If we type in two keywords on google search – “millennials” and “church” – we find a bunch of articles on why millennials are leaving the church. And it is no surprise that these articles show that they are leaving in huge numbers. Although the facts and figures given in these articles mostly represent the Western church, the scenario is true for most Indian churches as well. It is true especially of urban millennials in India who grew up by belonging to their local church, but who are now becoming steadily complacent about going there. In other words, millennials in India are not going to church as regularly as they should, and for that there are two good reasons.
The following discusses these reasons and a few suggestions for what could be done to both avoid this scenario and encourage this younger generation of Christians to be faithful to their local churches. It must be noted that every view in this article does not represent the reality of every Indian church, nor every millennial’s perspective of church. But they are representative of the general atmosphere in most Indian churches today.
Lack of Good Teaching
The lack of sound biblical teaching is one of the primary reasons why millennials do not prefer going to church. Most of them seek a direction in life, and they look for biblical teaching from their pastors and elders that caters to this need. Some prefer going to church, even if the leaders of their church fail to teach, merely because they like the fellowship. They recognise what their churches lack, yet they participate in church because it caters at least to their need for friendship and community. But when it comes to what shapes their beliefs, and their way of life, it appears that millennials do not look to the church for such, because their pastors fail to provide them with the kind of teaching that leads them onto the right path.
Moreover, pastors fail to give sermons that are Christ-centred, with an emphasis on the body of Christ, and the various gifts that each member of the body is given for the edification and growth of the church. Sadly, the emphasis in most churches is merely on regular church attendance, giving of tithes and offerings, and a set of rules to live a supposedly good life, while missing out on the origin, purpose and goal of the church. Thus, as many pastors fail to explain the nature of the church, members of the church do not have adequate reasons or adequate motivation to be faithful to their church or contribute to its vision and mission.
If the leaders of the church want to be teachers who can reach out to the millennials, then they ought to recognise the importance of training themselves to study the Bible thoroughly, teach it well, and show their congregation the significance of meditating on Scriptures. If the leaders do not show any enthusiasm or concern for being equipped in the knowledge of Scriptures, their congregation will not be enthusiastic or concerned about learning them. But a good leader is often able to emulate the practice of studying the Scriptures to teach the members of their church how to rely on Scripture’s wisdom to navigate life. They are also able to show their members the importance of studying Scriptures as a church community, and its necessity for their existence as a church.
If leaders of churches in India do these things more often, millennials who look for guidance on how to study the Scriptures and seek to understand the importance of participating in church will be more motivated to go to church.
Lack of Encouragement
Second, part of the problem lies with the millennials themselves; their apathy toward church and a lazy attitude both keep them from going to church. While the leaders of the church are not entirely responsible for this, they are still responsible for why millennials are disposed towards these attitudes.
It is possible that the leaders contribute to millennials attitudes by not teaching and emphasising the importance of a Christ-given identity, calling, and gifting. If leaders do not teach and preach these aspects of the gospel, then most millennials, who long to find a clear direction in life and a place where they can bear fruit, succumb to apathy and laziness towards their participation in church. Of course, these attitudes might be individual dispositions that the leaders can do nothing about. Nevertheless, if millennials are refraining from going to church, attitudes rather than dispositions might be the problem.
If millennials must be consistently motivated to participate in their local churches, then they must be encouraged. Such motivation must partly come from the leaders of the church, and partly from the millennials themselves. In other words, through teaching the leaders could show millennials that they are an integral part of the church might that could provide good motivation for millennials to go to church. Yet millennials also need to acknowledge the vital roles that they could take up at church and be willing to be faithful to the roles that are given to them. If they are neither encouraged nor motivated to do these things, they could develop an attitude of disregard for the church and its growth.
While these are not the only reasons why millennials are not going to church as regularly as they should, they are significant, in that they enabled us to identify who is responsible for millennials being irregular in their church attendance: the leaders of the church, and the millennials themselves. They are also significant in that they allowed us to discuss the role of the leaders to teach, encourage and motivate millennials to participate in church, and the role of millennials themselves to be faithful to their local churches. Churches in India will do better at keeping millennials in church when both the leaders and the millennials in churches identify, address, and take up appropriate roles for millennials—and when both leaders and millennials fulfil their responsibilities faithfully.