Millennials, people born between 1984 and 2002, are a hot topic among active church people. When a donor asked me, “What’s the Seminary doing about millennials?”, I first blanked, but recovered and said, “Our students are millennials. They’ll figure out how to minister to their peers.” On further reflection, our revised residential curriculum, starting in August, does address theological education to younger people in ways different than my own generation. That said, when our millennial seminarians graduate, they will be the ones to reach their peers.
Many of this year’s graduates from Concordia Seminary were only 11-years-old on 9-11. Older people, the Greatest Generation (born before 1946) and Boomers (1946-1964) have seen much change in our lives. Churched America is moving to post-church America. “More than four in 10 (44%) of the nation’s adult population qualifies as post-Christian” (Barna Trends 2017, 184). Older people grieve the losses the church has experienced in our lifetimes. Gen-Xers (1965-1983) and especially Millennials (1984-2002) have had different life experiences and generally see religious life differently. “Fifty-nine percent of Millennials who grew up in the church have dropped out, 52 percent have not been to church in the last six months, and one-third don’t see church as important” (Barna, 225).
In or out of church, in Seminary or in lay professions, our role, yours and mine, is to meet them where they’re at…but not leave them there. Mentoring them in the unchanging truths of God’s Word focused on Jesus and experienced in the life of His Church… the Spirit will work so that faithful Millennials reach their generation, long after we’ve gone to heaven. They know the Lord is still leading His Church.
Strange though, our seminarians think it’s strange older people are talking and lecturing about Millennials but no one asks them!