R. While I don’t doubt the personal experience that comes from this question, let’s look at whether that experience reflects the reality of Generation X as a whole.
According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of Gen Xers absolutely believe in God- almost the same percentage as Boomers (69%). They also attend worship at almost the same rates and frequency as Boomers. All that to say, statistically, Gen Xers are a lot like their parents in terms of belief and attendance in worship. This fact matches what we know from other studies, biblically, and theologically about the influence parents have on their kids in terms of beliefs and actions related to faith.
Now, are you asking about their belief in God, or are you asking about why they don’t participate actively in a church? If the second, based on what I have read and conversations I have had over the years, they are not among us because they are tired of the “institutional” church.
I would agree with sociologist Josh Packard who has studied this group and found dissatisfied Gen Xers essentially hunger for four things:
- Nonjudgmental community
- Opportunity to serve without bureaucracy
- Conversation, not lectures
- A focus on mission and ministry rather than Sunday morning “events”
Basically, they want church to be church. They want a community, not a country club. A place where they can go and be vulnerable, without being judged. Where they can go and be encouraged, corrected, but most of all loved unconditionally for who they are. So, it might be good to honestly answer the question of ourselves, do we provide this?
They want a place where they can go and serve others. Not serve the congregation per se, but serve the sick, the needy, those in prison. To go out into the world and be the church that helps those on the fringe. Not just give money to those things, but to actually go and serve. Is this a priority for us at St. John?
They want a place where they can come with their questions and discuss them with other faithful people. Do we provide those kinds of opportunities?
Interestingly enough, this is also what the younger generations want as well. They don’t care about the church as the institution that has stood at that corner since before the town came into being. Rather, they care about the community that cares for them and cares for others. They are more interested in seeing that we are the church than hearing that we are church.
From everything I’ve read, Gen Xers aren’t gone for good…but they would need to see a change in the way the church behaves to come back.
Let me know if you have further questions by contacting me.