Millennial non-Christians in the US tend to be more curious about faith than older non-believers.
According to a recent Barna Group study, 26% of Millennials who identify with a faith other than Christianity, or no faith at all are twice as likely to show curiosity in Christianity compared to older non-Christians (16%). The younger generation of non-believers also had more personal experience with evangelism through religious literature (45%), meeting with a Christian at church (35%) or on the street (30%).
If we can communicate and reflect a Jesus who loves them and meets their greatest felt needs, I believe many young people will decide to follow Jesus—and share a vibrant faith with coming generations. —Josh Chen, Missions director at Cru
The study from Reviving Evangelism found that 53% of Millennials favored personal interaction with a Christian while only 32% of older non-Christians preferred that method. In fact, 70% of young non-Christians reported to having at least one conversation about personal beliefs with a family member or a close friend of a different faith in the past year, while only 52% of their adult counterparts did the same.
Josh Chen, a missions director for Cru, said the younger generation finds the gospel as ‘mediocre news.’ He added that, older Christians introduce the gospel in a way which doesn’t answer the questions of young people such as “What does it mean for me to thrive as a human being?” while the previous generations asked “How do I get to heaven?”
In an interview with Barna Group, Chen explained that the shift in the line of thinking between generations is influenced by two factors: anxiety and shame-and-honor culture.
According to Dr. Betsy Nesbit, professor of Counseling at Denver Seminary, young people have high levels of anxiety that they don’t think too far in the future. What is important to them is what is happening here and now. They would not ask existential questions such as “What happens after I die?”
People from older generations raised in a guilt-and-innocence culture treat making a mistake as a mistake. But, the shame-and-honor culture where Millennials and Gen Z grew up to in Western countries blames the person for making a mistake. If the Bible doesn’t answer the questions of young people about where they belong, dealing with anxiety and other longings, the good news would not have that much impact on their lives.
In a study by the Pew Research Center, less than half of both the younger and older Millennial participants treat religion as ‘Very important’ (38% and 44%). Also, 53% of younger Millennials said they seldom or never read the Bible, but 68% of them believe in heaven.
Chen maintains that the Bible has all the answers to the questions of every generation. “If our only understanding or expression of salvation is what happens after we die, then our message will not be perceived as relevant to most younger people. But when Jesus talks about being saved in the Gospels, he frequently is talking about right now, not the “after you die” that characterizes some older generations’ gospel presentations.”
He advised that in order to reach the younger generation, older Christians must show compassion and love. “If we can communicate and reflect a Jesus who loves them and meets their greatest felt needs, I believe many young people will decide to follow Jesus—and share a vibrant faith with coming generations.”