Organized religion has seen a steady decline in attendance and membership in recent years.
Pastor Scott Hofert of Watershed in Plaza Midwood explains some of the resistance, “I hear many people say that they believe in God or in a higher power, but they are turned off because the infrastructure is deeply broken.”
Much research shows the millennial generation as the largest growing group of the “Nones” – people unaffiliated with any religious group or belief. This has translated by some to mean that millennials are not seeking meaning or purpose in life.
Rabbi Michael Shields, an associate chaplain at Davidson College and rabbi at Temple Kol Tikvah, rejects this opinion. “It is a false assumption that Millennials are not looking for meaning and spirituality in their life,” he said. “I see it on campus; they want to make a difference in the world. Faith can be that avenue. We need to make our houses of worship radically welcoming.”
Other faith leaders in Charlotte have similar reactions. Jake Dolan, youth and family minister at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and a Millennial, explains, “We want an authentic church. We don’t want to just hear about it, we want to get out and do it.”
Social action and social justice programs like Room In the Inn for the homeless, Freedom School for underprivileged children and national and international mission trips are ways for Millennials to make a change in their world and connect with the faith community.
Rabbi Judy Schindler at Temple Beth El offers, “We are trying things outside the box to meet people where they are. Religion is not what it was 20 or 30 years ago, it’s not your father’s house of worship.”
The programs being offered are literally outside the walls of a church or synagogue. Meetings are in bars, coffee shops and members’ homes for open, group-led discussions.
Pastor Hofert firmly believes that the opportunities are there for people who want to pursue their spirituality. He says, “Church can build relationships and community and inspire change.”
A sampling of faith group meetings with a focus on social justice, service and open discussion for young adults ages 18-30:
Christ Lutheran Church – Adult Programs
Elevation Church – eGroups
Myers Park Baptist Church – Young Adult Ministry
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church – Beer & Bible
Temple Beth El – Jolt of Judaism, Book Club, Talmud
Temple Kol Tikvah (Lake Norman area) – Judaism Raw, Challah Making
Unitarian Universalists – Young Adult Group
Watershed – Blocs
Photo: CharlotteFive Staff