There has been a surge of articles (this one in particular has gotten a lot of attention) written lately based upon drastic statistics of people (mainly people 18-29 years old, aka The Millenial generation) leaving the church in droves. Notice I didn’t say the capital “C” Church, but leaving the LOCAL church. In the article mentioned above, Rachel Held Evans says,
“Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.
But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.”
So if this is the case – that trendy, cool people on stage and a Common Grounds coffee bar doesn’t attract or keep millennials attending, then what are we as the local church supposed to do with the changing landscape of church in society today?
A major group of those who are leaving the church have been classified as “Exiles” by David Kinnaman in his book called “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith.” Kinnaman defines “Exiles” as “those who grew up in the church and are now physically or emotionally disconnected in some way, but also remain energized to pursue God honoring lives.” The chart below lists statistics of 18-29 year old “Exiles” describing their faith journeys:
It is important to note that these are statistics from people who have a Christian background. The one that hit me the hardest: “God is more at work outside the church than inside, and I want to be a part of that.” I could write a whole blog post on just that statement alone. While we won’t take it apart here and now, let that statement and the others listed above at least give you some insight put you in the shoes (if you’re not already there) into the thoughts of many 18-29 year olds.
Referring back to the statistics above, the highest percentage belongs to the question, “I want to find a way to follow Jesus that connects with the world I live in.” Millennials aren’t looking for hipper people IN the church, we are looking for a way to be the Church when we aren’t physically in the church (building). We want to make a difference while being a part of culture, not drawing a thick line in the sand between secular and Christian that only alienates people further from the Church.
Obviously, we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing right? That doesn’t seem to be working out for us, or if it is, it probably won’t be for much longer. I’m not going to say I have the one magical answer because things like this don’t have just one magical answer to them. I do believe a great place to start is by embracing creativity both in the way that we do ministry and also by embracing the creativity of the millennial generation.
Many people think of creativity in the sense of painting strokes on a canvas, singing a beautiful song, or even hosting a cool art gallery to benefit missions (which hello, being a graphic design undergrad and a musician, I am a major proponent of, but everything has its place). Right now though, I’m talking about the overarching concept of creativity. Here’s a great explanation of the kind of creativity I’m talking about:
“Creativity isn’t simply a spark that will ignite a fire, creativity is the smashing together of two atoms with such force, it will cause an atomic explosion that can change your world. Creativity was the force that brought Western Europe out of the Dark Ages, it was the force that sparked the great inventions of our time and it can bring your gathering out of the dark ages of lethargy.” 
We need creativity to engage people. Not for the sake of creating a masterpiece, but to connect a new generation with Christ (the act of which arguably is a masterpiece in itself). The millennial generation is characterized by people (myself included) that are passionate about justice and want to make a difference in the world. The church needs creativity, because with this generation and every generation to come, we can’t keep doing things the same way they’ve always been done.
You might think this is really abstract, maybe it is, but creativity looks so different in different contexts. I believe it starts with seeing God in more than just the church. It starts with believing in more than you yourself can dream up. Creative action means doing things that haven’t been done before, to reach new people for the sake of the gospel.
Are we as the Church and the local church facilitating people and helping them live creatively? Are we shepherding people to see Christ around them in their context and not just in a church building? When we subconsciously communicate that the church life is “good” and any other life is “bad” the church isn’t doing anyone any favors.
Brady has said throughout our Judges series that God is IN the dirt and IN the mess of our lives. His other series “Christ and Culture” was about seeing God AMIDST our culture not separating the two. When are we going to quit separating them in our minds?
Maybe we should consider ourselves artists more often, as creative in a world that is in need of creativity especially from the church, to pursue a generation that is being driven away by the church.