Millennials Are Leaving The Church, They Simply Don’t Buy It

When I first started writing this blog little was written about falling church attendance and membership. What was around said, “They will return soon because they know they must.” Millennials are roughly the the group 30 to 45 years old.

Now there is a lot written trying to understand why Christianity in the U.S. is no longer thriving. One theme is that Christians need to invite more new people to their churches and this will turn things around. Then, there is the occasional Christian who sees what is more apparently the truth: A large proportion of millennials simply don’t believe the Bible is the “word of God.” Marketing programs and church invites will not change this.

This is an age when people move from one place to another for jobs. What better way to get acquainted in a new community than to join a church. It might be helpful to portray your church as one where they can fit in even if they are not very interested in its theology.

But, the nature of Christianity makes it hard for some people not to put on their game face. Every new people needs to know why I am right about religion and that other group is not. With millennials it’s probably a good assumption they are not interested in hearing your views on religion.

About 27 churches close each day in the U.S 10,000 a year.  The few new ones that open still leave the trend downward.

Since the old message is not working a new one is needed.


81 Responses

    1. Henry 7:16 Gosh, I was a better writer back then than I am now.

      I don’t think we can conclude liberal churches are doing more poorly today than conservative anti gay churches. The largest Protestant denomination in the U. S., anti gay Southern Baptist Convention, has been losing 10% of its membership a year for years. The higher the average age of the denomination’s members the faster it will die. Young people want liberal religion, if any at all.

        1. Henry 11:20 Didn’t know southern Baptists were conservative

          They stood firmly for slavery, then for segregation. That seems conservative, unless you are for less government then they were liberal. Then they were in favor of abortion rights until the 1970’s. Then they returned to the more liberal anti abortion posture with bigger government you stand for. You seem like a liberal wanting more government in our lives with regulating abortion and marriage. It’s fun to talk of liberals and conservative.

          1. Henry

            You seem to be talking about their secular ideals, and not even getting that correct. Must I remind you that in secular circles, the Republican Party, the more conservative party of the two, freed the slaves? The democrats who wanted to maintain slavery were more liberal. Nothing different today. Liberal democrats want to kick coal miners out of mines and get them on the government teat and eventually dosed up with heroin and fentanul through “free” needles.

  1. Tim

    if religion made sense they wouldn’t have to indoctrinate children. Faith is a poor path to the truth.

      1. Maddy

        For example, a mountain of scientific, linguistic, and sociological knowledge has been gathered in the past two centuries in the study of ancient Egypt. And yet, not one shred of evidence supports the story of the Passover/Exodus found in the books of Exodus and Leviticus. Another example: The story of Noah’s Ark is an example of flood narratives that were commonly repeated in the ancient world and some of them were were written down centuries before the authors of Genesis decided to include theirs. The Epic of Gilgamesh predates the old testament by hundreds of years and is one of the templates for the bible story.

          1. Juan Ruiz

            For Henry, “evidence of absence” only applies to the Bible. Gilgamesh, the Iliad, Mahabarata, Popol Vuh, and Njarlssaga, are just made-up stories.

          2. Juan Ruiz

            Once you accept the Bible not only as history, but the inerrant Word of God, and that the translation you read is the same, you have to dismiss all scholarship which contradicts that. As Mr. Noah has said, it’s all the product of liars and atheists, anyway.

          3. Henry

            Well, he is kind of right on that. Over the years, the atheists will make a claim. It gets knocked down. Then they make another claim. That gets knocked down. The goal posts for those atheist boys keep a moving. The recent atheist claim is that the head honchos of the Lutheran church live like fat cats in power and wealth. That was knocked down. On and on it goes, and the atheists on this blog never recognize their own self-inflicted lack of credibility they earned for themselves.

