By Sarah Taylor Peck – I have felt so popular the past few weeks. I am a Millennial. I go to church. I care about the church. I serve the church. And I was trending.
In recent weeks, religious blogs and news outlets and social media sites have exploded with reflections and thoughts about my generation and the church. It all started in late July with an article evangelical writer Rachel Held Evans wrote for CNN’s Belief Blog called “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church.”
Millennials are generally categorized as the generation after Generation X — folks born in the 1980s and 1990s. Evans suggested that the church should focus on being authentic and open, intellectual and holy, but most of all attentive to the desires and trends of the Millennials. She urged pastors to talk to Millennials and to ask us what we want to see in the church and what we are passionate about.
More than 200,000 Facebook users shared her post.
Not everyone agreed with her perspective. Fellow Millennial Brett McCracken responded to Evans on The Washington Post’s On Faith blog. He suggested that Millennials do not have it all figured out, and the church should actually stand up to us and our demanding, self-centered ways. He asked the question: Should churches and pastors really pay attention to a generation that posts ‘selfies’ in the bathroom every single day? (Note: a ‘selfie’ is a picture taken of yourself by stretching out your arm and usually making some sort of pouty, flirty or extremely posed expression).
Thousands of Facebook users shared McCracken’s article, too.
As a Millenial pastor in Memphis, I found both articles well written, thoughtful and equally worthy of consideration.
I believe we Millenials and the church need each other.
The church needs young, fast-paced, energetic leaders who can start the church Twitter page and preach the good news of acceptance, grace and open doors. We can bring new eyes to both church sanctuaries and Christ’s parables that just might enliven our faith exploration in The Church.
The church can give us something we can’t get in our digital world: real touch.
The week my grandmother died, Facebook messages and texts came in by the dozens, but I needed that warm, grandmotherly hug I got from longtime Lindenwood member Dot Williams. I needed to hold the handwritten note I received from two faithful members, Lucy and Ralph Black. They shared honest, wise words of encouragement, and they used more than 140 characters to do it.
In my time of grief and loss, the church touched me. And the church touches so many people in seasons of grief, struggle and hurt.
When a man shot crowds of people in Aurora, Colo., last summer, I needed to turn off the constant commentary and catastrophizing on the news and experience the touch of the quiet, holy space of our prayer room in the church. I longed for the timeless sacred walls to wrap around me and give me a place to weep, to pray and to just be.
Through the Lindenwood prayer room, the church touched me. And the church touches all of us in times of confusion, tragedy and disaster.
When my fellow Millennials and I engage in friendly, yet fierce digital competitions of showcasing our prestigious jobs, or seemingly superhuman fertility, or picture perfect weddings, or beautiful McMansions, I have needed the church to show me images of the kingdom: people old and young, vulnerable, struggling, humble and collaborative.
Inside the church doors, artificial competitions fade away and I get to sing the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” with my fellow seeking, broken, evolving, willing and raw brothers and sisters in Christ. This is how the church touches me.
Millennials might help the church stay relevant and prophetic and global, but for me — one Millennial seeking wholeness in this fragmented world — I love the Church Touch.
The church helps me step outside the instant, distant, technologically clogged world of the Millennials. But more than this, at its best, the church reaches in, past my cheerful Facebook posts and guarded tweets, past my fast-paced facade and ambitious tendencies, and touches my spirit.
Yes, the church needs us Millennials. But I know, deep down, I need the church touch.
Rev. Sarah Taylor Peck is associate minister at Lindenwood Christian Church and a fellow with the New Memphis Institute. Read her blog at ordainingsarah.wordpress.com/.