I have Millennials in every class, every day. I see them on campus. I interact with them as a professor and adviser. I train a large group of them who are entering Christian ministry. They are a unique group, but I love them with all my heart.
But what does it mean to be “spiritual but not religious?” From what I have experienced and studied about Millennials is that they do not equate religious practices (i.e., worship attendance, daily Bible reading, prayer, financial giving) with spirituality. Spirituality can stand completely on its own without any connection to church or religious rituals.
They have an independent spirituality separate from organized religion and established institutions. While some Millennials devalue those institutions, the majority, I have found, see them as neither a plus nor a minus. They are simply neutral.
Millennials might say, “Going to church could have a positive spiritual impact on my life. Or it is possible, that going to church could have a negative spiritual impact on my life.” Therefore, the church is neither a positive or a negative in their mind.
The same for daily Bible reading, being in a small group, or serving on missions. They view these things as question marks? Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing.
What I have found, however, is that when they have a positive experience, they tend to stick with it. If they have a good experience with church, they stick with that church. If they have a good experience on mission, they tend to head back out on missions. If they have a good experience with a small group, they become more committed to the small group experience.
They place their spiritual value in positive experience, not religious requirements or expectations. All the more reason to create positive experiences for Millennials in every church. They might just stick around.