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Why Millennials Are Coming To Church

291976_207546365966800_4521848_nEarlier this week, in response to Rachel Held Evans’ post and my post from a Canadian point-of-view, the Rev. Mark Whittall of St. Albans Ottawa posted a blog of his own that asked Millennials at St. Al’s to respond to a number of questions.

I wonder if their responses resonate with you? Do they shock you? And what, if anything, can we take from the experience of one congregation that just happens to be connecting with this group of people? Here are some excerpts and follow-up questions:

We talk about stuff that matters 

“I decided to attend St. Albans not because of the modern music or digital bulletins but because members seemed incredibly genuine in their mutual attempts to understand God and what Jesus’s message means for their everyday realities.” 

Do our churches talk about things that matter? Do sermons engage the issues the community is facing? Do conversations in coffee hour go beyond the surface to what is really going on in peoples’ lives? Do small groups and other community activities create space for deep intimacy between us, Christ, and each other?

We can ask questions and explore answers together

“I guess what I was looking for was a feeling of shared curiosity and inquiry.  In university we are encouraged to rigorously question the evidence and biases behind claims, to have arguments on fundamental issues.  Through book studies, service discussion periods and one-on-one conversations with other members at St. Albans, I feel like I can exercise this curiosity without stepping on toes or being told just to have faith and be silent.”

We all have questions. So many Anglicans I know are proud of their intellectualism and curiosity. Do we explore these things together as a community? Do we learn from one another, lean on one another when we have deep questions, or moments of profound doubt? What does it mean to be Christian community in the midst of these things? How does your church fare in this area?

We get to participate and contribute.  

“Why do I come to church?  Because of the sense that everyone is welcome to share their opinions and ideas.  People are encouraged to participate in everything that goes on at the church.”

983806_500359863352114_156755470_nIs the life of the church merely a matter of consuming religious goods and services, or is it a deeply participatory endeavour? From worship, to evangelism, outreach, and works of justice, how is the whole community engaged? Do members of the congregation feel as though they are able to contribute to the life of the community? Are they stretched when asked to steward those gifts? Is it a safe place to contribute, to experiment, to fail, and to succeed?

This is a Christ-Centred church.  

“Ultimately though, the best and most important thing about Saint Albans for me is that it is a Christ-centered church.  It is a church that remembers what the point of everything is.  I saw this reflected in every aspect of church life.”

Does the life of the church hinge on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Can we answer the question of why we gather, and why the Christian gospel is good news even beyond the walls of our church? If the Christian church’s final answer to the ‘why’ question isn’t ‘for the sake of Jesus,’ have we not missed the point?

Rev. Mark’s blog goes into a lot more detail. The responses he presents beg the question: why on earth aren’t more of our churches engaged in these things? These don’t sound like particularly “millennial” things. They sound like human things. They sound like Christian things. And at the end of the day, they sound like the things that the church should be on about, whether it consists primarily of 80-year-olds, 30-year-olds, or people of any age.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie

About Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Andrew is an Anglican lay leader who loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being church in the 21st Century. He serves as an assistant to the rector for Evangelism and Christian Formation at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver and is a founding member of the emerging St. Brigids community (www.stbrigid.ca).
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