Millennials: We Are An Entitled Generation

August 7, 2013

There has been a lot of chatter lately about Millennials.Time-Magazine-The-Me-Me-Me-Generation

About how they are leaving the church.

I’m on the high end of the Millennial generation, old enough to be able to look over the expanse of people younger than I, while still getting to be lumped in with all of them, statistically speaking.  My specific age group was at the forefront of the exodus from the church.  You could say we were the trailblazers.

If there’s one word that is applied to Millennials more often than any other, it has to be the ‘E’ word:

Entitled.  Everyone says that Millennials are entitled.  When it comes to figuring out why so many left the church, it’s easy for many of the old guard to say “It’s because they’re a bunch of entitled, self-important narcissists.”

And let me tell you something, Millennials.

You are entitled.

You are a very, very entitled generation.

Let me tell you what I mean, specifically as it relates to you leaving the church.

Millennials, you are entitled:

You are entitled to participate in churches that welcome questioners, doubters and sinners, but don’t immediately label you a questioner, doubter, or sinner.

You are entitled to churches where you don’t have to check your intelligence or emotions at the door to fit in.

You are entitled to a church where you don’t have to pretend everything is okay.

You are entitled to a church that will support you in whatever way it can when things are not okay.

You are entitled to a church where your creative talents are celebrated, not alienated.

You are entitled to a church where Jesus is the focus, not the pastor or worship leader.

You are entitled to a church where the pastor doesn’t make sweeping assumptions about how everyone must obviously think about social issues, politics or theology.

You are entitled to a church where spiritual formation is more than behavioral conformity.

You are entitled to a church that emphasizes grace, not law.

You are entitled to a church that humanizes and dignifies you as a child of God.

You are entitled to a church that does not play on your emotions or manipulate you with shame or fear.

You are entitled to a church where you can serve others as God has equipped you.

You are entitled to a church that doesn’t need to monopolize your time, talents or tithes.

You are entitled to a church that is not so noisy that God can’t be heard.

You are entitled to a church where people love each other, forgive each other and bear with each other.

You are entitled to a church where you’ll still be accepted when your too old to wear skinny jeans.

You are entitled to a church that listens if you ever bring a problem you have to the leadership’s attention.

And if you feel that you must, you are entitled to leave your church.

You are entitled to a church that lets you go graciously when you decide to leave the church, without calling you entitled or narcissistic. 

I have more to say about the Millennial exodus, which I may share another time.  But what I believe I see so much in the discussion is blame.  Millennials are blamed for leaving because surely they were not justified in leaving, they did not have the right to leave, they were not entitled to leave.  And until that is resolved, no discussion is going to be productive.  You can’t blame the people who left and in the same breath, discuss how to lure them back.

Some of us have had life-giving experiences in church.  Others have had life-stealing experiences.  I’ve participated in church long enough to have plenty of both.  I assure you, every person, from the Greatest generation to the Millennial generation has been entitled to leave their churches.

So what do you say?  If you’ve ever left a church, why did you make that choice?  Do you think the blame rests with the ones leaving, or the churches being left?

20 responses to Millennials: We Are An Entitled Generation

  1. I was always taught that if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. The entitled need to be part of the solution and work for it. Work diligently. Work in cooperation. Work tirelessly. But work. Don’t just expect it to be there for you.
    happygirl recently posted..A Dozen Habits for a Happy Relationship

    • Wonderful point, and as someone who actually didn’t leave the church, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But that is the ethic that we were taught, or took upon ourselves. You and I are still entitled to leave just like anyone else. And honestly, I think for a lot of people out there, the healthiest choice probably was just leaving, unfortunately.

  2. Thanks for this. I’m an xer but I think your list is important and justified. It makes me grateful for my church which isn’t perfect (I don’t agree with them on women) but I can be there, respected and learning, serving, growing. That must be unusual.

  3. What about a church that holds you accountable for your behavior when it completely goes against scripture?

    Your list does scream entitled Matt… if someone holds you accountable and you don’t like it, just go ahead and leave. That’s where many feel millennials act entitled. They want to act like the can Sun all they want and it’s just fine because of “grace”.

    There is more than one side to Christ’s teachings and ignoring the side that older generations emphasize many times makes millennials no more wrong.

    • “What about a church that holds you accountable for your behavior when it completely goes against scripture?”
      But which behaviours that go completely against Scripture? For instance, I can guarantee you that virtually every churchgoer in English-speaking North America has given into consumerism to some degree and financially supports companies that exploit the poor. There are a heck of a lot more verses about that than there are about sexual holiness, and yet I have never seen anyone undergo church discipline or practice “accountability” for non-sexual sin.

