I am amazed that I did not leave the church as a young adult. My family was never a “church” family. Yet somehow, I am a 30-year-old millennial who not only attends church, I am about to launch one.
I did almost leave the church when I was 22, though. I struggled with depression and dealt with anger, my anxiety would rise at any moment, and I felt like my life was falling apart. And while I was involved in the church, I felt completely alone because I felt like the only one who didn’t have his life put together.
Perhaps that is the reason young adults are leaving the church in droves. Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high. The opioid crisis is getting worse and worse. And for the first time in American history, millennials are on track to be worse off financially than their parents.
Young adults are struggling with many real life issues. Yet, when they walk into our churches, they feel like they have to hide their struggles in order to fit in. It is as if “church people” are afraid to be real and honest about their struggles. We know that grace has forgiven our past, but we are still afraid of what people would think of us if we were honest about our struggles. So, we hide them from the world and in particular from other Christians. That was enough to make me want to leave the church. Like I said, I almost did. Then I met Christians who were real and honest about their struggles, and in doing so, I realized I didn’t have to leave.
Maybe it’s time to be real. Maybe it’s time we start talking about how many of us struggle with depression; about the fact that marriage is hard; about how we don’t all have it all figured out. Maybe, just maybe, young adults would come back to our churches if we were willing to be honest about our daily struggles. After all, none of us are immune to the struggles of life. When I found people willing to be honest about their struggles, I found a home in the church. And maybe if we all create that kind of space, more and more young adults will continue to stick around.