The millennial generation has posed a bit of a conundrum to the culture. Parents, churches and employers, as they get to know these young Americans, seek to learn what makes them tick, especially as many millennials are walking away from their faith.
In his new book, religion and culture expert, national radio host and author Dr. Alex McFarland (www.AlexMcFarland.com) addresses eight key values that guide young people as they consider, become a part of and contribute to society.
McFarland looks at these important values in Chapter 6, titled “What Drives Millennials,” of “Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home,” co-written with apologist and evangelist Jason Jimenez.
“What do millennials consider important and why?” asks McFarland in “Abandoned Faith.” “By understanding millennials’ motivations, we can draw conclusions about why so many of them are walking away from their faith and the church. Much study has already been invested in understanding the traits of this generation. Corporations desire to know how to better manage young employees. Universities desire to better recruit high-quality candidates. Ministries desire to better evangelize and disciple a new generation of believers. As we better understand these common values, we can appreciate those that align closely with biblical values, while also standing firm against values that oppose a Christian worldview.”
In “Abandoned Faith,” McFarland lists eight values that millennials hold close, which give an inside look to their views and opinions on important cultural topics.
Value 1: Meaningful Work—For millennials, it’s imperative their jobs have a greater impact on society.
INSIGHT FROM ALEX McFARLAND: “Vocation is valuable and meaningful to millennials as well as to Christians in general,” he says. “When taught and experienced together, millennials can find a work-life mix that connects with faith in powerful ways.”
Value 2: Collaboration—Today’s digital natives have worked in a wide variety of teams since preschool, and the importance of teamwork rarely needs to be taught to millennials because they have practiced it for many years.
INSIGHT: “From youth sports leagues to the middle school group science project, millennials are often better experienced in working together than their Boomer or Gen‑X coworkers. Collaboration has also drawn millennials to certain companies over others. It is no accident that millennials excel in companies and fields where team environments are key to success.”
Value 3: Staying Connected—Millennials are accurately described as the world’s most connected generation. Some 80 percent sleep with their cell phones next to their beds, three-quarters have profiles on social networking sites, and nearly half sometimes choose to spend time with friends online instead of driving to see them in person, according to studies cited in “Abandoned Faith.”
INSIGHT: “Constant connection drives much of the millennial’s life. Those who seek to reach this generation will prioritize communications that connect through these means, including websites, social media, mobile messaging, email, chat, apps and the use of smart devices.”
Value 4: Social Justice—This generation desires to make a difference in the world. Nearly every millennial has a cause or organization to promote, somewhere to volunteer or a place where he or she gives.
INSIGHT: “While their financial contributions may include smaller gifts, millennials’ desire to serve is found in personal involvement with charities, churches and nonprofits that connect with their personal interests. From supporting pet rescue centers to building forest trails to preventing suicide, social justice has become the catch-all term for these good works. … Our desire to contribute to social justice causes should be consistent with our biblical values. When we serve, we can often effectively do so alongside millennials while promoting a biblical worldview.”
Value 5: Diversity—In “Abandoned Faith,” McFarland cites a Public Religion Research Institute study that found that college-age millennials (18-24) are considerably more racially and ethnically diverse than the general population, with fewer than 6 in 10 self-identifying as white.
INSIGHT: “This change in composition has led to a healthier acceptance of various cultures and backgrounds. God created man and woman in His image, and all are equal in His sight. However, America’s history of racism toward African-Americans, mistreatment of women, and discrimination toward non-European groups such as Native Americans and others have made diversity a dark spot in the American church. On the other hand, Christians have also served at the heart of changing each of these situations. Christians led the abolition movement, led the women’s suffrage movement, ministered among Native Americans and led the Civil Rights Movement. Today, despite the disparity that exists in local congregations, an increasing number of churches are beginning to reflect the diversity of their communities.”
Value 6: Spiritual but Not Religious—Many studies have surmised that millennials are the least overtly religious American generation in modern times and have mixed feelings toward modern Christianity.
INSIGHT: “Millennials are generally open to spiritual discussions and practices if communicated without the jargon and stereotypes. In the process, they may find the power of Christ and the impact of Scripture for themselves, bringing these spiritual seekers to true faith based on a relationship rather than a religion.”
Value 7: Education—According to the Pew Research Center, McFarland notes in “Abandoned Faith,” millennials are also likely to become the most educated generation in American history, thanks to the demands of a modern knowledge-based economy.
INSIGHT: “Millennials are quick to embrace degrees and training certifications that lead to better career opportunities. However, this also has important considerations for churches. Pastors were once looked at as the trained authorities on theological matters. Today many church members hold advanced degrees and can instead research spiritual matters for themselves. Others find answers to their spiritual questions through Google searches instead of a Sunday sermon.”
Value 8: Skepticism—Raised in an age of terrorism and the invasion of Internet privacies, millennials are highly skeptical of government, institutions and even churches. Even the lower number of marriages may be partly attributed to the general lack of trust in relationships.
INSIGHT: “This value can have both a positive and a negative effect for those seeking to reach millennials. Negatively, increased skepticism has helped contribute to the rise of the ‘nones,’ those who are unaffiliated with any religious worldview. Trust must often slowly be built through caring friendships rather than debate. Millennials must see faith lived out before they will consider living it.”
Throughout “Abandoned Faith,” McFarland explores why millennials are leaving the church, instructs how those who love millennials can bring them back, and offers the hope of Christ to parents, especially as they seek to understand what propels their adult children as they begin to come into their own.