I’m a statistical anomaly. I’m a rare breed.
I’m a millennial who has not left Christianity.
In fact, I haven’t even left my parents’ church! Not only that, I’m not even going to leave the university I went to as an undergrad.
Statistically, that’s a very strange thing to do. Don’t millennials like change? Don’t we like to sow our wild oats and get out there? Aren’t we abandoning Christianity in droves? Or at the very least going to more contemporary churches?
I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with me. I’m not leaving – even though all the cool people already left.
Why I Stayed at BJU
Many people have criticized my decision for staying at Bob Jones University for seminary. And they’ve had many good reasons – diversifying education for a resume, getting beyond my comfort zone, getting out of Greenville.
I value their advice. But I’m still going to stay. Why?
It’s simple. One word in fact – relationships.
The people were what convinced me to stay. Not the academics or the comfort or even finances. No, it was the relationships I formed with the faculty/staff that convinced me – and many of my classmates – to stay on for grad school at BJU.
In nearly every meeting I’ve been to at BJU (I’ve been to far too many of them), the emphasis has been on building relationships with millennials. Getting our input on things. Meeting our needs. Understanding us and genuinely caring for us.
The student life staff at BJU is constantly striving to build a “culture of mentoring” with every meal in the Dining Common and coffee at Cuppa Jones. The faculty genuinely care about our needs, stopping us in the hall to ask for an update and inviting us to their homes or favorite restaurants. Even the administration takes time out of their busy schedule to spend time with students– to laugh with us, to pray with us, to just be there for us.
The people at BJU are not perfect. They know they’ve made many mistakes. And I don’t agree with them on every issue.
But as I’ve observed various ministries, I’m convinced that no one gets my generation better than BJU.
Why I Stayed at Calvary Baptist Church
My church is not perfect – after all, I attend there.
And we are going through some tough times of late – looking for a pastor, financial issues, etc.
But I decided to stay at Calvary. Even though a lot of my friends, a lot of millennials, decided to leave.
I don’t blame them. Calvary has had many problems reaching the millennial generation. So much so that I nearly left the church earlier this year.
So why did I stay, in the midst of all these problems? The same reason I stayed at BJU – relationships.
It wasn’t the great preaching, an awesome facility, or nice programs. It was the moments sitting across the coffee shop table that convinced me to stay. It was the texts that said, “Praying for you” that changed my mind. It was the people who stopped me after church and asked how I was doing that made me settle.
And Calvary has seen some great progress over the past couple of months with millennials. I’m extremely encouraged at the direction we’re going and look forward to serving here for as many years as the Lord allows.
Why I Stayed in Christianity
I think every millennial reaches a point in their life when they consider leaving the faith. I know I considered it a time or two – not ever seriously, but enough for me to imagine the freedom and fun I could experience outside the bounds of religion.
But I never did. Why?
Maybe I seem like a broken record-player at this point, but the answer is the same – relationships.
I knew if I left, I would be breaking the hearts of people who had invested so much into me. My parents, first and foremost. But even beyond them, mentors, pastors, and friends who spent hours investing in me. Who I knew genuinely cared for me.
The research backs up my claim. Barna’s study proves that millennials who don’t have a non-family mentor are more likely to leave the faith.
So the solution to this millennial exodus from Christianity is rather simple – take them to Starbucks!
Listen to their problems. Pray for them – and tell them you’re praying. Genuinely love on them with the love Jesus showed you. Spend and be spent for their souls.
Some will still leave – this isn’t a guaranteed solution. But if they leave, they’ll have to walk over you to get out. They’ll have to push past someone they know loves them.
So why did I stay? Many cool people have left.
In fact, the people I’m stuck with are kinda weird, the farthest thing from hip, and a bit old-school. But that’s okay, because I know they love me. They may be a bit traditional, but I know they care. I don’t agree with them on some practical areas, but I agree with them on the thing that matters – the Gospel.
And because of the relationships I have with these “old fogies,” these lesser things – like music, translation, standards, entertainment, and on and on – don’t quite matter so much.
The key to getting millennials to stay is not a praise band or a really hipster PowerPoint or video – although those things aren’t bad.
But the best way is to simply pick up your cell phone and text them a simple message –
“Wanna get coffee with me tonight?”