          4. Juan Ruiz

            Base Salaries Missouri Synod Hierarchy



            First Vice-President




            Chief Administrative Officer


            Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer


            Chief Mission Officer


          5. Catcher

            @ 1;19;; Isn’t transparency wonderful? Now how about the leadership of wall Street, GM, Ford , Various politicians, Prince when alive, Elvis when dead, College president, Fargo ;253000, MN;293000. etc. etc. etc. Do /did you work for chickens?
            I thought your point was maintaining the Business model”. Zilch. Point is, you have no point.

          6. Catcher

            @ 1;19; The last synodical president we had after being elected, proudly stated he was a “get er done” sort of guy, a “pragmatic” ! ! He had “business model tendencies. He lasted one term. (three years), and was voted out by the layity.. with his tail between his legs. The current president is Gospel centered. Our members are not fooled by the “business model”.

          7. Catcher

            @ 3;03; Error. Last president served 3 terms before revealing his true colors before being voted out. He said; “You have the cash, send it in”. He then got a position created for him at Concordia Texas. for mission advancement. At least, he is out of the ministry.

          8. Juan Ruiz

            “that doesn’t look like wealthy and powerful. ”

            You’d say the same thing if the salaries were triple what they are.

          9. Henry

            JR, Doesn’t come close to the gold O’Hare owned free and clear compared to amounts that must be taxed and used for living expense and education loans, albeit a yearly sum. The salaries you posted are very comfortable, but one is not going to be wealthy from it and set up John Deeere dealerships all over the place. Your wealth and power claims falls short.

        1. Henry

          Maddy 7:34, you have given us evidence of absence, a logical fallacy. My great-grandparents farmed in ND. Where they lived no longer bears evidence of THEIR existence. None. The rented farmstead has since been cleared and farmed through, and with the wet years, a slough now exists. I have absence of evidence, but they were there, and that is only going back one century. Consider the daunting task of finding traces of tent dwellers, even numbered in the millions, 3000 years ago in a land filled with scavengers ready to haul anything of value (or not) away. But the higher critics drone on with their evidence of absence, despite claiming logic and reason with other willing participants carrying their water for them.

          However, you never directly answered my question to Tim. Where is his evidence of HIS claims, not mine?

          1. Maddy

            If your grandparents rented a farm in ND, then there are tax records, marriage, death, birth records, utility records, newspaper references, church/club membership records, purchase agreements, lease papers, maybe even photos, etc. People leave traces. Millions of people over centuries leave many traces, unless they were never there.

          2. Henry

            Maddy 12:50, there are marriage, death, birth, and church membership records, but these do not connect them to the property. They rented the farmstead. There are no artifacts, no tax records, no photographs, and no deeds connecting them to the premises. We have evidence of absence from that property. However, they were there. Same with the Exodus. We have evidence of absence from the land. However, we have long-established testimony that they were there in contrast to more recent “reasoning” 3000 years later that they were not there. This is why your evidence of absence argument does not work so well and is a logical fallacy.

          3. Henry 4:33 We have evidence of absence from the the land. However, we have long-establish testimony they were there..

            There are dated artifacts showing a city, or more than one, that did not exist when the story was supposed to have taken place. The tale was written long after it was supposed to have happened and the unknown author(s) used towns that existed at the time they were making up the story. The Moses tale has all the markings of a mythological story writing to give Jews a history different than their actual history.

            So far as anyone can tell, the Jews were indigenous to Cannon and never really left. A few traveled back and forth to Egypt. A few probably were slaves but other groups were included among the slaves.

          4. mark anthony

            Jon asserts that it was all made up. Sounds like a conspiracy on the part of the goat herders.

          5. mark 9:54 Jon asserts that it was all made up.

            From the evidence we have, the story of Moses, 40 years in the desert fed by God dropping loaves of bread and the Battle of Jericho were all made up. If you have any evidence other than the Old Testament post it here.

            And it’s not just me. The government of Israel would score big political kudos if the tail of Moses could be verified. It has spent many millions trying to do just that. Nothing.

          6. mark anthony

            If I had time and/or the inclination I would look it up. And I’m confident that I would find plausible rebuttals to Jon’s conspiracy thesis. And, then, even if I did look it up, Jon would probably not post my response.

