How to get Millennials back to church

By Tom Quiner

I spent the first half of my life in the Episcopal church before converting to Catholicism.

While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed a link to an article written by a noted progressive Christian writer, Rachel Held Evans, who is a proud Episcopalian.

She chastised the gyrations “hip churches” go through to attract young members, whom research shows are turning their backs on organized religion.

A sampling of her argument:

“If young people are looking for congregations that authentically practice the teachings of Jesus in an open and inclusive way, then the good news is the church already knows how to do that. The trick isn’t to make church cool; it’s to keep worship weird.”

In other words, the old-fashioned approaches seem more authentic. So far, so good, although the word ‘inclusive’ is a red flag when it is used by a liberal progressive.

She continues …

“You can get a cup of coffee with your friends anywhere, but church is the only place you can get ashes smudged on your forehead as a reminder of your mortality.

You can be dazzled by a light show at a concert on any given weekend, but church is the only place that fills a sanctuary with candlelight and hymns on Christmas Eve.

You can snag all sorts of free swag for brand loyalty online, but church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a cold plunge into the water.

You can share food with the hungry at any homeless shelter, but only the church teaches that a shared meal brings us into the very presence of God.”

I found myself nodding my head. To this day, I value Episcopal liturgy, modeled as it is after Catholic liturgy.

And then she really spoke to my Catholic beliefs when she proclaimed…

“What finally brought me back, after years of running away, wasn’t lattes or skinny jeans; it was the sacraments. Baptism, confession, Communion, preaching the Word, anointing the sick — you know, those strange rituals and traditions Christians have been practicing for the past 2,000 years. The sacraments are what make the church relevant, no matter the culture or era.”

Yes, yes, I found myself saying to myself. In fact, I might have even said it aloud. Here’s a liberal writer really talking sense. But then she makes a left turn…

“My search has led me to the Episcopal Church, where every week I find myself, at age 33, kneeling next to a gray-haired lady to my left and a gay couple to my right as I confess my sins and recite the Lord’s prayer.”

The notion of Episcopal “inclusion” goes beyond inclusion and acceptance, it now means normalization and acceptance of human abortion, including partial birth abortion, homosexualtiy, and so-called gay marriage.

My Catholic Facebook friends had this to say about the article:

“Sounds about right.”

“Great read and perspective.” [Catholic priest]

“Some things to think about ? Where do you think [our parish] is at with liturgy music acceptance judgement and recruitment of new young families?”

“We can always do better.” [Catholic priest]

These responses were fair enough. I responded this way:

“The writer is an Episcopalian, as I once was. The Episcopal church has maintained liturgical tradition, but jettisoned their beliefs on sexual morality and life issues. In the last decade, their church attendance has declined by 24 percent. Other mainline Protestant churches that have bowed to the culture have seen similar declines. Cultural conformity is the kiss of death. The Catholic Church has always been counter cultural. Our “hospital doors” are open to everyone who seeks healing.”

Mainline Protestantism is doing much of of what Ms. Evans calls for. Their embrace of the culture is killing their respective denominations.

The Catholic Church calls on us to use her sacraments to heal us of us our sins, not to embrace them.

Yes, Catholic liturgy is timeless and authentic. After all, we worship just like the disciples and all the Church Fathers did. Even more, Catholic beliefs are timeless.

That’s what really counts.


  1. doctorjohn on May 8, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Want to get even more authentic check out Peter Gillquist’s book “Becoming Orthodox”.
    Your religious journey may not be over!!!

    • quinersdiner on May 8, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Dr. John, I love your passion! Thanks for writing. Always a pleasure.

  2. juwannadoright on May 9, 2015 at 8:26 am

    “If you stand for nothing you’ll settle for anything.” After many years as a communicant in the Anglican wing of the Body of Christ, I left. The reason may surprise you. It was over the then (and now) decision to ordain women to the priesthood and their consecration to the episcopacy. And that was one of the major reasons the many conservative Episcopalians left that communion. Not that I have anything against women, trust me.

    As a person who majored in Medieval History in college, I believe the influence of the Church in Europe is undeniable. The Great Schism was the most influential religious event in Christian history up to that time and had significant political implications. But the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church maintained their theologies and canonical practices with only minor divergence (the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed being perhaps one of the most important).

    If the entire Church in Ecumenical Synod were to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to include women in the presbytery, I would embrace that decision. Until then, perhaps your previous commenter, doctorjohn has a point.

    • quinersdiner on May 9, 2015 at 8:48 am

      Great perspective. Thanks for sharing it. As a side note, I think that Catholic evangelization in this country is growing and is getting more robust.

  3. Shawn Pavlik on May 11, 2015 at 10:39 am

    My church has lots of outreaches. We stand firm on the Gospel, but we also do lots of “fun” things together. Wednesday nights, we have a large Bible study called “Men’s Fraternity”, and they have cookouts and did some skeet shooting one night, etc. We also have a small coffee bar, and cafe area, but I don’t think that detracts from the mission of the church. It’s a place for people to fellowship, and I think that’s always a good thing. I belong to an evangelical church. We are all about outreach and missions and providing what is needed for each person’s spiritual needs. We still teach God’s word but do so in a contemporary setting.

    • quinersdiner on May 11, 2015 at 10:48 am

      Thanks for sharing, Shawn. God reaches people in different ways. Evangelicals are doing tremendous good through their faith.

  4. oarubio on June 6, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    As the Catholic radio network reminded us this week, the Catholic Church is not married to any age for that would make her a widow in another. Genuine Truth cannot be changed by any outside influence.