“We make Christianity so much more complicated than it needs to be, especially when it comes to talking about millennials.”
Rachel Held Evans, author of The Year of Biblical Womanhood, had 18 minutes to answer “How will millennials contribute to the future of the church?” Hers was one of 30 questions, each assigned to a different speaker at the Q Conference last week in Nashville. No one gave answers clearer than hers.
“Millennials are tired of the culture wars,” Held said. “Time and again church leaders believe a few style changes are the key. But millennials have been advertised to for our whole lives. We can smell it when someone’s trying to sell us something.”
Instead of style, Held seeks substance.
“We’re not looking for a hipper Christianity, but a truer Christianity. We’re not looking for lattes; we’re looking for Jesus.”
Answers by Donna Freitas to a different question speak to a specific need begging for substantive solutions. Her question: “How is casual sex reshaping millennials?” Her answers were devastating. In almost a decade of research, she has discovered that young adults in Catholic, private secular, and public schools “believe they are supposed to be casual about sex in college.” The prevalence of meaningless sexual liaisons, fueled by alcohol and a culture of permissiveness, is increasing.
“Hookups are efficient,” Freitas observed. It’s as if kids are saying, “We have no time for relationship, but we have to get our sex done.” Students often believe hookups are their only option. And this leads to stress and sadness.
In fact, 41 percent of students she’s interviewed are “profoundly unhappy” with the hookup culture. And both young men and women tell her they “yearn for romance” and “old-fashioned dating.”
Among the simple answers she suggests: “Start talking with these students about romance, love, dating, intimacy, and overall relationship skills.”
She said the vast majority of young adults want to date. But they don’t know how to ask for a date, hold hands, say “I had a nice time,” or “get kissed without getting drunk.”
Her advice to those who want to help: “Give them your war stories. Talk about romance.”
In other words, share truth about real relationships with young adults who may not know how to form them.
Truth is the thread connecting both of these talks. And it may be the best way to reach millennials, a strategy as simple as it is challenging.