          7. mark 8:58 Let’s summarize:
            1.) There is not one archaeological trace of the exodus not any other part of the Moses tale. The story tellers were careful to have stone “Ten Commandments” broken so that would not be available. Steel was made and used. The dry desert does not decompose things like damper areas. There are other artifacts from that period but none from a million people living 40 years in a place where there should be evidence.

            2.) The tale has been debunked further by towns along the route which now are known not to have existed at the time.

            Now, if you find something to refute this, and it is not from a propaganda source, you are welcome to enlighten us. I’ve been posting this for seven years now and no one has come up with anything (there is one propaganda site people toss up but it has no academic content). As I mentioned, if there were evidence of the Exodus the government of Israel wants it badly. They have commissioned scholars to look for 20 years of so. So far, the only plausible conclusion is the Exodus story never happened.

            The Exodus story is a myth. The Noah flood is a myth. All the quotes from Jesus were from stories that came from who knows where. It’s OK to believe there is a god of some kind–but treating the Bible as something other than a series of folk tales is a mistake.

          8. mark anthony

            There probably weren’t a million and they weren’t there for literally 40 years. the number 40 turns up frequently in Bible literature: it just means some “long” period of time. In any event why go into the matter in depth. Any source that I would site would be dismissed as propaganda. As to Noah, I think that we can safely say that the story was rooted in some actual meteorological event(s). And why wouldn’t there be a battle of J. The Israelites after all were invaders: they undoubtedly attacked many of the strongholds of the indigenous population. As to the names of the towns, are you certain beyond a doubt that the dating is correct? Or that the towns in question didn’t exist earlier that extant evidence would indicate. These, it seems to me, are just common sense questions.


          9. mark anthony

            if that is true why all the stories about conflict with the indigenous population? the so-called worshippers of Ba’al. I don’t suppose that we are required to believe that all the Semites left for Egypt at some time past. It seems, however, that many did, a perfectly good assumption considering the proximity and relative prosperity of Egypt.

          10. mark 11:00 It just means…

            It’s fun when devout Christians say some parts of the Bible are obviously literally true and other parts are metaphor. When you see a sentence start with “It just means..” it means the whole thing is metaphor.

          11. mark anthony

            it means no such thing. It just means that certain words/terms are used metaphorically/symbolically . Just as in today’s English.

          12. mark 2:19 it means no such thing. It just means that certain words/term are used metaphorically/symbolically. Just as in today’s English

            Jesus was supposed to have said something like, “I am the truth.” I’ve heard over and over the Bible is “God’s word.” I have now been told this is all mistaken. Mark is, “I am the truth.” It is mark’s word, not God’s word.

          13. mark anthony

            this a direct quote. Either He said it or he didn’t. He spent 40 days in the wilderness. A literal 40 days? Maybe but given the meaning of 40 in that society you don’t have to believe that it was literally 40 days.
            what is required is the ability to make distinctions. And maybe a dose of common sense. I know that you grew up in a literalist church. You are old now, get over it.

          14. mark 5:48 What is required is the ability to make distinctions.

            And, that is where the humorous phrase, “It means…” comes from. Now, why are you more qualified than me to make these distinctions. If you take a rational intellectual approach to the Bible it comes out all metaphor. The quotes from Jesus were not recorded by anyone. They are folk lore. The further away from the time this Jesus was supposed to have lived the more exact and more voluminous the quotes (book of John).

            And maybe a dose of common sense. That’s what would be refreshing here from folks who believe there are invisible beings and we get sent to invisible places for following or not following rules of unknown writers centuries ago.

          15. Henry 9:46 you have done well to add more evidence of absence

            It not evidence of absence. It is evidence of a false tail. When we have scientifically established dates of towns and the towns did not exist when the tale said Moses was there we’re not talking “absence”, we have something. The tale was made up.

