In my recent post How Facebook Killed the Church I made the argument that the Millennial Generation is less interested in church attendance because the social affiliation aspects of church have been dramatically replaced with mobile social computing (e.g., texting, Tweeting, Facebook). Not needing the church for social affiliation or networking Millennials are positioned to pose some hard questions to the church: Beyond social affiliation, what is your purpose? And do you live up to that purpose? These questions are hard because if a church claims to create "Christ followers" the Millennials will want to see concrete evidence that the lifestyle and attitudes of these "Christ followers" are qualitatively different from those in the surrounding culture. And more often than not, the Millennials just don't see that difference.
This argument of mine gets some support from a recent article--Generation Next--in Time by Nancy Gibbs (H/T Mike Cope). Here are some quotes from the article. On the role of mobile social computing in this generation:
Today's kids aren't taking up arms against their parents; they're too busy texting them. The members of the millennial generation, ages 18 to 29, are so close to their parents that college students typically check in about 10 times a week, and they are all Facebook friends. Kids and parents dress alike, listen to the same music and fight less than previous generations, and millennials assert that older people's moral values are generally superior to their own.Importantly for my argument, the Millennials aren't radically against church as such. As research suggests, in many ways the Millennials are fairly conservative in their values. As Gibbs notes:
Yet even more young people perceive a gap. According to a recently released Pew Research Center report, 79% of millennials say there is a major difference in the point of view of younger and older people today. Young Americans are now more educated, more diverse, more optimistic and less likely to have a job than previous generations. But it is in their use of technology that millennials see the greatest difference, starting perhaps with the fact that 83% of them sleep with their cell phones. Change now comes so strong and fast that it pulls apart even those who wish to hang together--and the future belongs to the strong of thumb.
But we miss the point, warns social historian Neil Howe, if we weigh only how technology shapes a generation and not the other way around. The millennials were raised in a cocoon, their anxious parents afraid to let them go out in the park to play. So should we be surprised that they learned to leverage technology to build community, tweeting and texting and friending while their elders were still dialing long-distance? They are the most likely of any generation to think technology unites people rather than isolates them, that it is primarily a means of connection, not competition.
...in some respects the millennials emerge as radically conventional. Asked about their life goals, 52% say being a good parent is most important to them, followed by having a successful marriage; 59% think that the trend of more single women having children is bad for society. While more tolerant than older generations, they are still more likely to disapprove of than support the trend of unmarried couples living together.Further, Millennials appear to be less cynical than Boomers and Gen X:
In any age, young folk tend to be more cheerful than old folk, but the hope gap has never been greater than it is now. Despite two wars and a nasty recession that has hit young people hardest, the Pew survey found that 41% of millennials are satisfied with how things are going, compared with 26% of older people. Less than a third of those with jobs earn enough to lead the kind of life they want--but 88% are confident that they will one day.And yet, despite their optimism, conventional outlook, and robust interest in faith the Millennials are moving away from church:
[Millennials] are, for example, the least officially religious of any modern generation, and fully 1 in 4 has no religious affiliation at all. On the other hand, they are just as spiritual, just as likely to believe in miracles and hell and angels as earlier generations were. They pray about as much as their elders did when they were young--all of which suggests that they have not lost faith in God, only in the institutions that claim to speak for him.How do you explain these trends? If Millennials are optimistic, conservative and religious why would they leave the church? It can't be due their liberalism, cynicism, or irreligiosity. So what is it? My argument hits on what Gibbs notes as the defining characteristic of this generation: mobile social computing. One of the key attractions of the church in past generations--social connection--has been effectively replaced.
Again, Facebook killed the church.