Millennials in Church – an Excerpt from Effective Generational Ministry

The following is an excerpt from Effective Generational Ministry, by Elisabeth Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig Blomberg.


Millennials carry with them an apparent contradiction when exploring topics of religion and belief. On the one hand, they have a deep appreciation and value for things that have a history and a heritage that are bigger than themselves. On the other hand, the Millennial values of individualism and the personal nature of truth often push them to question anything that has an established history.

In my conversations with Boomers, Xers, and Millennials, I have seen a misunderstanding occur across the cohorts as to why Millennials question established history. From a Boomer perspective, the questioning often arises out of a distrust of the institution or organization being looked at. From a Millennial perspective, the questioning arises out of a desire to understand the whys behind a given tradition or practice, and to appease their own need to feel as if they have made a decision out of an informed space.

Cover Art…Millennials have been raised to question any and all claims presented to them, or to at least not be surprised if anything presented as truth gets changed over time. As such, they come into religion with similar uncertainty and skepticism.

Where Xers pushed against the waning beliefs and philosophies of the early twentieth century, ushering in a more mainstream acceptance of postmodernism, Millennials have known no other framework than a relativistic and personally designed way of seeing the world. Everything else in the lives of Millennials was rooted in choice, options, freedom, individuality, and subjective experience, so why wouldn’t religion be the same?

A generation that places high value on relationships and personal experience, Millennials often struggle to find their place within organized religion where hierarchical structure abounds, rules and regulations are expected to be universally followed, and the individual is not elevated above the collective.

The Millennial value of egalitarian relationships, as modeled by their parents, is a telling lens through which to understand their religious nonaffiliation. Simultaneously, this generation brings with it a value of history, context, experience, and culture that could prove to be an inroad for churches that offer a more traditional or liturgical framework for their worship.

Where Gen-Xers’ cultural values and framework lead them to an emergent church model, many are finding that Millennials who do religiously affiliate are being drawn into Christian denominations with a more high-church model that has long-standing traditions, and into non-Christian faiths with ancient roots (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, and Wicca). In a society that is constantly pushing the “now” and emphasizing the individual pursuit of happiness, Millennials carry with them a tension to keep in step with the ethos around them while also desiring to find something that connects their lives to something greater, giving them meaning and purpose beyond their temporary sense of self.

©2015 by Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig L. Blomberg. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


For more information on Effective Generational Ministry, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 30, 2015

Cover ArtMathew Sims, at Grace for Sinners, reviewed James K. A. Smith’s Imagining the Kingdom.

I cannot recommend Imagining the Kingdom highly enough. It’s a much needed corrective for the Church especially in our current climate where secular liturgies often are more formative. Christians have failed to tell and live our story in a way that’s believable and affective.

At Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight reflected on Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation by Matthew Levering.

Nate Claiborne reviewed Reformed Catholicity, by Michael Allen and Scott Swain.

At Books at a Glance, Adam Darbonne reviewed Reading the Historical Books by Patricia Dutcher-Walls.

Jackson Watts, at the Helwys Society Forum, reviewed Beth Felker Jones’ Practicing Christian Doctrine.

Adonis Vidu’s Atonement, Law, and Justice was review at Pastor Dave Online.

Gary Ridley, at Send U, reviewed Effective Intercultural Communication by A. Scott Moreau, Evvy Hay Campbell and Susan Greener.

Nijay Gupta, at Crux Sola, is looking forward to Mikeal Parsons’ Paideia commentary on Luke.

Justin Taylor shared Thomas Schreiner’s reflections in The King in His Beauty on seeing the Trinity in Genesis 1:26.

At Lingering in Love, Ian McConnell has been working through Andrew Root’s Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker, and Bonhoeffer’s eight theses on youth work. Read posts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

The Gospel Coalition shared 8 Lessons from the School of Prayer, an excerpt from D. A. Carson’s Praying with Paul.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 16, 2015

Cover ArtByron Borger, at Hearts & Minds Books, named J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth as 2014’s Best Book Of Biblical Studies.

“What a book!…There is no doubt in my mind that this book is urgently needed — among evangelicals and mainline folks alike — to be fully clear about God’s promises of new creation, and how this vision of a restored Earth can animate and sustain our efforts for cultural reform now. Richard is an excellent Biblical scholar and has worked on this serious volume for years; the endorsements have been robust and exceptional, and early readers report it is nearly life-changing.”

Also in his Best Books of 2014 post, Borger gave a double award (Best New Contribution to Bonhoeffer Studies and Best Youth Ministry Book) to Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker by Andrew Root, and an honorable mention to From Every Tribe and Nation by Mark Noll and Reading a Different Story by Susan VanZanten.

At The Hump of the Camel, Jon Garvey reviewed A New Heaven and a New Earth.

RJS continued to discuss Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth in the post “The End of the World” at Jesus Creed.

J. Richard Middleton wrote “God’s Bringing Creation to Its Glorious Destiny” for The High Calling.

Chris Woznicki reviewed Reformed Catholicity, by Michael Allen and Scott Swain.

At First Things, Peter Leithart reflected on the discussion of Reinhold Hutter in Reformed Catholicity.

Reformed Catholicity was listed in The Aquila Report’s New & Noteworthy Books in 2015.

At Panorama of a Book Saint, Conrade Yap reviewed Effective Intercultural Communication by A. Scott Moreau, Evvy Hay Campbell, and Susan Greener.

Christopher Skinner, at Crux Sola, reviewed Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite.

Daniel Gullotta reviewed Ancient Christian Worship by Andrew McGowan.

Elodie Ballantine Emig reviewed Rodney Decker’s Reading Koine Greek for the Denver Journal.

At Theosblog, Lawrence Osborn reviewed Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

At The Jesus Blog, Anthony LeDonne named Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus as the best Jesus book of the 2010’s.

Robert Johnston, author of God’s Wider Presence, was interviewed in Tehelka Magazine.


New Release: Effective Intercultural Communication

Cover ArtWith the development of instantaneous global communication, it is vital to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries. Authored by leading scholars with significant intercultural experience, this addition to the Encountering Mission series is designed to offer contemporary intercultural communication insights to mission students and practitioners.


“Communication skill is the cross-cultural worker’s most essential tool. Moreau, Campbell, and Greener have teamed up to produce a remarkably comprehensive and well-researched volume to sharpen and strengthen that tool….Destined to become the text of choice on this topic from a Christian perspective.” – Craig Ott, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“An excellent compilation, containing important information for Western leaders who want to serve internationally with cultural intelligence.” – David Livermore, author of Cultural Intelligence

“A clear pathway for those courageous enough to rethink how we communicate in a radically changing world. The principles in this book have profoundly changed me. They will change you too.” – Stephan Bauman, president and CEO, World Relief

“This book brings the discussion of intercultural communication up to date and provides assistance for struggling communicators….Highly recommended.” – J. Mark Terry, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary


A. Scott Moreau (DMiss, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate academic dean and professor of intercultural studies at Wheaton College Graduate School.

Evvy Hay Campbell (PhD, Michigan State University) is associate professor of intercultural studies emerita at Wheaton College and lives in Flushing, Michigan.

Susan Greener (PhD, University of Illinois, Urbana) is associate professor of intercultural studies at Wheaton College.

For more information on Effective Intercultural Communication, click here.