          16. Henry

            Jon, scientific tests would indicate my great\grandparents were not on that farmstead. Likewise, you have evidence of absense. Slapping the “scientific” label on does not help. You say you are skeptical. Not hardly. You operate with much belief in your state of rebellion.

        2. Juan Ruiz

          ” Now how about the leadership of wall Street, GM, Ford , Various politicians, Prince when alive, Elvis when dead, College president, ”

          Their purpose is to make money. None of them started out with a leader who explicitly criticized money. But Christianity has always been about it. Paul brags about the cash he carried back to the Jerusalem Church. Osteen and company preach that God wants you to be rich, like they are. That the MO Synod’s head has a base of over 200K, not including perqs, pretty much shows that.

          1. mark anthony

            Nonsense. Lots of Christians have lived in holy poverty. Even Jesus and his disciples carried a money bag. Guess you think that Christians should all live in poverty while some stupid jock can make millions for doing nothing of any particular value. Bottom line, I think that you are obsessed.

          2. Catcher

            @ 4;21; Boy, you sure have a hard on for money. Strange for an advocate for a “business model. We, contrary to your opinion have never advocated for the case of poverty, not have we ever claimed “prosperity” as a theology or philosophy .You have your facts twisted. We have NEVER been about money. What Paul collected was not for himself, but for the earliest Christians in need..
            Whatever the head of the LCMS is paid, it still has NOTHING to do with a “business model” and money, vs. the Gospel message of the LCMS.
            Point is, your point is pointless.

          3. Catcher

            @ 4;45; Unless of course, you never rose to the level or worth of being paid such amounts. Perhaps it is jealousy.
            A dog catcher’s wages would not acquire the skills and talents needed to fulfill such a position.
            Jealousy It is.

      2. Matthew Hauff

        Henry, 1. People who do not grow up in a particular faith are unlikely to accept that faith later in life, especially if they’re already indoctrinated in a different one. I think it’s pretty self evident. 2. When we speak of truth, we’re speaking of maximally certain claims. Let’s not get into philosophical conundrums that affect both sides. Simply put, there isn’t a position you can’t take on faith. If this is true, faith cannot be a pathway to a maximally certain claim.

        1. Henry

          MH 8:14, you are welcome to tightly grip your inductive reasoning. I simply have faith. However, the evidence is such, that even without faith, there is no excuse.

          On 1, you have much evidence that counters your claim. Consider the Roman Empire, pagans, secularists, and atheists in vast numbers rapidly converted to Christianity. Ebb and flow.

      3. Flyover Philosopher

        Pontius Pilate nailed it two millennia ago, “What is truth?” And as others have added, “Is mine the same as yours?” There is truth, and there is fact. Faith doesn’t necessarily lead to truth. I have faith it won’t rain today, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get a thunderstorm.

  2. Juan Ruiz

    I am amazed that what I have observed for many years hasn’t been mentioned: The marked inability of priests and ministers to write and deliver a homily or sermon that is both interesting and thought-provoking. Millenials have grown up expecting to be entertained. A message droned on by the celebrant doesn’t do it.

    Much as I dislike the hypocrisy of Osteen and others of his ilk, they are all excellent public speakers. Thus, they fill up their churches.

  3. Failing church attendance has less to do with the bible and more to do with those in the church. I grew up in the church was in youth groups, campus crusade, AWANA, was a youth leader. What drove me away from church, but not my faith was the attitude of the church. They aren’t welcoming. I was denied the ability to be married to a church because I lived with my wife prior to marriage. Mind you this was before the economy came back. My denomination wouldn’t let me use a pastor or the chapel. Christianity is about welcoming, acceptance, and forgiveness. This is preached within their walls but not followed by their leaders. The church itself lead me to question its teachings. Then you bring the evangelical hypocrasy within politics where even my own mother got mad at me for leaning democrat, because she was anti-abortion. I am too, actually but it was more important for me to side with a party that cares about the whole population. Millenials turned their backs on the church because the church turned its back on us. At some point the faith of Jesus forgot what Jesus actually taught, and became an entity that refused to evolve with culture around it, rendering the teachings being said inside their walls mute and hypocritical. I have found that I feel more connected with god outside of church than within it at this point in my life. People keep saying bad things happen because people have left the church. But it maybe because those in the church are only following the parts that they are comfortable with. If you want people back in the church start fighting for civil rights for those that may not fit the traditional mold of your congregation. Don’t turn people away for not being perfect, or fitting the cookie cutter description of what you think the bible wants.

