Millennials Want Church Membership Defined by Mission, Ministry

Millennials and other young adults are turning their backs on traditional church membership, preferring to measure their fellowship by service instead. (Creative Commons photo)
Millennials and other young adults are turning their backs on traditional church membership, preferring to measure their fellowship by service instead. (Creative Commons photo)

Churches are grappling with Millennials who want their church membership defined in terms of mission and ministry, not names on a roll.

The value and purpose of church membership is becoming an increasingly hot topic in Baptist and other congregations these days.

And that’s “hot” as in controversial and heated, not popular. And it’s one that occasionally pits older and younger generations against each other.

The debate comes down to this: older folks see church membership as logical and necessary while Millennials and other young people say it makes no sense.

“There’s a lot of generational angst” around the topic, said Bob Ballance, senior minister at Pine Street Church, an American Baptist congregation in Boulder, Colo.

About 30 percent of that congregation consists of Millennials, who see meaningful participation in church life as more important than being on the rolls. Older members sometimes don’t get it, he said.

Wanda Kidd was curious by the phenomenon after speaking to several college students recently. So much so that she penned a blog for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on July 22 as a way to explore the subject and get church leaders talking.

“As I talk to young adults about the value of membership in a local church, there is a real push back,” wrote Kidd, college ministry coordinator for CBF of North Carolina. She said it begs for a larger conversation about what it means to belong to a congregation.

“It seems to be a barrier that these generations cannot cross,” Kidd told Baptist News Global.

‘Affirm their engagement’

Other experts say the membership issue has been simmering for at least a three decades and is now coming to a head with the emergence of the Millennial generation.

And no one is exempt from it, said Eddie Hammett, a congregational consultant and president of Transforming Solutions in North Carolina.

“It’s across all denominations and even the size of church doesn’t seem to matter,” Hammett said.

Differing viewpoints are split right along generational lines, he said. One group sees membership as a critical measure of success, while the other sees it as pointless and even hypocritical because members often don’t attend church.

“They want the church to affirm their engagement in mission and outreach,” Hammett said. “That’s how they define membership.”

It’s increasingly becoming a volatile issue in some congregations, he added.

“This is a defining moment for the future of the church.”

 

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SOURCE: Baptist News Global
Jeff Brumley

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