A few weeks ago, author Rachel Held Evans posted “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church” on the religion blog at CNN.com. Almost immediately, commentaries and points of view began zipping around the interwebs.
What has been especially interesting to us, as observers of all things generational, is that most of the “blame” is being placed on failures of churches, other places of worship, and religions to adapt and change to attract this next generation (ages 12-30, more or less).
We suspect the underlying reasons are varied and plentiful. Our focus here will be on providing some context about how this happened, and what role boomers have played, or could play.
We’ll start with our take on the key drivers of this shift away from church by millennials. Certainly there are many internal church-related reasons, but let’s explore three societal and cultural trends. At the center of all three: boomers.
First, boomers grew up and came of age in a time when going to church was a social obligation. Not being a regular churchgoer was a social risk in the 1950s and early ’60s. Not only that, “blue laws” across the nation kept stores closed to encourage a day of rest.
Boomers, it turns out, are the “pivot” generation on this. Now, it could be simply a product of our place in time and history, or it could be that we shaped these changes. The facts are these: Even though we were raised when church was an obligation, we raised our own children, today’s millennials, during a time when we repealed almost every blue law and turned the Sabbath into “Sunday.”
What once was required is now completely optional. This shift appears to be permanent. You cannot put toothpaste back in the tube.