We don’t believe in God nearly as much as other generations. We don’t pray, go to church, read the Bible or turn to religion when seeking guidance on right and wrong. In general, millennials, my generation, are the least religious generation.
The latest U.S. religious landscape study published by Pew confirms much of what has been reported about millennials in recent years. But the study also sheds new light on this “spiritual, but not religious” generation and can help churches understand how to reach them.
According to the study, millennials have not completely abandoned spiritual beliefs or practices. Millennials maintain a sense of spiritual peace and interest in the universe beyond what is simply seen on earth.
One of the most interesting data points regarding millennials from this latest Pew survey is the large portion of who feel a sense of spiritual peace and well being, while being less affiliated with religion than any other generation. Most young adults also feel a sense of wonder about the universe.
This should lead pastors and church leaders to ask, “How does this affect how I reach out to unbelieving millennials in my community?” Here are three things to keep in mind when attempting to engage young adults.
1. Engage the sense of wonder.
Millennials feel a sense of wonder about the universe. These aren’t a bunch of cold-hearted secularists who have no desire to engage with that which they cannot see.
As Christians, we can engage the wonder of millennials and point to the source of that phenomenon: the Creator God of the Bible. Use this wonderment and point people to the starting point and the upholder of it all.
2. Probe for the source of “spiritual peace.”
Why do such a large portion of people who claim no certainty in the existence of God say they are at peace spiritually? Perhaps they are at peace because they do not think God exists. Regardless, one of the ways churches can engage with unbelieving millennials in their community is by recognizing these young people are likely content with where they stand spiritually.
Christians should talk with them, ask questions, and identify the source of this “spiritual peace,” then figure out in what ways it may fall short in comparison to the gospel.
3. Provide a better way.
Finally, when we engage the sense of wonderment and spiritual peace among millennials, we must work to provide a better way—the only Way, the gospel of Jesus.
The research shows these young people are not hard-and-fast naturalists who only believe in what they can see in front of their face. They ponder the spiritual. They wonder about the universe. Engage these feelings and point them to their ultimate fulfillment.
Young people are open to the things of Jesus no matter how closed they may be to the local church. Personal, intentional relationships and living on mission in everyday life have never been so important.
Show and share Jesus in your homes, your workplaces, your grocery stores, and wherever else. Millennials may stay away from church, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t wondering what goes on in there.
Originally published in the Winter edition of Facts & Trends.