Monday, 28 July 2014
FEATURE:: Not All Millennials Want a Trendy Church, Says Young Christian Author
mixes sacred tradition with secular trends, says Christian writer
and author Andrea Palpant Dilley.
Dilley, who is familiar with being a member at both a mainline
Presbyterian church and a modern, non-denominational
congregation, advises churches to carefully consider their outreach strategies when trying to attract young adults.
"Across America today, thousands of clergy and congregations—
even entire denominations—are running scared, desperately
trying to convince their youth that faith and church are culturally relevant, forward-looking and alive ... proceed with
caution ...with thoughtfulness and deliberation. What young
people say we want in our 20s is not necessarily what we want
10 years later," writes Dilley on ChurchLeaders.com
While the number of Americans under 30 who do not identify
with any religion continues to increase, according to a Pew
Research report, Dilley argues that there are millennials who do
care about being in traditional churches over much trendier
congregations that embrace an "unchurchy" feel.
She notes that modern churches are effective in luring in young
adults, especially those who would never step foot in a church.
Oftentimes, young adults complain about church politics,
wanting authenticity and openness and they demand a particular worship aesthetic, she says.
While congregations tend to make changes to cater to those
demands, Dilley says being trendy may not always be the
answer. People generally want to find God in a church that has
substance and tradition, she notes.
"Consider the changes that people go through between age 22
and 32. Consider that some of us, in time, renew our
appreciation for the strengths of a traditional church: historically informed hierarchy that claims accountability at multiple levels and historically informed teaching that leans on theological complexity ...," writes Dilley.
She adds, "Some of us want to walk into a cathedral space that
reminds us of the small place we inhabit in the great arc of
salvation history. We want to meet the Unmoved Mover in an
Dilley draws the conclusion that not all millenials want a
relevant church based on her own experience. She left a
mainline congregation only to return to it as an adult after
spending two years at at a modern church that had "an air of
Though she says it was "the perfect place" for her and her
husband at the time, she was not entirely fulfilled as a Christian.
"I felt homeless in heart, I missed intergenerational community, I
missed hymns and historicity, sacraments and old aesthetics
and I missed the rich polity—even the irritation—of Presbytery,"
While she acknowledges that some may consider her experience
unconventional, she still thinks it's important to share her
"Critics might say I'm an anomaly. My story, they would say,
isn't typical of most young people.But that's not the point. I
can't alter statistics or trends. I can't tell congregations or their
pastors what they need to change, if anything," writes Dilley.
" ... What I offer instead is a word of encouragement that
reminds the church to take the long view."
Dilley is the author of "Faith and Other Flat Tires."