NEWS9 Special Assignment: Millennials and church

According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are going to church less often than any other age group.

According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are going to church less often than any other age group.

Millennials. You may think you know them, but do you?

The term refers to those born beginning in the 1980s to the early 2000s.

Known as internet-crazed, more open-minded, and also according to recent studies, less religious compared to other generations.

When's the last time you attended church?

Maybe never, but if you have recently, you may have noticed a major change in the demographics of parishioners.

According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are going to church less often than any other age group.

“Now that I'm in college, even if I wanted to go, I don’t really have the time," said 20-year-old Stephen Dougherty.

Some millennials say they are too busy with work, school and daily responsibilities.

“I hate to use work and school as an excuse, but I think life kind of catches you," said 24-year-old Brittany Dunn.

The absence of millennials is apparent.

One reason: the change of the family structure. Now, both parents work full-time jobs, resulting in less time together.

"The parents get home, they're tired, cranky, it's like do this, do that. The older kids, you got your cell phones on, tablet going, there's no interaction within the family," said Jeff Kent, minister, Shadyside Church of Christ.

Kent has seen quite a change in attendance over the years.

Bobbyjon Bauman dedicates his life to youth ministry, and is also the founder and president of the Ohio Valley Youth Network.

“Parents don’t typically have their children go to confirmation or youth group as much as they used to,” Bauman said. “They usually are more involved in sports and that kind of overtakes the importance of church.”

“There is so much more demand made by the schools and availability of activities, and the kids want to be involved, and we're not saying those are bad, but it seems like the parents can't say no, they let the kids do everything they want," Kent said.

Kent believes there has to be a balance between religion and everything else in life, including work, relationships and hobbies.

"What is life about?” Kent asked. “We seem to have lost focus, finding the Lord, finding the joy and serving the lord Jesus rather than just having fun."

Students at West Liberty University told us where their priorities lie.

On a scale of 1-10 to determine how religious they say they are, 21-year-old Sam Harris said he was a 1.

Elissabeth Parsons, 23, said she was a 7, as did 19-year-old Calesha Williamson.

Not one person answered with a "10," meaning very religious.

Bauman believes that's due to a lack of education.

“This generation is one of the first that hasn't been taught the Christian faith,” Bauman said. “They don’t know it well enough I guess to embrace it in its fullness."

Many millennials try to find reason within themselves instead.

“I'm not always certain there is a God, but sometimes I do find myself praying, like oh if there is a higher being up there, help me out," Dougherty said.

Dougherty is struggling with his belief in god after mass shootings, recent hurricanes and terrorist attacks.

“Other times it's like you look at the world, all the problems and you're like, ‘would a god really let all this happen?’"

“If there were no God, where would the good come from?” Kent asked. “Because there is a lot of good in the world, and you can find it if you look for it. "

But not all millennials are conflicted. Some say attending church is the first item on their to-do list, giving them a sense of community.

“Being around another structure of believers, who also have that hope, who encourage and reassure you, just helps me get through a lot of stuff," said Tiana Knowlton

For millennials, it's about who they are attending church with. And are they embracing them for who they are?

“They aren’t as focused on doctrine and right beliefs,” Bauman said. “They are more focused on relationships with other people, and that's where I think the church has fallen short. They haven't built those relationships with the kids."

Bauman believes the church needs to find ways to be more interactive with the community. It’s something the Shadyside Church of Christ is doing with an online blog and podcast.

Kent says the church can only do so much to engage millennials. Everyone has a choice.

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