Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles in our Midst

Taking a Closer Look at Once Church-Going Millennial

Thankfully many young adults have a growing faith and a strong connection with their church.  However, there is a growing trend that many of us have observed and recent polls by Gallop, UC-Berkley and Duke University and Barna confirm:  a growing number of Millennials (age 18-29 years old) who once attended church are either claiming no religious affiliation, dropping out of regular church attendance or are attending less regularly. 

Who are these young adults in our midst and how do we best care for them, as they struggle with their faith and consequently their relationship to the church?  One way is to gain a bit more insight into the various paths these young adults took to arrive at the point where their faith and/or church are no longer a priority.

Author, David Kinnaman, in his book You Lost Me,  considered the answers given by these once church-going Millennials and deduced that they generally travelled along one of three spiritual journeys.  The three travelers are - nomads, prodigals and exiles. 

Nomads – Consider themselves Christians, but have trouble identifying with a church or a particular “brand” of Christianity.  They “love Jesus, but not the church;” they appear to be wanderers, but claim they retain their faith. 

Prodigals – Have lost their faith and are fairly certain they will never return to the Christian faith. They often express having some kind of intellectual change or emotional injury, leading to their long-term dismissal of the Christian faith. 

Exiles – They chose to remain in the institutional church; however, they have a tough time finding a place in the church setting.  They struggle to find a way to connect their everyday life with their faith and the church. 

Think about the young adults in your life who you haven’t seen at church for a while.  What path may have led them to drift away from the church?  Do you think they might be a Nomad, Prodigal or Exile? 

If you have someone in mind, instead of an invitation to a church event, meet them for coffee sometime soon.  Consider asking a few open ended questions concerning:  their faith, Jesus, the church, intellectual concerns, emotional injuries, or connecting faith with their passions, career and relationships.  This journey will likely take more than one cup of coffee or one visit to the coffee house.  In following the call to “Go into all the World” we may end up venturing into the world of Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles.

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Dan Boles on Oct 4, 2013 8:39am

Great post Susan. Thanks for encouraging the church to go into all the world and get to know these amazing young adults. Their curiosity, intelligence, zeal, and passion will most likely be a surprising source of renewal for many!