I’ve been thinking a lot lately about different books, theories, studies, etc. on how “Millenials” are leaving church. I’ve written a bunch about it and friends of mine, like David Kinnaman (UnChristian and You Lost Me) and Dan Kimball (They Like Jesus But Not The Church), have written well articulated books describing this issue as well.
For instance, in You Lost Me David Kinnaman describes “exiles” as people that feel more comfortable outside of a church context. If you have not read this book yet I would recommend doing so. But regardless, I believe much of the reason is because they just don’t fit into the sub-culture of the church or churches they have been exposed to. So, depending on context, this may be correctly articulated as them “leaving Church.” However, I think we can be more pointed and say they are leaving a specific sub-culture of Church.
I travel frequently and see so many different contexts of church. I’m not just at conferences. I’m also at a lot of college’s and churches across the country. And if there is one thing I can say for sure, it’s that every church has it’s own sub-culture. Music is a variance, teaching styles can be drastically different but so is the way people dress, how pastors are approached, specific language that seems to dominate in certain contexts, programmatic structures are vastly contradictory, what people of certain ages can or cannot do, etc.
And it’s important for us to realize that none of this is necessarily “Christian” or an accurate expression of “The Church.” It’s simply a sub-culture’s way of doing things or thinking about certain aspects of life.
I am hearing more and more young people simply not feeling like they fit into what they call “Church.” But I’m beginning to realize (or maybe just beginning to articulate clearly) it’s simply the sub-culture of their “church” experience they are not fitting into. And I’ve found that helping them make this distinction in their own minds is extremely helpful. This may not be a huge distinction that changes the conversation about this topic in publishing, but I do think it’s something we should keep in mind.
And I must say that I don’t personally think it’s bad to leave a particular sub-culture – regardless of context. In fact, I think it’s far more dangerous to think of some of the things we do in church (culturally) as actually being “Christian” or the way of living as “The Church.”