Millennials don't believe in Church any more. Here's why we're wrong.
New research shows that Millennials are more likely to have a negative view of religious organisations than older generations.
Figures released by the Pew Research Centre reveal that just 55 per cent of Americans born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s believe churches have a positive impact on the country – a drop of 18 per cent since 2010.
This isn't exactly surprising – recent studies have shown that Christianity in America is in decline, and research compiled by experts last year found that Millennials are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives and spend less time praying or meditating.
"American adolescents in the 2010s are significantly less religiously oriented, on average, than their Boomer and Generation X predecessors were at the same age," an article published in Plos One journal said.
"Unlike previous studies, ours is able to show that Millennials' lower religious involvement is due to cultural change, not to Millennials being young and unsettled."
Another study produced by Pew in May 2015 found that the number of Americans professing that they have 'no religion' has grown to 56 million. 'Nones' are therefore now the second largest group in the US, behind evangelicals.
For those of us who believe in the local church and its power to be a place of real community – real family – these stats are worrying, not least because we're struggling with the same issues on this side of the Atlantic, too.
But I'm 24; I'm a Millennial, and it's easy to tar us all with the same brush, but we haven't all rejected Church. The figures might be depressing, but it's not necessarily cause for alarm. There are loads of young people coming to faith, particularly through big movements here in the UK like Soul Survivor and New Wine, but also in tiny pockets up and down the country, where youth and student leaders are working – day in and day out – to make a difference. Those of us in our twenties are reaching an age where we're figuring our faith out for ourselves rather than riding on our parents' coat-tails, and finding new experessions of faith isn't something to be afraid of. We're just thinking things through, and coming to our own conclusions. We might have said we're suspicious about Church as an institution in a survey, but that doesn't mean we're rejecting Jesus.
Unsurprisingly – again – I love the Church. I love that it's the one building you'll find in every hamlet, village and town across the UK, without fail. I love that churches are built with the express intention of glorifying God, and the years of closely-held traditions and whispered prayers that are bound within their walls. I love when they hold services using centuries-old liturgy, and when they are used as youth clubs, food banks, places of sanctuary for refugees, and as counselling centres for the debt-ridden and lonely. I love that when I walk into my church it feels like home, and it does for so many others, too, even though we might not look like we have much in common.
The Church has a reputation for being out-of-date, irrelevant, and backward, and by association, so do Christians. Without doubt, our past is chequered, and we have things to apologise for that have been done in the name of our faith.
But then I think of the countless evenings my parents dedicated to serving young people when they were in their twenties; spending every Friday night as newlyweds hanging out with local teenagers who would never otherwise step into a church building. I think of the smile that broke out on a woman's face after she was told she could become debt free by a CAP counsellor, and she would never need to hide her kids upstairs when the bailiffs called again. I think of the ways the Church has fought passionately for the rights of all human beings as precious individuals, and grappled furiously with theology in the midst of some major culture shifts.
So some Millennials might have written Church off, but that doesn't mean you should lose faith in all of us.