Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are defined as the group born between 1980 and 2000. The differences between Evangelical Christian Millennials and Generation X Evangelicals are great, especially with regard to their relationship with the church. Many Millennials are dissatisfied with the positions of their parents’ Evangelical churches. As a result, many are leaving the church, causing the Evangelical church to address some of their concerns. This makes me wonder, are Palestinian Evangelical Millennials leaving the Evangelical church as well?
Over the past few years, some thinkers have identified a number of reasons Western Evangelical Millennials are leaving are leaving mainstream Evangelicalism.
Substance Versus Cosmetics
Western Evangelical Millennials seek a change in substance rather than a change in style. They are drawn to traditional churches because the ancient liturgy seem unpretentious, unconcerned with being “cool,” and they find that refreshingly authentic. They are disinterested in concert-style worship, or upgrading their sound system to be more technologically savvy. They are more interested in the church’s role in social justice, poverty, human rights and gender equality.
Dos and Don’ts
Western Evangelical Millennials feel the church is more concerned about defining itself with what it is against rather than what it is advocating for. For example, an average American will identify an Evangelical Church as being against abortion or skeptical about global warming. Western Evangelical Millennials do not want to be judged based on their lifestyle. They want to experience God’s love, mercy and compassion and be part of a community that is open and embracing to everyone.
Disappointment with the Church
Western Evangelical Millennials perceive the church as hypocritical with its moral standards, especially with regard to its internal governance and divisions.  Evangelical churches are known for their numerous denominations, divisions and conflicts, and Western Evangelical Millennials want to see the church practice what it preaches about love, forgiveness, unity, and so forth. They feel the church has become a place of judgment rather than a place of refuge for sinners.
What can be said about Palestinian Evangelical Millennials (PEMs)? Do any of these trends apply to us? Based on conversations with friends and acquaintances, these trends do exist among PEMs. Some PEMs have been leaving the Evangelical church and attending traditional churches. Others are leaving because of the way churches behave towards one another, especially during times of inner conflict. With the rise of educated PEMs, we have seen many express disappointment with the church’s lack of financial accountability and transparency. Some women, who are the most educated demographic among Palestinians, struggle to stay in the church without being permitted to have any role in decision making. And most importantly, the lack of church concern for political and social issues is causing more PEMs to see the church as irrelevant.
A few questions that can help Palestinian Evangelicals determine where their community stands at the present are:
•Do PEMs return to church after they graduate from university?
•Granted we are a patriarchal society and we hold high respect for elders, are we marginalizing our young people?
•Is there room for PEMs in church leadership?
In conclusion, PEMs are experiencing withdrawal from the church, similar to their Western Evangelical Millennial counterparts. They are committed Christians on one hand, and are willing to look for meaningful fellowship somewhere else on the other hand. They are not against church as a community. They want to see their churches take up their role in being a prophetic voice that leads its people. Moreover, PEMs want their leaders to speak up about the injustices they experience. They will keep seeking community until they find it, and if we want PEMs to stay within the Evangelical church, we must consider these trends seriously and find a way to meaningfully address them.
*This is part one of a multi-part series on Palestinian Evangelical Millennials.