On June 26, 2015, The United States Supreme Court reached their landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage. While many of my Christian friends took to their social media bullhorns in protest, I saw the ruling as an opportunity for the church to realign its focus and actually be the church. Like it or not, the LGBT community has been willing to fight for an institution that many Millennial heterosexuals have completely abandoned, even within the church. For better or worse, Christians have spent years making it their business to be the moral police of the world, but unfortunately, we forgot to look within our own community and see the painful truth that we too have begun to abandon marriage. As a part of the Millennial generation, we look at the world bit differently than previous generations. My generation that has grown up in a postmodern era where truth is relative, morals are personal, ethics are subjective, and religion is seen more often as farce than fact. Millennials do not view the church as THE major influence, voice and conscience in society and is waving its middle finger at the steeple.
As the church hangs their head in defeat due to the SCOTUS ruling, I believe that we have a bigger issue on our hands: Preserving and sustaining the sanctity of the institution of covenant marriage. Now is the time that the church must shift the conversation from what they are against to what they are for. From the beginning of time, the church has been for marriage. The church must seize the moment to prepare, equip, encourage and engage the next generation of couples for strong marriages that reflect the beauty of the Gospel before it is too late.
Why should the church care about marriage and Millennials?
For the past decade, our nation has been fighting to defend, define, or re-define marriage. However, the societal institution of marriage itself has become increasingly seen as obsolete and irrelevant in today’s culture, particularly among Millennials. Marriage provides society with the building blocks for a healthy, stable, supportive long-term environment for the family and the church to thrive. Sadly, Millennials are losing faith in marriage so much so that 1/4 of all Millennials say that they will never marry. More than 40 percent of Millennials believe that the “till death do us part” vow should be abolished from weddings vows altogether. More than half (53 percent) of children born to Millennial women today are born outside of marriage and these same women believe that marriage is unnecessary to raising children in a healthy environment. Given the high percentage of Millennials reared in divorced households, it is easy for them to fall into the lie that being a good parent is a higher priority than having a successful and committed marriage. What the Millennial generation does not does seem to understand is that a key to being a good parent is having a successful and committed marriage. The truth is that children who are born to a single parent home have more than a 3 out 4 chance of living in poverty. As more and more Millennials choose not to get married, Middle America is becoming smaller and the lower class is becoming larger. Those born to fragmented families are increasingly likely to repeat their parents’ patterns and to experience the heartache, hardship, and risks that result (violence, prison, under-educated…etc.). If the perception of marriage does change for the Millennial generation, than marriage is on its way to extinction. If the church was devastated over the same-sex marriage ruling, than imagine a culture where marriage among heterosexuals is non-existent. Here is where the church comes in and can make a difference from the inside out! I believe that the local church can strategically change the perception of marriage by making the health of marriage and family a top priority in the local body.
In light of all of this, how can the church relevantly engage its future when it comes to marriage? Marriage is a perfect reflection of the gospel and when the church seeks to restore marriage as a covenant union, the folks who have redefined marriage will end up disappointed because it lacks the “holy” part of matrimony. Here are five practical steps Pastors and church leaders can take that will help change the perception of marriage for Millennials:
- Model the Beauty of Marriage. Did you know that church leaders are in the modeling business? Your role is to model a Godly (not perfect) marriage in an authentic way that changes the negative perception that Millennials have towards marriage. This means that you must make YOUR marriage a priority by investing in your spouse. Take your spouse on dates, romance the heart, leave sweet notes, clean the kitchen (we call that Chore-play in our house) and keep falling in love and pursuing your spouse.
- Remind us that SEX is awesome! Another way to approach marriage that can help change Millennials perception is by having genuine conversations about sex and sexuality that embodies grace and truth. Sex has been perverted in the world and ignored in the church. The church needs to talk about sex! God designed sex to be holy, pure and intimate not perverted, dirty and disingenuous. If the church does not lead in the conversation about sex than the world will.
- Approach marriage Holistically: Most importantly, changing Millennials perception of marriage starts with healing from the inside out. Think about it: 50 percent of Millennials come from divorced homes, which cause many to be simply repelled and fearful of the institution. Churches today can create a safe community that models Godly marriages and relationships that bring healing where there is brokenness. The church should begin working with young couples as soon as love blooms while they are dating or engaged. Millennials value mentorship making it a great opportunity for the leaders to guide, support and equip these couples for successful marriages. We have seen religion fail to keep marriages together, but when there is a community of support and open communication, marriage and Godly relationships can thrive.
The church must seize the moment to prepare, equip and encourage the next generation of couples for strong marriages because families matter, marriage matters, and the church can lead the way.
Jennifer Murff is the President of Millennials for Marriage. Murff is a candidate for the Doctorate of Strategic Leadership with an emphasis on strategic foresight focusing on Millennials and the future of marriage at Regent University’s School of Business and Leadership.
 Luscombe, Belinda. (2014). Why 25% of Millennials will Never Get Married. TIME. http://time.com/3422624/report-millennials-marriage/
 Bennett, Jessica. (2014). The Beta Marriage: How Millennials Approach ‘I Do’. TIME Magazine. http://time.com/3024606/millennials-marriage-sex-relationships-hook-ups/
 DeParle, Jason and Tavernise, Sabrina. (2012).“For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage,” New York Times http://www.ny- times.com/2012/02/18/us/for-women-under-30-most-births-occur-outside- marriage.html?pagewanted=all
 Wang, Wendy & Taylor, Paul. (2011). For Millennials, Parenthood Trumps Marriage. Pew Social & Demographic Trends. http://tony-silva.com/eslefl/miscstudent/downloadpagearticles/childrenmarriage-pew.pdf
 McGuire, Ashley. (2014). Millennial Madness-Kids without Marriage. New York Post. http://nypost.com/2014/11/08/millennial-madness-kids-without-marriage/Google+