Why Millennials Are Coming to Church

If you have even briefly looked at the interwebs this week you have seen a lot of talk about the millennial generation, especially as it relates to the church. Rachel Held Evans kicked things off with her perspective on why they are leaving the church. There were many responses worth reading, here are two (Trevin Wax / Brett McCracken).

Our church is only 6 years old but is very generationally/socially diverse. It's pretty amazing actually. Looking around on a Sunday and you see senior citizens who have retired, young professionals, truck drivers, young men who tour in metal bands, college students, stay at home moms, et al. While we don't have a ton of college students, the largest percentage of our growth at Redeemer comes from the millennial generation.

Yesterday I was scheduled to have two meetings with two different couples. One couple was coming in for a membership interview, the other couple was coming in for pre-marriage counseling. All four people are "millennials," and I thought I would ask them a few questions related to the recent online conversation.

First up was Brad and Katie. I asked them why they haven't given up on the church in its institutional/formally organized sense.  They aren't just attending a service. They are already plugged into a Community Group, have recently joined two of our ministry teams, and are covenanting with us (we take membership seriously at Redeemer). Why? They emphasized two things: real community and serious bible teaching. As they began to look for a church after getting married they wanted to surround themselves with believers who were seeking the Lord together. They wanted to be a part of a community. They said they were warmly received by our people, and made to feel  welcome quickly and naturally. They also emphasized the expository teaching at Redeemer that emphasizes the gospel and experiential theology. Brad and Katie said they need the local church for a number of things, but most important to them is a healthy community to belong to, with strong teaching from leadership.

Then I met up with Jake and Stephanie, members of Redeemer who are getting married this month. I asked them the same questions, but their answers started a bit different. "We did leave the church." Both Jake and Stephanie rejected the local church for some time after growing up in it. In their cases it wasn't until their conversion years later that brought them not only to Jesus, but to his people. They said, "Community is huge for us." But they were not interested in just any kind of gathering of decent people. They wanted, needed, fellowship with Christians who are real, honest, and interested in others. 

Actually, we ask everyone who wants to join Redeemer, "Why this church?" Over the years the answers have been very consistent. "The people here are amazing, and Jesus is the focus." or  "The community in the church is very strong, and we love the focus on the gospel." In my experience the millennials who have found a home at Redeemer are not interested in a Sunday spectacle, but a church. They want truth, even when it's hard. They want to know and be known by others, even when it's hard. They want the care and protection the church offers her people, and they want to contribute.

We definitely aren't the cool church in town. Our building is busted. Our worship space is puritan-plain. We are Southern Baptist (definitely not cool up here), complementarian, Reformed. There is a lot about is that is uncool in many ways--at least to many outsiders. But Jesus is here, and his people are amazing. 

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About Joe Thorn

Joe is the founding and Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL, and the author of Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself (Crossway/ReLit). He was a contributor to The Story ESV Bible and The Mission of God Study Bible. Joe is a graduate of Moody Bible Inst.(BA) and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv). He and his wife Jen have four children. Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeThorn.

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