October 3, 2015 Tony Morgan

Christianity Is Not Dying and Millennials Are Not the Problem

Screenshot 2015-09-29 at 1.46.43 PM

I got a chance to preview Haydn Shaw’s new book Generational IQ: Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future Is Bright, which will be out on Oct. 6. To sum up my thoughts in one sentence:

Church leaders need to read this book.

This year has been scary for church leaders. Pew Research Center’s report back in the spring demonstrated that Millennials are leaving Christianity and that there is a rapidly growing trend towards Americans with no religious affiliation at all. Shaw’s research provides a more thorough analysis of these trends and what they mean.

Here are a few of the highlights from the book that stood out to me:

  • Parents often raise their children anticipating the world will be basically the same as the one they grew up in. While that was more the case in the past, it becomes a less accurate assumption every year. (Churches tend to adopt the same mentality.)
  • We get especially upset when another generation questions the ideas that “go without saying” to our generation.
  • In 1900, the average lifespan was 48; today it’s 78. As people live longer, we get new challenges previous eras didn’t face.

“This is the first time we have five generations, and we don’t have the generational intelligence to handle it yet. With five generations living together and interacting with each other, we have an amazing opportunity to learn from each other so that our view of God gets bigger and our faith gets stronger.”

  • The Traditionalists (born before 1945) were actually the most rebellious of the five generations. The shifts in thinking that Boomers later seized were firmly established by the intellectuals and artists of the first half of the 20th century.
  • The Baby Boomers were the first generation to widely believe you could pick and choose what you wanted to believe from the Bible. The hyper-individualism of that generation shaped its views of church. This was the generation that started “church-hopping.”
  • Generation Xers were the first to be taught that something can be true for you but not for me — that truth is constructed by a group of people, not revealed by God or discovered by science.
  • The culmination of this progression is that, “for Millennials, the highest goal in life, the noblest morality, is no longer to live a life of honor to some ideal standards. It’s to be yourself, to feel good about your choices, and to do what works for you. The new unpardonable sin is for one person to judge another person’s moral behavior.”

Many people today claim to be “spiritual but not religious” because they have either unconsciously absorbed or mistakenly rejected a version of Christianity that’s been hacked.

What Churches Must Understand

  • “We Christians have our hands full dealing with the new morality and new philosophies; we don’t have the luxury to spend much of our energy fighting each other today. Condemning a generation as they struggle through their issues doesn’t help.”
  • We need to change the question of “Why won’t younger people come to my church?” to “What will we need to do differently to reach the younger generations?”
  • “Selfishness has no age limitations, and churches don’t retire.”
  • “To fulfill God’s purposes in our generations, we will need to figure out how to speak the language of the different generations. The real God is amazing, so we need to be able to explain him to the next generations.”

This book is chock full of research and insights that should help us stop worrying, start understanding each other better and get practical and smart in dealing with the challenges. I think you should check it out.


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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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