Millennials and the Church

Published March 26, 2014 by Claire Hein Blanton

The millennial generation grew up in noise. Encouraging noise that we were limitless in setting goals. Disparaging noise that our youthful idealism would become cynicism at too young an age. The noise of our peers and our mentors talking at each other, but not with each other. The noise that individualism should be our focus because reliance on others and trust in leaders is a weakness. There has been a lot of noise. And I don't find it strange that, in the midst of the noise, my generation has tuned out the voices that want to still us, to calm us, to bring us back into communion with one another and with God.

Rachel Held Evans is one of the voices being heard above the rabble. While some voices want to drown out the noise by being the loudest, I sincerely believe that Evans is trying to quiet the noise by asking us to engage it with our "indoor voices". Those who follow her blog or read her books, as we have been doing in watershed, can recognize that she doesn't want to be the loudest voice in the room—because two people cannot have a conversation when one cannot be heard.

It isn't that God doesn't speak to us; it's that we have forgotten how to still ourselves to hear God. We have forgotten how to quiet ourselves to hear God speaking through others. The church community and millennials have not forsaken or outgrown each other (as some on both sides will say of the other). We have, however, let the noise make us forget that we belong to each other and that being in community requires a certain level of trust, dialogue, and cooperation that is hard to achieve alone.

Much of the noise that we have heard was intended to make us stronger, smarter, and better prepared members of society. Perhaps it went too far, and we forgot that in order to be function in society we need to actually be part of it. My favorite Old Testament verse is Exodus 14:14, "The Lord your God will fight for you, but if you will only keep still." It is a collective you. If it is the collective body that God speaks to and through, how will we hear if part of the church is absent...

Rachel Held Evans challenges us to confront virtues that the church has espoused for ages, but which are misconstrued in our vernacular. Gentleness is not being waif-like, but being strong enough to treat others with care. Doubt is not an absence of faith, but part of a beautiful and ongoing conversation with God about what it means to live faithfully when you do not have all the answers. Community is not an idealized group of people who have it all worked out, but a group of broken people trying to support one another. She is a voice reminding us that our greatest strengths are not found when we stand alone. They are found when we struggle together to quiet ourselves and listen for God in the midst of the noise.

Claire Hein Blanton joined South Main while a student at Rice University. She is actively involved in our Young Professionals Sunday school community and watershed, a Tuesday night Bible study for young adults.