By Jason Jimenez
Millennials think and feel differently than previous generations. Their behaviors, buying habits, and brand loyalty (or lack of it) are far less predictable than those of their parents, and certainly grandparents. Yet the one thing that appears predictable among most millennials is their abandonment of Christianity.
Despite the 24/7 streaming and uploading, millennials feel alienated, and carry with them a skeptical spirit about authority—especially in the church and in government.
I have spent the past twenty years working with millennials, and have seen the good and the bad with these young people. I love this generation and feel they get a bad rep most of the time. So, I would like to briefly touch on three key areas that are commonly underdeveloped in millennials, and provide insight on how you can build relationships with them. Now before I go any further, my purpose in using the term “underdeveloped” is not a put-down of millennials, but a cultural and generational fact.
In certain areas of life millennials are not progressing as quickly as previous genera-tions did. This is causing many parents to be concerned, and has resulted in a rise of depression among millennials.
According to psychologist Laurence Steinberg of Temple University, by the late twenties, “There’s better communication between parts of the brain that process emotions and social information—like what people think of you—and the parts that are important for planning ahead and balancing risk and reward.”
It’s important to understand the underdeveloped brain because it affects the identity formation of every young person. If you have a twenty-something right now, your son or daughter is still figuring out who he or she is, what he or she likes, and what he or she should do. Choices and decisions are affected in a big way by the maturity of your child’s brain. With brains that are still maturing, these kids need mom and dad to help them make the right decisions.
I have had millennials tell me they feel they’ve gotten the short end of the stick when it came to faith development. According to their recollections, the Bible was little more than an Instagram post in their lives. These young people clearly observed that the faith they grew up in was a cultural activity instead of a truly spiritual one. Today, older millennials have a hard time understanding how or why faith should play a role in their careers, personal interests, or future lives.
Yet, despite the under-developed faith experienced among millennials, they are yearning to believe and live out a faith that is true. Stop and think about that for a moment. After all the years in church, with millions upon millions of dollars spent on private Christian education, camps, retreats, and so on, nearly 20 percent of millennials under age 30 are no longer affiliated with the religion they were brought up to believe. However, these same young adults who left the religion of their upbringing didn’t trade it in for another religion. The majority of millennials, raised in a Christian home, became dissatisfied with Christianity because of their doubts, skepticism, and the hypocrisy they witnessed in the church. They simply abandoned their faith.
Sadly, the sacredness and purity of sex within marriage is seemingly lost in the culture embraced by millennials. Deep down that’s what they truly want, but they don’t know how to achieve it. So many young people aren’t getting married because they feel they ruined their chances by sleeping around or are afraid if they get married they might get divorced like their parents.
Much more can be written about millennials, so I encourage you to get my book, Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home, for more insight. But as I wrap up this article, I want to leave you with five action steps that you can apply to building a relationship with a millennial:
1. Simply ask how you can pray for him or her. They may not be Christian, but millennials love to discuss spiritual matters.
2. Make time for them. Plan weekly engagements that allow them to feel safe and open to talk about things they want to talk about.
3. Be as transparent as possible. Millennials have a “prove it to me” mindset, so if they feel you don’t care, or smell a hint of hypocrisy, they’re gone.
4. Teach them true doctrine.Millennials may not agree with what you believe, but they respect your beliefs, and hate it when Christians compromise in order to be relevant.
5. Release their creativity. Give them opportunity to serve and be a part of something that points to community, love, and true forgiveness found in Christ!
Jason Jimenez is a Christian worldview expert and best-selling author of several books, and is the President of STAND STRONG Ministries. Jason served as a pastor to students and families for over fifteen years and now travels the country inspiring young people to live boldly for Christ no matter the cost.
1 Melinda Beck, “Delayed Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain,” The Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443713704577601532208760746.