  4. Glenn

    Interesting conversation and some very good points. I believe it is necessary to differentiate between “religion” and belief. Having faith in God, believing in Jesus Christ are associated with but encapsulated by religion. Religion is a set of rules, business practices, and other human inventions to drive the desire of the human leader(s) of the religion.

    Jesus said only to have faith and believe. The current church, or organized religions, need to break out of their standard business models if they want to survive. Take a look at big box stores. They refused to adapt technology and lost. The church of today and yesterday is doing the same. The church, whatever religion, must adapt, change, focus on the needs of the community, modify how it delivers services, and become an integral part of the future of our lives if it is to survive.

    I don’t think the reduced numbers of religious or church members is such a bad result, as it is separating the chaff and the wheat. This who understand the message to have faith and believe will throw off the shackles of the past business practice of religion and adapt. They will be stronger and have greater influence.

    1. Juan Ruiz

      “The current church, or organized religions, need to break out of their standard business models if they want to survive. ”

      Don’t see that happening. Those same models assure power and wealth to the people who run the show. They aren’t going to give that up.

      1. Henry

        JR 1:22 “Those same models assure power and wealth to the people who run the show.”

        You attend an unusual church with that experience.

        1. Juan Ruiz

          I don’t believe any recent popes, LDS presidents, or heads of Lutheran synods ever suffered poverty while in office.

          1. Henry

            So if I want power and wealth, I should be a Lutheran synod head? Are you flat out broke to have that relative notion? I am not sure what exactly to think of the pope and LDS in your examples.

          2. Juan Ruiz

            You can think they are all quite well of, and have no intention of changing that. Jeeze, the pope alone has one flunky whose job is to take off and put on his mitre.

          3. Catcher

            @ 2;42;;” I don’t believe any”…”Heads of Lutheran synods ever suffered poverty. That is a total untruth” I have personally known synodical presidents, AKA bishops in some churches, along with many pastors in those same churches that struggled with finances their entire life. They are not over paid. Very few executives with equal or lesser college degrees in the business world would experience what you imply. . Many pastors upon retiring have then to buy a house to retire in, and few catch up, unless they inherited something from their parents, or wife’s parents. A couple I know are recipients of their children’s generosity, considering they were helped partially through college. Many didn’t have the luxury of buying a house at a young age, and have it increase in value over the years.
            You are probably accurate with Popes, and LDS Presidents.

          4. Henry

            JR 3:32 “You can think they are all quite well of, and have no intention of changing that.”

            That is very inaccurate broadbrush.

          5. Juan Ruiz

            Mr Catcher,

            Please read my original post. I said “people who run the show.” Not pastors in some small church. If I was unclear, let me be more specific. I was talking about those who are the head honchos; th popes, presidents, CEOs of the religious world. They are the ones who have no intention of getting rid of the business model.

          6. Catcher

            @ 3;59; Are not presidents / bishops leaders “who run the show” (In accordance to the written confessions). also pastors? Some also have their own congregations they serve. A title does not mean wealth.

            “CEO” is a term not in existence in our church. The president of synod is a position voted on every three years. at a national synodical convention. If not reelected that former president is eligible for a call to a particular church. A teaching position, or some other synodical office.

            Often upon retirement, they serve as visiting pastor in the case of illness, vacations, to fund living expenses. and house payments.

            Each pastor, president / bishop is a called office, and all come up from the ranks of the most common pastor.

