Okay, I admit, I’m not a 20  something.   But I used to be one.

And I have 3 of them in my family.    So, I think I know a little about that age group.    Enough that I’m going to take a stab at a big question about 20 somethings.

“Why are kids who grew up in church going off to college and then not coming back to church?   Why are so many of them no longer involved in the “traditional church” that they grew up in?   Or if they don’t “settle down in the same area, why don’t they find another church like the one that they grew up in?”

It’s pretty much a statistical fact that the weakest generation (numerically) in the North American church is the 20 somethings.   Why aren’t they staying with the church?

First off, let me say that I don’t believe that they are giving up on God.   I don’t believe that they are giving up on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.   They are just giving up on the traditional church.   Why?

I believe it comes down to three things:

  • Meat and Potatoes
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Leaving a mark

Meat and Potatoes – in an era of talking heads on TV and politicians who never seem to have their story straight, the 20 somethings are sick of marshmallow fluff.   They are sick of things that don’t last.   They want to be able to come to church and get a spiritual meal of meat and potatoes.    A meal that sticks with them.    A meal that gives them the energy to change the world.   The energy to make a difference.    The desire to make a difference.

Unfortunately, in many ways, Christian music groups like Building 429, NeedtoBreathe, Mike’sChair, Jamie Grace and others speak more loudly to the 20 somethings with the type of spiritual food that sticks with them.    I mean it’s great that the Christian music groups are meeting the needs of that generation with the spiritual food that they need.

It’s sad that they are doing what the church doesn’t do.   The church needs to look at two things when planning everything they do:

  • Does what we’re doing feed the spiritual needs of our members in a deep, soul enriching way that gives them the ability to be a better Christ follower out in the world?
  • Does what we’re doing increase the likelihood that someone who hears about our church, knows one of our members would be interested in finding out more and coming to visit?

Don’t feed us hot dogs and stale potato chips when what our souls are starving for is a true meal of meat and potatoes.

Artificial Sweeteners – You know those chemical filled “things” that are supposed to taste like sugar but either don’t taste like sugar or they do but then leave a nasty after taste?    Too often the churches of the First World are like that.  

We don’t need it sugar coated.   Jesus didn’t sugar coat it.   And we certainly don’t need the gospel truth covered with artificial sweeteners.   Don’t put chemicals on the truth.    Don’t attempt to paint a picture that isn’t real.    The 20 Somethings can see through fake, they can see through artificial and they don’t want it.

When the church tries to make everything seem sweet and perfect, it fails.   It has to fail.    You can’t make everything seem sweet and perfect in a world full of spiritual warfare.    And trying to make it all seem sweet and perfect is going to leave a bad aftertaste.    An after taste that pushes people away – especially a generation that is searching for meaning and searching for a way to make the world a better place.

Leaving a mark – and no I’m not referring to the common saying when someone bangs their knee on a desk and says,  “Ow, that’s going to leave a mark.”

I’m referring to leaving a mark as in, “I want to make the world a better place than it was before.”    There’s a greater desire in the 20 somethings to do something to leave a mark in the world.    Not a mark in terms of, “I want to be the biggest car dealer in the business.”   But, I want to teach kids in Honduras how to read.    Or I want to get a degree in public health and battle malaria.    Or I want to teach the future leaders of the world.    Don’t get me wrong, the 20 Somethings still like their nice cars and such but they see a bigger purpose and want to follow that purpose.

So, why is the church losing the 20 somethings?

  • Because we are failing to provide them the spiritual meat and potatoes that they need.
  • Because we’re covering the truth of Jesus and His Gospel with artificial sweeteners.    Sweeteners that leave a bad aftertaste.
  • Because we aren’t providing the 20 somethings with a place and a role where they can leave a mark and can make the world or make their world a better place.

We aren’t meeting those needs and providing them a place to thrive.   So they are seeing out different places to meet those needs and to accomplish those goals.

And the church is worse off because we are losing a generation of leaders.

Tom