A recent Barna research report “Millennials in America: New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence” reveals that only 4% of Millennials surveyed (those born 1984–2002) have a biblical worldview. Among 18–24 year olds, that is cut in half to 2%.
That means 49 out of 50 college-age young adults will run this nation in 20 years with no biblical perspective on life, if they don’t change their foundational thinking before then.
This article offers action steps for helping your faculty and students form a biblical worldview in their disciplines of study as well as influence the marketplace of ideas where other worldviews are developed and lived out because the consequences of not doing so is too tragic to ignore.
What Do Millennials Believe?
Though most Millennials don’t even know what a worldview is or if they have one, they do have one and it is what they are relying on to form beliefs about the experiences they have and make decisions based on those beliefs.
So, to engage them in the conversation of beliefs, we need to know: what do they believe? The American Worldview Inventory 2021 published a study in the book Soul Searching, which found that 44% of Millennials believe in a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which holds that
- “God exists but remains distant from people’s lives
- “people are supposed to be good to each other (i.e., moral)
- “the universal purpose of life is being happy and feeling good about oneself
- “there are no absolute moral truths
- “God allows “good people” into Heaven
- “God places very limited demands on people”
Other worldviews that Millennials hold (based on their study) are listed in the following table (republished from page 55 of the Barna Report). Note that a biblical worldview among Millennials in this study takes last place at 9%):
Generally speaking, Millennials have made for each of themselves a personalized syncretic philosophy of life (one formed by merging pieces of multiple competing worldviews.
“The most logical way to help Millennials succeed on earth is to help them refine their worldview,” writes Barna. “Anything short of fixing their decision-making foundation will be little more than placing a band-aid on a gaping, gushing wound.”
Yet, Millennials have no idea that they are wounded. Instead, they are the most likely generation to advocate for their worldview in the public square. Within the month prior to the Barna survey, one-third had participated in a protest, march, or rally and 44% had tried to persuade someone outside their family to adopt their beliefs.
Contrast that to conservative Christians, who Barna says, “are among the least likely adults in America to discuss major political and social issues because they do not know what the Bible teaches about the issues of the day. Such ignorance defiles the nation—and is a disgrace to our churches.”
Moreover, in thousands of Christian classrooms around the nation, students turn in essays, discussion questions, and other projects rich with biblical truth and worldview insights that sadly end their life cycle on the professor’s desk or inbox.
What can administrators and professors of the next generation of Christian leaders do to equip their students with a biblical worldview that makes a difference in the syncretic world of ideas they are immersed in?
The good news is that 41% of Millennials have a mostly to very positive view of the Bible, they just don’t know its contents. So, there is potential here to plant seeds in somewhat prepped soil.
Here is a three-step action plan built upon George Barna’s “Personal Response” to the research findings (pp. 66-80 of his report).
Action Step 1: Teach Biblical Worldview Awareness to Faculty and Students
“Increase public awareness and understanding about the basics of worldview (e.g., what it is, how it develops, why it matters, how it changes) and the numerous worldview alternatives that people, often unknowingly, are choosing from,” writes Barna.
We can’t assume that our Christian college students (or faculty) hold a biblical worldview or that they even know what it is any more than the average Millennial in a secular college. They may have also merged ideas of the world into ideas they’ve heard from pastors and teachers. Therefore, they might not realize the filters they are using to interpret experiences, form beliefs about those experiences, and make decisions on those beliefs.
So, we must begin this public awareness of biblical and other worldviews within the body of Messiah, in our Christian schools.
Start by sending the Barna research report to your faculty to discuss its findings at a faculty meeting. The report will help them understand what concerns and beliefs Millennials have and the need to equip their students with a solid biblical integration to address those concerns.
Provide your faculty with solid resources to help them integrate a biblical worldview into their teaching. Here are just a few books to consider:
- General worldview concepts:
Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, by James W. Sire
The Essentials of Christian Thought: Seeing Reality Through the Biblical Story, by Roger E. Olson
Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change, by Paul G. Hiebert
Politics According to the Bible, by Wayne Grudem
Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, by J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig
- General worldview concepts:
Action Step 2: Assign Worldview Engagement Opportunities
Once faculty understand how a biblical worldview underlies the discipline they teach, they are ready to help their students understand it and live it.
To this end, what if one portion of a grading rubric required students to share their work outside of class in appropriate and relevant venues?
Another portion of the rubric would ask students to discuss those experiences with each other. This will allow students to receive wisdom, resources, and other support from their peers and teacher. That support will encourage students to stay engaged in the biblical worldview conversation not only while in school but hopefully for a lifetime.
Below are four worldview assignment ideas to spark the academic imagination of your faculty in developing classwork tailored to their fields of study and which are relevant to Millennials today.
A. Greater financial comfort/ease is the greatest change Millennials desire (38%).
Millennials are living with parents well into their twenties and thirties, often as a result of massive student debt and a lack of sufficient income. Without absolute moral standards of right and wrong guiding their decisions, they are more likely to engage in unbiblical practices to better their financial situation.
The Barna Report found that, for example, “Millennials are less likely than any of the other three adult generations to claim that they keep the promises they make or to repay a loan.” Barna explains this is partly a result of not respecting others as made in the image of God, having intrinsic value as human beings.
Financial Worldview Engagement Assignment
More than asking students what the Bible says about repaying loans, it is more helpful to ask students to articulate the principal / reasoning behind the rule so that they will be capable of sharing this underlying belief with others.
Then have students write a short story or find a contemporary anecdote that illustrates this biblical principle. Have students search for appropriate forums and venues where they can post this story. Sharing a story rather than direct preaching will likely be far more impactful and memorable.
