Study Reveals Spiritual Disconnect Among Millennials
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, has conducted a research study on Millennials for his new book, The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation.
The study revealed that 65 percent of Millennials label themselves as Christian, yet their beliefs do not reflect traditional beliefs. For example, over half (53 percent) disagree that the Bible is the Word of God, two out of three Millennials never read the Bible, and 67 percent rarely or never visit a church, synagogue, mosque or temple.
How can these differences be reconciled? In other words, how is it possible to be a follower of Jesus and not believe in the inspiration of Scripture, not read the Bible, and rarely step foot inside a place of worship? The answers to these questions may be very complex.
One possible explanation may be that Millennials have adopted religious labels without adhering to distinct religious practices. Sam Rainer, director of the research, said, “For many Millennials, Christianity is a family heirloom rather than a faith commitment.”
It is also plausible that Millennials have become cynical about religion by watching and listening to extremists on both sides of the religious spectrum. Christians and Muslims have bombed innocent people in the name of religion. These atrocities have possibly contributed to the misunderstanding of religious values in the minds of Millennials by clouding their perceptions of how these values are manifested in their lives.
Another reason for differences between religion and practice may be that Millennials do not understand the connections between religion and behavior. Labels do not change beliefs and behaviors; what changes people from the inside out is a personal relationship with Jesus!
One thing is for certain: Millennials are religiously diverse. What, then, can we do to help Millennials make valid connections between religion and behaviors?
1. Listen to Millennials. This means more than letting them talk. It means allowing them to express their beliefs without condemnation or quick judgments. When Millennials know that we sincerely care for them, they will be more open to our guidance.
2. Help Millennials understand that Christianity is not just a label, but a lifestyle. They may have a somewhat looser definition of Christianity than older followers of Jesus. We need to help them understand that following Jesus is a commitment that affects every breath we take.
3. Teach Millennials how to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus. This involves training them to practice the spiritual disciplines. Developing a relationship with Jesus will help Millennials connect their faith with their behaviors.
4. Mentor Millennials with humility. Working with Millennials requires us to be open about our own weaknesses and failures. This will demonstrate that our beliefs are more than skin-deep, and they will learn to emulate our example.
A PowerPoint presentation of the research can be found here.