“Those Millennials are so dang selfish. All they care about is their preference of worship style and their grungy clothes.”
An older gentleman in a church made that statement to me. I did not make it up. Sadly, he said each of those words.
For certain, there are exceptions within any group. But among the Christian Millennials, I find a group truly seeking to reach out in their communities; truly trying to invite peers to church; and truly willing to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel.
The Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) are America’s largest generation ever, over 78 million strong. But only about 15 to 20 percent of this generation is Christian. Based on our research thus far, however, the Millennial Christians may be the most potent missional generation we have ever known in America.
Okay, back to the issue of attire worn on Sundays (or whatever the worship day may be). Why is that issue important to Millennials? I recently had the opportunity to interview a number of these Christian young adults. Their responses may surprise you.
1. They want their unchurched friends to feel comfortable if they come to their churches. “Personally, I would wear a tux to church if that helped get my friends here,” one young Millennial male told me. “But my friends don’t wear tuxedos and they don’t dress like the rest of the people in my church. They would really feel out of place here.”
2. Their friends have told them that “properly dressed” churchgoers have looked down on them when they came to church. A female Millennial told me, “I was so embarrassed for my friend. I finally got her to go with me to church. She had no idea what we mean by ‘Sunday dress.’ You should have seen the condescending looks she got wearing her jeans. She won’t be back. I’ll probably find another church too.”
3. There is confusion about “giving your best to God.” “Yep, I’ve heard that phrase a few times. For some of our older members, giving your best means wearing their subjective definition of best.” I was listening to the same female Millennial I quoted above. “Did you know the tie that men wear had its origins in the early 17th century? Is that ‘giving your best to God’? I think giving our best is a matter of the heart, not the whitewashed tombs of what we wear on the outside.” Ouch.
4. “Tattoos, tatters, and piercings are not welcome here.” That quote came from a 31-year old Christian Millennial male. He went on to say, “Most of my friends have one or more of those in their appearance. I know they will not be welcomed in my church. What am I supposed to do?”
Christian Millennials as a whole care deeply about reaching their peers. But many of them don’t feel their friends would be welcomed or comfortable in their own churches.
As one young lady asked me, “What are our options?”
Let me hear your thoughts.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on November 16, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.