Say a Prayer: Millennials leaving the church

Say a Prayer: Millennials leaving the church
Pastor Ulmer of New Life Family Church in Biloxi addresses his congregation. (Image Source: WLOX News)
Pastor Ulmer of New Life Family Church in Biloxi addresses his congregation. (Image Source: WLOX News)

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX)

What is it about the church that can be a turn off to the millennial generation? Biloxi pastor Jeff Ulmer thinks he has an idea.

"They are the most digitally connected, but yet perhaps the most relationally detached generation ever," said Ulmer.

 The church is supposed to represent a community, or family-like environment. But according to www.patheos.com, when young people don't feel the connection or can't get plugged in, they often just walk away.

"It's good to be involved, and be with other people that are Christians and brothers and sisters in Christ, to help you get through the everyday things in life that you face," said Brandi Hough.

Brandi and Trey Hough are a young married couple who fall into the millennial category. They remember a time in their early 20s when going to church wasn't a high priority.

"In college, you're going to be in college. I can honestly say that, you know, we did party a lot - Thursday and Friday and Saturday night. So church, I didn't make it every Sunday," said Trey.

Todd and Stephanie Wilson have a similar story. 

"I think that I was just tempted to experience a different type of lifestyle," said Stephanie. "Then I thought I could handle it and still go to church, and it wouldn't really, like, drag me down. But of course it does."

But for both couples, a Christian upbringing kept them from leaving their faith behind altogether. However, that's not the case for everyone. 

Stephen Broussard grew up in an atheist evolution supporting background, but says he got tired of feeling lost. That feeling is what brought him to New Life Family Church in Biloxi.

"Pastor Jeff had actually offered an altar call and I invited Him in, and whenever I invited Him in, The Bible says He is faithful in that moment. He's faithful to those who invite Him in into their hearts, and that's where it changes you," said Stephen.

A LifeWay Christian Resources survey from 2007 indicated that 70 percent of 18 – 22 year olds stop attending church for at least one year. Pastor Ulmer says fortunately, his church doesn't have that problem.

"We are blessed to have, you know, just an overwhelming number of millennials. In fact, the average age in our church is 33 years old, which is almost dead center to the millennial generation" said Ulmer.

Ulmer feels that the more modern style of worship has a lot to do with it, but younger members say it's much more than that.

"It's all very much so a family dynamic. So anyone that comes in, I feel like would feel very welcome and just like, 'Wow I can be a part,'" said Brittany Villers. 

A youth pastor at Praise Temple in Biloxi, Whitney Harris believes that if the church wants to keep millennials engaged, they must go outside the walls of the sanctuary. 

"We've become so invisible as a whole, and not treating the Holy Spirit for what it is," said Harris.

 Praise Temple member Pajge Ruff strayed from the church, but says she came back because she didn't feel at peace. She offers some advice for those considering returning to church, or who have never attended.

"Don't worry about anybody really, is what I can just tell young people millennials when it comes to coming back to the church. People are going to talk, they're going to talk about you in the streets. They're going to talk about you on the job, at school. So why not have God have your back in the church," said Ruff.

For additional faith-based resources on youth leaving the church, see below:

http://pastors.com/3-reasons-young-adults-are-leaving-the-church/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/10-reasons-why-people-leave-church/

http://samaritanministries.org/children-christian-families-leaving-church/

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.