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Safiya Jafari Simmons

On Millennials and Faith

By admin on January 14, 2014 Back to Blog list
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It seems the topic du jour in religious circles is the waning faith of Millennials. While I’ve enjoyed reading the opinions and commentaries of the experts, I thought maybe it was time to have a Millennial lend her voice.

Now let me say from the outset that I’m not a pastor, an ordained minister, or an official of any church. I’m a wife and a mom-of-three-under-5 for whom I’m just trying to be a good role model. Having said that, I do have some thoughts on my generation and what some of us could be looking for in faith.

Perhaps what most folks don’t get about some Millennials is that many of us are accustomed to impact: making it, witnessing it and being a part of it. I dare say that as the first generation to grow up with color televisions, computers and the Internet, the status quo never really was our thing; and faith is no exception.

“Church as usual” don’t work for many of us. We’re hands-on, “make a splash” kind of folks. So there are two big things I’ve learned along my spiritual journey that those seeking to connect with us must get.

The first lesson I had to learn as an adult charting my own spiritual path was that it’s far more important to seek truth than tradition. When I landed in Washington, DC, after graduate school and getting married, I hurriedly began looking for the same church I’d grown up in. I wanted tambourines and church fans, Church Mothers and choirs that could sang. But it wasn’t until I allowed myself to look outside the box of my spiritual comfort that I began to grow in my faith.

Many Millennials, while valuing the church experience of our youths, are looking for a fellowship that does church differently. We need a word that speaks to us in society as it is now; not the word that once solicited shouts from generations gone by. Talk to us about the issues that we’re grappling with — dating, careers, how to be good people in a pretty jacked up world — so we have accessible sermons that leave us feeling like we’re growing and being groomed to make an impact. I found and joined a few great churches — Community of Hope AME, Zion Church and National Community Church — that all do church differently with an eye to meeting folks where they are an inspiring them to serve with what they have.

Now, while having a church home is important, I think it’s equally important for Millennials to remember that we each are ministers in our own rights as well. We each are created for a specific purpose that only we can achieve. So perhaps the most important church relationship we should have is internal.

Churches and faith groups should encourage Millennials to be who we’re created to be everywhere we are: at work, with friends, in the drive-thru! Help us to get in touch with our unique talents and gifts, and then help us find ways to use those skills to help others.

I’ve finally reached a place in my life where I wear my faith on my sleeve. When I worked on the Hill, I prayed for my Member (I still do), my colleagues and those who held different opinions from us. My coworkers knew I prayed for them, that I prayed throughout the day, and that peace of being me matured my faith exponentially.

Look, I’m no expert, and I do not speak for all Millennials. I married relatively young, have a wonderful husband and three kids… but I still feel like I’m figuring life out every moment of every day. What I know though is being planted in churches that taught me these two lessons was the difference between my being spiritual or religious and actually growing in my faith.

You can probably guess by now that I don’t accept the notion that Millennials are turning away from the church; that we’re somehow less religious than previous generations. I think we are a generation defined by radical advancement and we cannot be satisfied with a religious experience that offers anything less. I mean, Jesus himself was radical. If we’re made in His image, isn’t it time we embrace that portion, too?