by dan grider
The Millennial generation of Christian are making different choices than any generation before them. Millennials are inclined to move toward living in the city center than in the suburbs. They are choosing re-gentrified communities closer to the city than previous generations.
If you travel much internationally you will soon realize that young adults in other countries do the opposite of what they do in America. In cities around the world people are desperately trying to flee the suburbs and move closer to the city center. In fact the low income areas internationally are in the outer suburban ring of most cities. America is the only country where you find affluence in the suburbs. I will explain why we have developed in an opposite pattern from the rest of the world.
If we don’t quickly adjust our thinking we will find our selves buried under a mound of debt and stuck in a location that has been abandoned by the very people we intended to reach.
The Cramped Up City Life
For as long as I can remember families have been fleeing the inner city for life in the suburbs. This has been the trend over the past 50 years. The reason our pattern is different from other countries is due to legislation that the US congress passed in the late 1960’s. This came out of the civil rights movement. This legislation was enacted to require cities to desegregate all schools in America. This legislation had the best of intentions. Schools began to bus kids all over their cities to accomplish a more balanced racial mix. Thus allowing every student to have equal access to a good education. This policy made it where in most large American cities in the 1970’s a child could no longer attend the school around the corner. The government action required a child to ride a bus to the opposite side of town. Most parents who could afford to relocate from this areas did so. This legislation created “white flight” thus most affluent Americans fled to the suburbs to escape the mandated bussing requirement.
America immediately became the only country where the suburbs were where the affluent people lived. In most cities around the world the affluent people lived in the city center.
Many of the churches in America followed the families who were fleeing the cities. The church of the 1970’s began to purchase land in the suburbs. This new land instantly became quite expensive. Churches in the 1970’s began to virtually give away their downtown locations and buy land in the outlying areas. Most of the time they incurred a great amount of cost to make this move.
As a result of the most large suburban churches are carrying seven figures of debt, with the hope that they will be able to pay off the loan continued up and to the right future growth. There is an assumption that giving will continue on in the future as it has in the past. These suburban churches did not count on the fact that the Millennial generation’s church attendance numbers would plummet.
We are seeing that with the shift of the Millennial generation. We have seen what I call the flip-flop generation for the first time. In a recent study it was revealed that just 15 percent of the the Millennial generation nationwide are involved in a local church. It is estimated that nearly four out of ten consider themselves to be non-Christian. That is a radical shift of the statistics of the previous Generation.
This along with the fact that the Millennial generation have not had the same income pathway to move to higher paying jobs that previous generation had. This generation has less income to live on at this stage compared to previous generations, they are also slower to embrace the concept of the tithe.
Previous generations gave financially because it was a Biblical concept that had been taught and modeled for generations before them. The Millennial who attend church have had little exposure to this concept. This will significantly impact the capacity of churches to build the same type of campuses that have been constructed in the past.
The biggest shift is that the Millennials and coming generations will have little interest in the program focused sprawling suburban church campus.
This level of spiritual shift in one generation is radical. This current generation of young adults are different from any we have seen before. For many of them, they will either walk away from the church as we know it, or they must be introduced to the real person of Jesus and His ekklesia oriented Church that He launched.
Church leaders assumed that the Millennial generation of christian young adults would begin to shop for a church to attend when they had kids and settled down. Every generation of Christians before followed that pattern.
The competition among churches previously had been to become a church that was more contemporary and culturally relevant than the previous version of churches had been. This shift ensured that the next generation of Christian church shoppers would include y0ur church in their consideration of churches to attend.
The large group of lowly motivated cultural Christians in this generation are for the most part more honest than previous generations. This group are not interested in the disingenuous double standard that the previous generations embraced.
For the most part, the current rising generation will not accept or provide much financial maintenance for the church as it has been. Churches that have incurred large debt will face serious struggles in the future. The Millennial generation as a whole has little interest in the things that the previous church generations have valued. They are less interested in living in the suburbs. They are not attracted by the large programed suburban mega church. They don’t value the sterile programed version of church that their parents were drawn to in the the 1990’s. Many Millennials who came from Christian homes were raised in suburban programmed churches. There are more who are Christ followers than are connected to the church. It seems that this large portion of the generation have chosen to not connect to the church that their parents attended. Research shows that the majority of Millennials have chosen to avoid participating in their parents church.
The church in American has focused over the past 25 years on attracting an ever growing population base of lowly motivated cultural Christians to attend their church. This can be done by better programming and by building campuses.