B. Developing better, deeper friendships is the second greatest change Millennials desire (28%).
However, Baran writes,
It is exceedingly difficult to build positive, lasting, love-based relationships without recognizing that human life has intrinsic value; that every human being deserves respect because they were created by God, in His likeness, for His purposes; and that tolerating divergent approaches to life is a prerequisite to seeing the lovable facets of others (without necessarily accepting those choices that are inappropriate).
When any of us do not hold to biblical ideals regarding relationships, we will likely develop only superficially satisfying friendships and love interests (because we don’t really know what love is) as we move from relationship to relationship.
Friendship Worldview Engagement Assignment:
Assign a project in which students write about their intrinsic value to God and the intrinsic value of one of their friends. Have them also write about the nature of brotherly love and how that shared value and love helped them resolve a conflict and/or deepen their bond to one another.
Have students find a forum thread in which friendships are being discussed and enter the discourse sharing these personal insights and experiences on friendship.
C. Three out of four Millennials are seeking their life purpose.
Most Millennials believe that purpose is found in pursuing happiness, meaningful dialogue, acts of kindness, and in the idea that “life is about me.” We can reach them on this issue by finding common ground, as Barna notes:
“People who seek to intensely live for and with God more often experience high levels of life fulfillment in life. Among the lessons they often divulge from their journey is the importance of giving rather than receiving. The data from this study confirms that most Millennials are open, if not enthusiastic, about serving others, so helping them to find their true purpose and to experience deeper meaning by blessing others has tremendous potential.”
Life Purpose Worldview Engagement Assignment:
Invite secular school groups to engage in service projects together. Introduce them to the biblical worldview reason for engaging in service: treating others like you want to be treated, loving others as the second greatest commandment, Jesus’s command to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, show hospitality to a stranger, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, as if we were doing it to Jesus Himself.
Since 59% of Millennials have a favorable view of Jesus, this dialogue is one way to spark their spirit to really know Jesus and the deeper things of God. And 14% say they do want to have a deeper relationship with God, even though they don’t know the God of Israel, of the Bible. So, there really is tremendous potential here.
D. Experiencing the Bible with Creative Arts Projects
Some coursework, especially in the arts and humanities, lend themselves to uniquely creative expressions of the Bible, which as noted, 41% of Millennials hold a positive view of.
Out of sheer boredom during the pandemic (not a class project), Abby Schank, second-year student and English major at Grace College in Winona, MN is changing the experience of how many Millennials interact with the Bible. She is meeting kids and young adults at their current spiritual level by producing bite-sized Bible stories on Tik Tok with wit and winsomeness, such as “Moses, when his mother left him in the river” (3.1 million views) and “Adam looking for his missing rib” (17k views).
She said, “Growing up, I was always a little bored in church because it just seemed very serious, very by the book. I thought I could make learning about the Bible a lot of fun.”(1)
As some Millennials experience the Bible in this new way, they become more open to learning about its contents. Abby says as a result of her videos, many people ask her how to get closer to God or how to pray, and she does pray with them. Once they begin the conversation with her, she is able to share her biblical worldview in a deeper, more meaningful dialogue.
Though she’s not very active on YouTube, below is a video showcasing one of her own biblical worldview engagement projects:
Find Abby on Tik Tok @abby_was_bored with over 200k followers.
Action Step 3: “Live Like Christ”
With 24% of Millennials having a negative view of Christianity as a religion and most do not know God in any meaningful way, it is up to Christians to show Millennials their intrinsic worth to God by genuinely caring about them and demonstrating that we care “in practical and tangible ways.”
Initially this might mean showing an appreciation of their admirable qualities (i.e., character) and individual strengths. We can confidently assume that they have heard enough about being snowflakes, slackers, narcissists, entitled, shallow, whiners, and self-centered. . . . Providing a loving and healing presence represents not only a biblical worldview in action, but will also have a dynamic positive influence on them considering the value of living God’s way.”
In other words, love them.
Jesus followers no longer have the luxury of keeping our faith to ourselves as we’ve been told to do at least since the sexual revolution of the 1960s. That’s how our Millennials got into the moral mess and theological confusion they are in.
As a result of our continued absence, Barna outlines a future nation led by Millennials who hold to primarily progressive, liberal, Marxist, and/or other nonbiblical worldviews:
- Government will expand its reach in order to create a more desirable society according to the beliefs of the prevailing worldviews of the time.
- However, there will be less predictable and consistent public and private policies because of the variety of syncretistic worldviews held by leaders.
- Political and worldview tensions will increase, resulting in episodes of violence and mayhem (as seen in the riots and municipal takeovers during the summer of 2020). Laws will likely be rewritten to support liberal and progressive ideals and those who espouse them, while penalizing those who hold to biblical worldview positions.
- The Christian community will become even less socially influential, less financially robust, and find themselves in more legal challenges in a system that does not hold to fundamentally Christian worldviews.
- Interpersonal relationships will become more difficult to sustain due to the lack of moral consensus among worldviews, increased reliance on technology, and lack of respect and dignity for human life.
- The family unit will be reshaped to reflect the greater ideals of cohabitation over marriage, fewer or no children per couple, and liberalized sexual morality.
The Barna report reveals that a person’s worldview develops even before teenhood and is refined during their 20s: “Without intentional and consistent recasting, it is unlikely that their worldview will change significantly during a person’s lifetime.”
The good news is that 15 million adults (6%) do have a biblical worldview, and that is enough to make a difference in the future of our students’ personal lives and the future of our nation. Christian college teachers and administrators are an integral part of this effort.