      “Your list does scream entitled Matt… if someone holds you accountable and you don’t like it, just go ahead and leave.”
      No church has the right to demand a member’s lifelong attendance. If the church is indeed a good and healthy church, it will be the person who leaves who misses out. If it’s not, then no wonder people are leaving. Either way, it’s awfully simplistic to boil the reason people are leaving the church down to “they just don’t like being held accountable.” Is that part of it for some people? Perhaps, but often the church tries to make accountability happen without relationship and genuine discipleship, and it’s hardly surprising that that would cause resentment rather than lead to repentance.

  4. “You are entitled to a church where the pastor doesn’t make sweeping assumptions about how everyone must obviously think about social issues, politics or theology.”

    Yes, hence the formation of pro-homosexual “churches” that are nothing more than a religious outreach of the progressive/liberal politics of mere men. The mills I know, and they are a scant number, believe that Jesus, no, that the American church MUST be part of social-engineering and they do it while slapping the name of Jesus on top of it as a twisted form of justification.

    I refuse, and we should all refuse, to allow any sub-group of America to dictate what kind of Jesus is legit and what kind of Jesus ‘just doesn’t work for us’. How arrogant it is for any of us to challenge Him when it comes to His Will, His character, and His Scriptures simply because His thoughts and ways offend our political/social leanings. How arrogant, indeed.

    His Name is Jesus. He is not a Gen X-er. He is not a Millennial. He is not a homeboy, pal, buddy, or anything that would allow us to try and make Him into our image. He is The Lion from the Tribe of Judah, the Messiah, The Son of God. His Will is absolute and in Him no wickedness is found. If indeed this is offensive to a sub-culture of humanity,and that sub-culture demands Jesus change to fit their mold, then those people have crossed into very dangerous territory. Truly, He is not mocked, and He has never, and will never, bow to any bully pulpit preaching of mere mankind.
    Donald Borsch Jr recently posted..Post #8: Stop trying to make Jesus into your image

  5. Well said.

    It is important to note that while many millennials leave the church (lower case c), they are still a part of the Church( upper case C).

  6. Great points Matt.

    I’ve also felt that Millennials get a bad rap for doing the same stuff that previous generations did. They just get hit harder because they got labeled as selfish. I mean, is anyone raking Baby Boomers over the coals because they wanted churches that looked like conference halls with rock bands and pastors who wear jeans? They wanted a church that spoke to where they were at, and they made them by the hundreds of thousands. When Millennials say they don’t fit, they’re supposedly selfish. I’m not saying one side is totally right or one side is totally wrong. Rather, both sides have a lot in common.
    ed cyzewski recently posted..Hope for Those Who Feel Left Out of Church

  7. If the word “you” is changed to “Jesus” in the above posts then I agree. But the fact that the post is not about the church that Jesus is entitled to shows one of the big problems that millennials face when it comes to the church. The church does not exist for them, she exists for Christ (Col. 1:18). Jesus bought the church with his blood, and it is up to him what she should be like.

    The big problem for the church is that a physical place where people meet cannot compete with all the other forms of spirituality that exist. But, if she is the body of every nation, tribe, and tongue gathered together to worship king Jesus then there is hope. My belief is that we have to stop asking what people want out of church, because the church will fail their expectations, and simply be a visible manifestation of the worshipping community before God, united under the real presence and lordship of King Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. What else can compete with that?

    • True story. The problem, as mentioned above, is that Americans confuse His Church (capital C) with their church. Ooops. Their churches are merely social clubs and such that meet on Sunday mornings and help them put a check in the box that says “Religious Appearance”. I have yet to see His Church contained or represented by four walls made by human hands. American church life is not Kingdom Life.
      Donald Borsch Jr recently posted..Post #8: Stop trying to make Jesus into your image

  8. I’m a gen-Xer and I seem to remember there being some angst about my generation “leaving the church”. I think it had something to do with people my age being apathetic and cynical.

    I guess I don’t see what’s all that different now. People have been “leaving the church” when it doesn’t jive with their reality and then creating something different since time immemorial. Isn’t that kind if what the Great Awakening was? Heck, isn’t that what the Reformation was? Do people actually think “the church” as it exists today in any way resembles “the church” that the apostles created?

    So, there’s basically nothing new under the sun.

    Also, and this is cynical gen-Xer me talking, whenever I see “why are people leaving the church?” I read it as “why are people leaving MY church?” Which then could be translated as “why aren’t these dang kids doing what I tell them?”

  9. Matt, first, I agree with everything you said. We should ALL, of any generation, be entitled to those things. BUT the church exists not to serve us but to serve Jesus, to teach us how to serve others. If our church isn’t doing, offering or being all the things it should be, well, aren’t we partially to blame? After all, the church is made up of us. I don’t think churches should have to change because someone is unhappy (because it’s a fact that someone will always be unhappy), but I do think churches need to be aware and awake and constantly evaluate whether what they’re doing is drawing its people closer to God. Not in response to complaints or trends, but in response to results. Fruit. Spiritual growth. And if the church isn’t helping accomplish these things, then sure, go ahead and change it. Try something new. But remember, Jesus is the draw. If that gets lost, then no matter how many people show up on Sunday, the church has failed in its mission.

