Millennials are a different breed when it comes to priorities, a Biola University dean said when a study released this week showed that only two in 10 people under 30 years of age believe church attendance is important. More than one-third of Millennial young adults (35 percent) take an anti-church stance.
"Millennials have more life disruptions than people of other stages of life," Todd Pickett, dean of Spiritual Development and professor of spiritual formation at Biola, told The Christian Post. "They are moving around a lot, they are changing relational networks. The highly mobile nature of the Millennial makes it hard for them to settle down into churches, it makes it hard to settle into patterns of life anyway."
Pickett gave at least a half dozen reasons he believes this age bracket was least likely to put an emphasis on church attendance as found in the Barna Group study.
The study overall found that although church involvement was once a cornerstone of American life, U.S. adults today are evenly divided on the importance of attending church. Half (49 percent) say it is "somewhat" or "very" important and the other 51 percent say it is "not too" or "not at all" important.
However, perhaps the most significant finding is that while one tries to predict whether Millennials will attend or return to church, the fact is that they are starting at a lower baseline for church participation and commitment than previous generations of young adults.
Pickett said another reason for low interest in church for Millennials is that many are delaying marriage and so if they do return to church it will be later in life. Or it could be a matter of priorities, as he pointed out.
"A lot of life [for Millennials] is about fun and entertainment which happens on Friday and Saturday nights if you are working," Pickett said. "So simply the difficulty of getting up Sunday morning for their church routines – weekends are primarily for fun and entertainment and being with friends which makes church Sunday morning a tough deal."
"They are concerned that the church will criticize their lifestyle choices," Pickett said, identifying another cause for staying away.
Yet another reason, he added, is that "sometimes students that come from Christian colleges or very high dynamic youth groups find that their churches aren't able to capture the energy and buzz of those previous experiences."
Finally, he highlighted that currently, there's an emphasis on individual authority and individual decision-making, which makes traditional authorities like churches "peripheral and optional" for Millennials. They may say, "I don't need an institution, I'm the one who makes decisions about my life," according to Pickett.
"To the degree that there is a culture of individualism is to the degree that the church is going to be less appealing," he explained.
Pickett also pointed out that Millennials may see a hypocrisy in churches that keeps them away, while not realizing yet that what they are seeing is the weakness in everybody.
"Millennials are in that difficult developmental stage where they have not yet learned to handle the fact that our ideals will always run ahead of our actual lives," he said. "There will always be a gap between who we are and who we want to be. I think they see that gap in other people and it discourages them."
"Millennials may have very high expectations for moral and spiritual success, which is going to have to take place over a lifetime," he continued. "That might turn them away from going to church because we're all imperfect and that is one of the very reasons we've come to Christ.
"Imperfection to them is discouragement and what they don't know is that much of our Christian growth takes place through the knowledge of our own failures, not through the knowledge of our successes."
The Barna Study can be found by clicking here: Americans Divided on the Importance of Church.