By: Art Hobba– At seven o’clock every Thursday morning about ten of us, all good friends, meet together over our Bibles and coffee. We come to share life and Scripture together as disciples in training and as a squad of Warriors. Over the years, we have learned to break the seal of isolation with each other. However, even with our group, it is rare to hear a guy talk about his son’s vibrant faith, or share of a deep spiritual connection he and his son have together.
The reality is that most guys are embarrassed about this subject. There is an elephant sized hole here, and we know it. Too many Boomer Dads have been hamstrung when it comes to passing on the DNA of faith to their millennial sons. Millennials are missing from men’s gatherings and in the church overall.
In Part One I left off with some questions:
Q: How is this generation different from the Baby Boomers? Why have so many Millennials left the church? Is there an answer to getting them back?
I always had an agenda when I met with each of my sons. I thought they needed my wisdom, both practical and biblical. Often, they quietly endured my lectures, perhaps due to a free lunch. If I caught them on a tough day, I’d trigger sarcasm, or worse.
One day my youngest couldn’t take it anymore and barked out, “Stop trying to control me! You can’t even take care of your own life. Try focusing on that, and leave me alone.”
After the shock and anger, I was left with feelings of bewilderment, guilt and failure. Had I lost him? Had he walked away from his faith? When I took it to God, he brought to mind how Jesus. “humbled himself, taking on the form of a slave,” Immediately, I knew his issue was not with God, it was with his Dad. I had to drop my agenda and take stock. Is just loving these young men who share my name, and being there for them enough? I started this first part of this new journey on my hands and knees.
If we missed the chance when they were younger, there is no reason to think it’s too late. You may be an X Gen’er or Millennial reading this. You too can try to build bridges. After all, we are all just guys looking for a safe place to be loved and respected by other guys.
Below are some more demographic factoids about Millennials. Keep in mind these are not true for all Millennials, so let’s resist the tendency to label.
- There are over 50 million of you in the US, the largest generation in US history . . . by far
- You are the smartest generation of all time — and the most educated
- You believe in the power of team versus solo. Heroism is for videogames
- The vast majority of you believe in God
- You want to be coached.
- You are the most untrusting generation ever. A part of why that happened is next.
There’s no place like home
There are many reasons why many of our Millennials lost trust. These are but a few. See if you recognize yourself in any of the scenarios below as seen through their eyes:
You had parents (or a parent) who worked hard to get you the best things in life. Many of you were put into multiple sports at the age of 6, or some other group activity. You Dad and most moms worked outside the home. Single moms or dads had to double down or their kids got left behind. Maybe you did.
Your Dad often seemed stuck in neutral, spiritually, it was as if they had disengaged from the arena to the grandstands. Maybe he knew the handshake and dressed like a Jesus fan, but he wasn’t a sold out disciple. For many, you started the realize Dad’s job became their Idol, requiring long hours and, ultimately, child sacrifice, in order to achieve the American Dream.
Due to a wide-open Internet, many minds were invaded by predatory pornography. You got hit before they were 10 and another “Elephant” arrived in the home. Dads got hooked too, but you didn’t know it.
Teenage boys found it too painful to bear the hypocrisy of pretending that all was well in their walk with Christ, when it was not. They slept in. Many experimented with drugs to mask the pain. Consciences were seared as the whisper of the Spirit became inaudible. Few Dads and fewer sons ever talked about it, and their private secrets gained power away from the light of confession. Is this flesh-ride what it means to be a man?
Compromised, our boys began watch the faith of their Boomer Dad in action, and his friends. Aside from some genuine godly examples, they saw us get drunk (one glass too many??) and half of us divorce, most splitting over money pressures or bitter unforgiveness. Today, on any given Sunday, only 7% of American men went to church. The percentage of young Millennials is far lower. They knew something was terribly wrong, and they determined in their young hearts that when they grew up, it would not happen to them.
Many young men grope in the dark for what it means for them to be a real man. My son took a class at Cal State on Masculinity . . .the course was taught out of the Department of Women’s Studies.
It’s on the elder to build the bridge to the younger
The blight of eroded trust between the generations was involuntarily gouged into the hearts of many impressionable boys who have now become men. A third of these young men in our country didn’t have a Dad in their home. Many of them today have a desperate hunger for some man they can trust. That Millennial man may be your son or not, but more often than not, they are looking for a man like our Father in heaven who is content to sit with us and just abide, and hang out together. I’m getting better at doing that with my sons.
“In Him we live and breathe and have our being“ – Acts 17:28
We will look at some ideas and Scripture in Parts Three and Four. In the meantime, tell us your story.
Read the Series
Art Hobba has written 5 books and 3 years of Men’s Discipleship Curricula, and is the founder of Core 300, a 501c3 organization. Also, Art frequently speaks at churches, pastor’s conferences and men’s events. He is also Managing Principal of Transcende, which provides Business Transformation for organizations. He lives with his wife, Sharon, and together they have 5 grown sons and one grandson. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
 Philippians 2:7
 The Barna Group