Transforming not dying
Review: Stained Glass Millennials by Rob Lee
The church is transforming, not dying. Millennials are done with the institution, not the church.
Those are the themes explored in the Rev. Rob Lee’s book released last year Stained Glass Millennials, which details how religious institutions can engage millennials, defined by Lee as people between the ages 18 and 36.
Lee, a Statesville North Carolina native and millennial himself, is a student at Duke University Divinity School and writes a regular column for their regular publication Record & Landmark.
“Unfortunately, over the past 50 years, the church has become this big empire, this big institution,” Lee said in an interview recently with Record and Landmark.
“Millennials flee from institutions. That doesn’t mean they’re out of the realm of the church.”
Lee said the millennial generation values authenticity and vulnerability. He said that people want to see the church survive, but sometimes survival means that it has to adapt and move into the reality that God has for us.
The church, Lee said, has spent much of its history as an empire, when Jesus himself fought actively against empires. Huge infrastructure and grand procedures can be healthy and inspiring, but they can also marginalize groups along society’s fringes, he said.
Moving past the institution provides millennials with a seat at the table and the knowledge that their voices are valued. The easiest way to do this, Lee said, is by reaching out to someone to ask a millenial to share their views on the church over a cup of coffee. This may seem a bit like 20th century communications, Lee explains that like all people millennials value face to face relationships too, and that there is power in an invitation to share views.
“We can no longer self-reflect as a church,” Lee reflected. “The church is declining — in numbers, finances, everything — if we’re willing to reach out to people who we’ve initially shunned and say ‘You’re welcome here,’ there might be a place where we can say God has a plan and is restoring the church through millennials.”
Lee also sees the decline of the Church in the western world as not something to bemoan, but an opportunity to reset and try something. We are people of the resurrection after all.