bleeding - badly and in a way it has never done so before in its history. Focused on a large scale study of 18-29 year old Christians the book reveals that this demographic is leaving the church...but (and this is an important but) they are not leaving faith.
Kinnaman clearly presents the proof of this and then spends time presenting the many reasons why young Christians are disengaging and unflinchingly points the finger back at you and I. The church, its leadership and older generations have failed to understand and keep up with dramatic cultural change to such a degree that the language being spoken now in our sanctuaries and sermons, in our songs and liturgy, is so foreign as to be complete nonsense - even to those who have grown up in the church.
Refreshingly Kinnaman does not leave the reader hanging, after defining the problem he presents some possible solutions in chapters like What's Old is New, and Fifty Ideas to Find a Generation.
Let me be clear - this is an important book. I also want to state that this is not something a senior pastor or board chair can simply throw at the youth pastor to read to solve the problem...this is essential reading for every church leader. The content must be synthesized into the psyche of the church, prayed deeply over and responded to in radical fashion. Unfortunately the study Kinnaman bases his book on suggests that the very attitudes that have led the church to this place of loss is probably an attitude that will lackadaisically ignore these warnings until it is too late.
In short - an excellent book. A must read.
on June 26, 2012
Is the North American church overprotective, repressive, and shallow? 'UnChristian' looked at outsiders and their perceptions of the church, and what we could do to respond to these very real concerns. With 'You Lost Me', Kinnaman examines young insiders who have left disconnected from the church, giving them a voice and an opportunity for the church to respond in love.
I've been a fan of Kinnaman's work since reading unChristian - and this did NOT disappoint me. He spoke right into situations that my friends and I are living as the generation following us disconnects - and trying to find a better way through. I'm grateful that Kinnaman has tackled this topic, and think that this resource will be really helpful to pastors, lay leaders and those just interested in what is happening around them. Very accessible - not just for academics, which is also very helpful!
on May 16, 2012
This is a book that investigates why many young Christians are disconnecting from the church as they transition into adulthood.
It evaluates the beliefs of these younger churched people, and asks their perception of the church that they grew up in, as well as wonders with stories why so many of this age group are leaving the church.
It is written in an easy to read style, and caused my heart to ache for more healthy churches that can engage "Nomads, Prodigals, and Exiles" in a way that will help them to be successful at bringing God glory by engaging in the local body of Christ.
The solutions that David provides (chapter 11) are helpful, but not complete. He advises that we need to reconsider how we make disciples, rediscover Christian calling and vocation, and reprioritize wisdom over information as we seek to know God.
I would have liked to see the author express the value of the church, and a more intense passion to engage this age in building the church. I also think the book could have been improved by spending more time investigating what is lacking in the churches training of young people that seems to be turning out consumers not servants. I think as this problem is addressed it would be helpful to take a bigger picture look at the entire process Christians have in "doing church" so that this problem can be solved.
All and all a very helpful read, that seeks to show the problem and draw the reader (and the church) towards a solution.
Worth reading for all who are concerned about the next generation and their pursuit of Christ.
Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available now at your favourite bookseller