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Millennials, millennials, millennials...

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Millennials, millennials, millennials. So many labels and so little time. We’re flaky, lazy, entitled, spoilt and tech–obsessed on the one hand, yet ambitious, globally aware, social, charitable, and flexible on the other.

Like many stereotypes there are some truths contained in the picture painted of ‘Generation Y’ but also many misconceptions and broad sweeping statements being unfairly applied.

But what about the labels applied to millennials (of which you may have already guessed I am one of) regarding church and faith? Indeed millennials are often quoted to not be darkening enough doors of churches or warming pews with our pocket–full–of–tech behinds, and the doom and gloom touted about makes it seem the church will end with the depleted stock of those born between the years of 1980 and 2000.

Which is why I was so encouraged to see Evangelical Alliance’s research recently which paints a picture of a generation that is generous, active in the church, prayerful, and are sharing their faith. There is a huge amount to celebrate.

However, worryingly, it paints a picture we at Biblica have known for a while. Millennials are not reading their Bibles as much as previous generations, indeed only 25% of those surveyed by EA are reading their Bible’s every day. Despite being a tech junkie (so much so that giving up Facebook for a week recently had noticeable effects), I maintain technology is one of the main causes of this (read here or listen here for my arguments as to why). But this research also supports another suspicion of mine that there are other cultural factors impacting this trend.

Whilst also looking at how millennials as a whole are doing in their journey of faith, they also used the research to compare difference of opinion between those who classify themselves as White British and BMEs (Black and Minority Ethnic) which highlighted some interesting results. BMEs were more likely than those who are White British to believe that the Bible in its original manuscript is without error (73% to 52%) and more likely to believe that the Bible should have supreme authority in guiding their life (93% to 86%). This would suggest that conservative views are more common in the BME church communities in the UK. Sowith a ‘higher’ view of what the Bible is and it’s place in their lives, it istherefore unsurprising that BME’s were more likely to read the Bible several times a week (74% to 65%).

Another cultural impact may be highlighted by the stat that only 52% of those surveyed said their church helped them a lot to understand the Bible.

Now the Bible is a life–transforming, God revealing book, but it is not always easy to understand. Millennials are part of generation busy– the pace of life is fast and full of distractions. So if the Bible remains something difficult, unapproachable and challenging to understand, no wonder millennials aren’t going to want to read it, when there are so many other things pulling at their time. It’s not that we’re not wanting to engage with God on a daily basis either as 63% of those surveyed pray every day.These statistics show us that work needs to be done on upholding the place of the Bible in our daily walk with God and in illuminating the Bible.

So how can churches help millennials to be reading and understanding the Bible? Here are 5 ideas;

  1. Give space to talk about what the Bible is– we throw around words like Biblical inerrancy and the Bible being inspired by God but do we actually know what they mean? Talk about how the Bible was written and why it’s important. Perhaps invite someone from Biblica or another Bible agency such as Wycliffe or Open Doors to come and talk about why their work with the Bible is so important.
  2. Give Bibles out– if as a church we’re saying it’s important to spend our time and resources giving out Bibles to other people it sends the message that the Bible remains important.
  3. Don’t avoid difficult bits of the Bible– don’t avoid difficult passages of the Bible in sermon series’ especially ones that highlight current issues such as women in the church, homosexuality, and violence in the Old Testament, war and peace. If the church leadership is seen to be wrestling with difficult bits of the Bible you’ll encourage those in the pews to wrestle with it too.
  4. Do Community Bible Experience– decide as a church you’re going to read through the whole New Testament together (we millennials are very relational!) using a friendly format of the Bible, and will talk in small groups about what stood out to people individually that week. Show reading the Bible is important and that is can be done by all!
  5. Ask us– going back to those labels (if they’re to be believed!) millennials like to have a voice. Do your own research, find out what millennials in your church want to happen to encourage them to read and help them understand their Bibles.

 

 

Becky Miles

London Church Relations Manager