There is an exodus of millennials from the Church. The question is, why?
Waywardness is a choice; it's a thought out decision, it's not impulsive.
With millennials, elders are acting as sheepdogs, rather than shepherds, trying to keep their fold together.
It would be unwise to claim to know the root of the issue, but I think there are some common denominators we can look at to give us clues.
To find some of the answers, we need to examine the church culture millennials grew up in. During this period Christian marketing exploded. DC Talk was pumping through mainstream radio stations, Jesus Freak topped the charts. Millennial church kids decked themselves out in W.W.J.D. bracelets and wore shirts displaying a Jesus fish. If you were a super Christian you might have burned your secular music, this was more if you were becoming a postulant.
If you desired to be a Christian first you must do your ABC's, admit, believe, confess. Once you became a Christian the next steps were to throw away any secular music, books, or clothing. If you knew anyone who drank alcohol, they were put on the top of the prayer list. Also, don't forget to remove your baseball cap in the sanctuary.
The point I'm trying to get at is we, the Church, indoctrinated millennials with an, "us versus the world" attitude. I'm not undermining the importance of holiness and refraining from worldly influences, but the Church created a legalistic culture when millennials were growing up.
Point in case, I worked with a girl who grew up attending "speed readers conventions." The goal was to memorize books of the Bible; judges would quote bible verses and the "speed readers" would race to find the scripture. She was a top finalist in the state of Texas. I even tested her, and she knew the Bible better than me, at least in finding scripture. However, now she's in her twenties and renounced her faith and is into new age philosophy.
When you speak with a millennial who used to be in the Church, you will hear a similar story. They know the Bible, they've heard the message, but ultimately they were turned off by the church.
One thing to look at is the way the gospel was presented in this period. When I went church, I was encouraged to say the sinner's prayer every time. There was always an emphasis on asking Jesus into my heart so I could escape eternal damnation.
What it did to me was make me think salvation was a one-time transactional deal. If this, in fact, was preaching tactic used by leaders across the nation, then this indeed was part of the issue.
When you present Christ as a ticket to heaven through a one-time prayer, you cheapen the gospel. Most churches now shy away from presenting an altar call or reciting the sinner's prayer. David Platt repeatedly emphasizes in his sermons the importance of a sold-out life for Christ, not a one-time commitment.
However, this was how the gospel was presented to millennials in their youth. Couple that with a legalistic, "us versus the world" mentality, it plants shallow roots.
Let's fast forward to modern day. The next two underlying issues go hand and hand. The divinity of scripture and social issues.
I want to mention real quick, of the millennials who left the Chruch, a handful of them still want the aspect of God in their life. This mentality has created the Progressive Christian; I use the word Christian lightly. In short, progressives shape the Bible to the culture.