Hi, my name is Lydia Carrington, and I’m a Millennial.
I grew up climbing trees in the summer and owned a bike with pegs so my friends could ride shot-gun. I watched Pokémon evolve from 151 to 729 adorable catchable critters. My childhood was influenced by many technology advancements. By Junior High, the palm of my hand grew wrapped around an iPhone which was directly attached to my social media identity. Like all other Millennials I learned to post only the highlights of life, creating my image, or the “take a pic or it didn’t happen” philosophy, all too aware of the sting of rejection from fewer than average “likes” because my caption wasn’t captivating enough.
Yes, I am your average Millennial, which statistically means I normally wouldn’t attend church.
Yet, here I am – employed by the church. This does not make me immune to the struggle my generation faces searching for purpose in my life.
Honestly, many of us feel like this “gathering” in a huge, probably over-priced, perfect white building is a waste of time. If we wanted to be dazzled by divinely inspired architecture, we would sign up to study abroad in Rome or scroll Instagram until we found a Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey.
Those Corgis kill me!
Why then, with that being the scope of our reality, would we trust a church to accept anything less than our perfection? The church is full of the same people that are on Facebook who also show only the highlights of their lives.
The same people that fueled my performance-based profile.
Now before you judge or feel judged, hear me out. For those of you with kids… well, unless you locked them in a closet for their entire adolescence, they are feeling the same way. Searching for purpose.
I acknowledge that the sanctuary is full of people who really love Jesus. But that doesn’t mean I trust them with my hidden shame. How do you expect me to let down the walls built before my brokenness when I work so hard to give the world an image of a trendy, put together, and socially accepted person – just because you shook my hand and smiled? I wish it was that easy.
And yet, here I am…22…sitting in the pews, obedient and searching. If I wasn’t employed by the church would I be here? And what about my friends who aren’t here? What is this Millennial generation looking for?
1. Jesus and only Jesus.
We want to hear the Gospel. We want to hear the bloody, broken, honest story of Jesus. My generation has been classified as “snowflakes” (not cool, btw). We are craving the raw, desperate truth that we need Jesus. We are urgently searching for purpose and greater meaning. It’s okay if it hurts. We aren’t afraid to give way to an aching sob. The fact is we are already aching from all the tragedies we see on our newsfeeds. Help us make sense of that. Give us Jesus.
2. A sanctuary, not a spiritual CrossFit
And Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” not give me 257 mission trip opportunities. I want to know the healing and restful heart of Jesus, not the overwhelming pressure to be a seventh grade small group leader because I’m young and relevant.
3. Real over relevant
We’ve been advertised to our whole lives. We can sniff out when someone’s making a sale. If there’s one thing I respect my generation for, it’s our demand for authenticity. In the article “Millennials Don’t Need a Hipper Pastor, They Need a Bigger God” Drew Dyck says, “Millennials have a dim view of church. They are highly skeptical of religion. Yet they are still thirsty for transcendence. But when we portray God as a cosmic buddy, we lose them (they have enough friends). When we tell them that God will give them a better marriage and family, it’s white noise (they’re delaying marriage and kids or forgoing them altogether). When we tell them they’re special, we’re merely echoing what educators, coaches and parents have told them their whole lives. But when we present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God, it just might get their attention and capture their hearts as well.”
4. Please, I just want to blend in
It’s as simple as this. Please don’t make us stand at the front and label us as first-time visitors. No one has ever enjoyed being the new kid in class. Make it easy to blend in and find a seat.
5. We want mentors
This isn’t a classified ad. “Looking for 35-45-year-old, middle class, has read Bible all the way through, must have Starbucks gold membership status.” NO. We just want YOU. We’re sick of hearing from our parents, but we’re scared to death of being on our own. We want to know it’s okay that we’re struggling and not perfect and that other people have doubts, too. We want a safe place to be heard. And, we want mentors who are willing to be vulnerable alongside us.
I’ve been fortunate to experience the embrace of the church when I walked through my own personal tragedy of the death of my brother. It was through this tragic situation that I felt vulnerable. The church never shied away from my pain. They met me where I was. And, they looked me in the eyes when I was crying and came along side me.
And so, I am here. Sure, it’s hard to be here sometimes. It doesn’t always fit my ideal experience. But I am here because I desire to be obedient. I am here because I seek to know Christ; because I hope to be encouraging to our student population; because I love my church and I love these kids. But mostly I am here because I serve His purpose.
To my Millennial friends who are seeking something more, give it a shot. Put your butts in the pews. Put down the Liturgist’s podcast for a second and give church one more try. Practice obedience, especially when it’s hard, and expect that Christ will reveal himself to you.
And to parents, I implore you to seek to really listen to your kids. The phrase goes, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.” You can reference James 1:19. Open the conversation with your kids about how they feel about church. Be willing to be uncomfortable and exemplify vulnerability to them. They have a lot to say, if you give them the safe place to speak. Who knows, maybe you’ll find you relate with the younger generation more than you thought.
Associate Director of Student Ministries