    Maybe I’m a little naive and idealistic — OK, I know I am — but I’m all for sticking around and trying to effect change myself. Complaints aren’t helpful without suggestions for improvement. I apply this to church, to marriage, to everything. If you have done all you know to do, and you’re still needing or missing something more, then it may be time to move on. And at that point, you should be able to do that without shame or guilt. (Remember, people, we are to LOVE one another, not beat each other up.) And as God’s Church, we need to pray and seek ways to help people — Millennials, baby boomers, babies, teens, anyone and everyone — find God. Not the right church.
    Kelly Stanley recently posted..Art enables us

    • But (for the sake of argument) you’re at a church but *you’re not finding God there*? Are you obligated to try to change things there, or is it better to try to find God somewhere else?

      I think one of the problems with discussions about why people leave church, is that too many that are still “in” either assume that people are leaving for superficial reasons (not liking the music, etc) or they assume that they leave because “they don’t want to hear the ‘real’ gospel” or “they don’t want to be held accountable for their sin”–which are kind of arrogant and insulting assumptions, if you think
      about it.

      What if more churches just considered that maybe, just maybe, people are leaving because they aren’t finding God there? Couldn’t some of them try to figure out why *that* might be the case?

  10. Matt, I too believe that your comments are genuine. I am a Pastor that has spent twenty-four years trying to minister to all generation. No matter the age of the individual there has always been this same need to find a place to fit-in. It is in my few that we all have the same needs, weather that is to be loved and accepted or to just to obtain peace and stability for one’s life.

    I would like to comment on the entitlement view of all generations. When referring to a Church we must never forget that we are referencing the Church of the Bible. It is of my opinion that before we can truly understand our roll within its membership we must first understand the Churches roll in the World. From the day the church was empowered to serve it has played a very unique roll in the World. The roll of the Church has always been to carry out the “Great Commission.” If this is true, and I believe it is, then the entitlement would be more for the World (people) than for the Churches’ membership. Those living outside God’s Will should be the primary focus rather than those living within any generation. The question we need to ask ourselves is, ‘What is our unchurched World entitled too?”

    The Church has not always been clear on its objectives or its mission, but God has always had ways of bringing the Church back into focus when It drifts off course.

    • “The Church has not always been clear on its objectives or its mission, but God has always had ways of bringing the Church back into focus when It drifts off course.”

      Jesus is building His Church, His Bride. Her Head is Jesus Christ. Her instructions are His. Her purpose is His. The Church, as you say, has not strayed off course. This is impossible. Unless you are implying that our individual sins and failings, (and we indeed have them even as redeemed sons of God, hence the need for a Savior), have been able to thwart the Will of our Jesus and have affected The Church corporately.

      Is this what you are implying? I’m asking because I definitely want to be sure I understand your statements here.

      Also, did you mean to say The Church or just plain church (small c), as in our labeled and denominational divisions of The Church Herself? Thanks!
      Donald Borsch Jr recently posted..Post #8: Stop trying to make Jesus into your image

  11. Entitled to leave your church? No. You’re not. Really. (Of course if, by “your” church, you mean the one you lived, suffered, bled, died, rose, and ascended for…then you can pretty much do whatever you want. But that only applies to the One Brother. Otherwise, you’re pretty much stuck with the rest of us that He has adopted into the family, and He says He worries about you if you find it annoying or inconvenient to attend the reunions.)

  12. (This comment space unintentionally left unblank. I forgot check the box to add the tracking for further comments.)

  13. I may be the only one, but I disagree, Matt. I don’t think any of us is “entitled” to anything except eternal separation from God.

    Beyond that, I think we should expect that the church is full of sinful people (chief of whom is me…..or you…..or that other guy over there, whichever one of us is speaking at the time). We should expect that we will be hurt by the church. We should expect that people within the church will act in ways that directly conflict with Scripture (even the pastor preaching said Scripture). That’s not to say that it’s ok to get extra-Biblical or get out from under Biblical authority, but people are people and they’re going to screw up. If you go into church with the sense that you are “entitled” to an experience that includes people who act like Jesus…..well…’ve heard the joke about you not joining the “perfect church” because once you do, it won’t be perfect anymore, right?

    I know that sounds overly cynical, but it’s really not. I certainly _HOPE_ that people will act in the ways that you’ve listed above. I’ll certainly _ENCOURAGE_ people to act in the ways that you’ve listed above. I’ll certainly _TRY_ to act in the ways that you’ve listed above. But the only thing I’m “entitled” to is death.

    And that’s true no matter what generation I’m from.
    Melissa Jones recently posted..MommyBee Designs

  14. Absolutely brilliant. I’ve been tracking the millennial conversation for over a year but really picked up after the RHE CNN piece and the craziness that followed. Currently wrapping up a book on Christian higher education that follows the themes you lay out here.

    Thanks for helping defend these passionate, committed, young believers.