          7. Catcher

            @ 3;59;;Again re. “business model” Review my 2;09

            bookkeeping, and balancing the books is one thing, but the purpose and function of “church” is, or should be the Gospel. The business model has nothing to do with the Gospel. It is polity and distorted ecclesiastics.

      2. Catcher

        @1;22; Re. “Need to break out of their standard business models”.

        An often repeated topic of Jon’s.. Yes, many churches operate on a “business model”, Dollars in- dollars out, return on project investment, etc. “What can we do to attract “New customers”, Another term used these days is “church growth”. Both have failed to produce anticipated results.,
        “Church growth”.- – – initiated by Presbyterians.
        Those who subscribe to such practices have long forgotten the mission and calling of “the church”

        “The current church”, “the church” is such an ambiguous term, and so non-specific, as to render it / them meaningless.

        There are church groups that reject the “business model”, and “church growth”.

  5. V

    I am a millennial. I can’t speak for all millennials. Most of the millennials I know are actually more conservative and active church-goers. That being said, I think fire and brimstone attitudes definitely kill churches, along with denial and lack of leadership. The #ChurchToo movement comes to mind. Church no longer feels safe. Doubtful it ever was safe, because it was full of people, but with social media the church and their members are far more transparent than they ever were. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For congregations to flourish in a healthy manner, they need to at least show tolerance and love – and more importantly, they need to openly and ardently support survivors of abuse. It doesn’t matter what kind of abuse it is. The church (regardless of denomination) that preys upon its members is one that is void of Christ, and the absence of God is Hell by definition, isn’t it? So why would people want to go there?

  6. Jinx II

    New posters, you all have enriched the conversation and make good points!! Hope to see more of your thoughts on this blog!!

  7. Juan Ruiz

    “There probably weren’t a million and they weren’t there for literally 40 years.”

    Now you’re on the slippery slope of not reading the Bible literally. What other stories can we apply that approach to?

    1. mark anthony

      You folks just can’t shake your literalistic mind set can you. Everything is black or white. As to the salaries: how mean spirited can you get? Those salaries are quite in line with executive salaries in todays society. Comfortable but not excessive. And compared to the salaries paid to other business professionals?


      1. Juan Ruiz

        No. What is black and white is for those who believe every word in the Bible is literal. You have to work that out with your Christian bretheren, who likely doubt you are a Christian.

        As for salaries, as i said, Jesus denouncements of money are clear. He told his own disciples to not carry a purse. A quarter million salary is “comfortable but not excessive?” Who are you kidding. A otro perro con ese hueso.

        1. mark anthony

          more nonsense. I don’t know anyone who thinks that every word in Scripture is to be taken literally. So, a question for Catcher: do LCMS folks think that every word in the Bible is to be taken literally?

          1. catcher

            @ 5;42; I’ll answer that with a question;”Lord, how often shall my brother sin against and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
            Do you get your calculator out and say—-“Ah ha. 490 times”

          2. catcher

            @ 5;42; re. “literally”. I’ll answer that with a question. In Matt. 18-21; Than Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Vs. 22; Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times times seven”.
            Do you get out your calculator and say;” Ah ha 490 times. Very good”.

  8. mark anthony

    Jon607. Did I say that I was more qualified than you to make distinctions. I am merely relying on my limited knowledge of Scriptural exegesis. There is meaning, something that the author intended behind every written word. Some things are to be taken literally (scientific works, for example), some are not. And some are be taken literally in part, metaphorically in part. It isn’t always an either/or sort of thing. Macbeth for example has an element of historic truth behind it. yet it packs a ton of meaning, even the parts that are pure fantasy.

    1. mark 6:45 Did I say I was more qualified than you to make distinctions

      If it is not literally true that Jesus said, “I am the way” or that the Bible is “God’s word” then why do you stay in the Catholic church. Why not become a Unitarian or agnostic? If both those are literally true than what gives you the liberty to say, “What this means is…”?

      You need to use a little common sense here.

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