Angry Millennials? Why did Pastors.com publish such a misleading article?

the-hulk-avengersPastors.com, owned by Rick Warren, recently posted an article claiming that research indicated that Millennials are angry. Sorry Rachel Held Evans and the 18 other folks that posted recently about Millennials…the truth is that they are just angry. The article then outlines 10 ways how to attract angry Millennials to your church, citing that research.

I’m not here to debate the topic of “are Millennials angry?” Rather, I am here to show how mistreatment of source material leads to a really shaky article.

The article is entitled “10 Ways To Create Churches Angry Millennials Love To Attend.” I was suspicious of the Pastors.com article because it linked to the website where the source material was found, not to the actual article. After some digging, here’s the source article. I guess a “pastor’s website” had a problem linking to an article with a good amount of cussing in it. Or perhaps, as we will see, because the source material had nothing to do with the Pastors.com article.

The problem is that the 10 points that article author Brian K. Dodd outlines are not actually claimed by the practitioner who says “Millennial are angry.” The actual article is an interview with two practitioners, only one of whom claims “Millennials are angry.” Indeed, if you cut out all the bullet points that are included by the non-angry practitioner, then there’s barely anything left:

  • #1 is just an assertion that ends with “Keep reading” so it is more of a section introduction than a bullet point.
  • #2, #3, and #4 are outlined by one practitioner (who says Millennials are filled with rebellion, optimism, and empathy) and then wholly discredited by Nancy Lublin, CEO of Something.org (who says Millennials are angry). Lublin actually says “I don’t think the kids we work with give a **** about some of those awesome principles.” If you are going to claim “angry Millennials” as the focus, you can’t include the section that was denounced by the practitioner claiming Millennials are angry.
  • #5, #6, and #10 are the only points made directly by Lublin.
  • #7 “different types of organizational positions” shows the true error of the article: Lublin is NOT the one who claims these things. Those are being claimed by the other practioner Umair Haque, director of Havas Media Labs, who–get this–doesn’t claim that Millennials are angry.
  • #8 “given latitude to act” is a claim by Haque, not Lublin.  In fact, Lublin discredits that claim the very next paragraph by saying “Those things don’t really matter if we’re still all buying stuff based on other factors.” Sigh.
  • #9 “Dumb consumption” is a claim by Haque, not by Lublin, in direct contradiction to a quote by Lublin.

In short, article author Dodd in the “Ten Ways” article claims “Millennials are angry” and then references sections from the whole source article to support such a statement. However, as shown above, only 30% of the Top 10 are actually from the person making the “Millennials are angry” claim. An astounding 40% are actually refuted by the person making the “Millennials are angry” claim. That’s really shoddy treatment of the source material.

I am all about interpreting business or non-profit wisdom and expertise for use by churches. We ought not stick our heads in the sand and groan. As John Wesley put it, we ought to “plunder the Egyptians” to benefit the church. I am thankful for such research and use it myself in my context, so I’m all for it.

However, I am not for flattening a debate between two practitioners into a single narrative of “how to reach angry Millennials” when the narrative does not treat the intent or the text of the practitioners with integrity. And it bothers me that Pastors.com would greenlight an article to shamelessly hop on the “Millennials” bandwagon without following through on the source checking.

Perhaps someday soon we’ll need a Snopes.com that not only fact-checks those warm-hearted stories from the pulpit but also the claims made by websites that support pastors as well? Sigh.

Thoughts?

HULK SMASH POOR SOURCE TREATMENT

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Comments

  1. Karl Kroger says

    Oo Oo!
    Theological and ecclesial snopes… I love it! At least on my, we are following a different Jesus days. I’ve got a few quotes from pastors to get us started.

    On my Body of Christ days, maybe this wouldn’t be sucha hot idea.

  2. Stephen says

    Source?

    You mean like we have to actually do research and stuff before we say something on the internet?

    Surely you are joking.

  3. Amy says

    Thank you for finding the facts. I appreciate your effort. But here’s the disheartening truth- no one cares. You can lay out facts and nowadays- people just don’t care. They would rather keep believing what they want to believe. I don’t understand it, but I see it all the time. Recently when I posted something on facebook that dispelled some silly internet rumor, I had a fellow churchmember respond “I don’t care if it isn’t the truth. It sounds like something that would happen.” Really? Is this what we’re coming to? The truth may set you free, but believing lies let you stay in your little bubble of ignorance.

  4. Tom Cullens says

    So, are you angry?

    I am. When you pointed out that the site is designed to support pastors, I saw the horror in this shoddy usage of reference material. Pastor’s and churches have a tremendous influence on how many believe and act, so providing pastors misleading information has an incredible ripple affect. Especially coming from Rick Warren.

  5. says

    This kind of rhetoric only creates more division. It’s (kinda) my field as a late-gen millennial, and the top ten list here isn’t a bad list … But the term ‘angry’ isn’t an accurate descriptor of the generation. And in what way is describing as an entire generation as angry supposed to motivate churches to reach that generation? Our churches are angry enough, by and large, so why try to get more angry in?

    I think a better descriptor would be ‘hopeful’.

    It’s just not a helpful way to frame the discussion on Pastors.com. This is how you alienate people.

  6. Daniel says

    Thanks for the article. I had not visited pastors.com in quite some time. However, your research here simply reinforces the maligning description of “evangelicals” such as Dodd as failing to exercise rigorous thought in writing and research. Sigh.

  7. says

    For everyone’s enjoyment, here’s two comments from Pastors.com article:

    DTaniel • Thanks to Hacking Christianity (http://hackingchristianity.net) for directing me here. I hope pastors.com learns from this article of poor citation, research, and interpretation to better vet their authors.
    I had not visited pastors.com in quite some time. However, this article here simply reinforces the maligning description of “evangelicals” such as Dodd by failing to exercise rigorous thought in writing and research. Sigh.
    To get the real scoop, read the article he references then butchers here:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/301

    Brandon A. Cox, Moderator • As a Moderator and a Pastor, it seems to me you’ve criticized Brian for drawing ten very simple conclusions about how to reach a generation of people about which there is plenty of research, but no universally accepted conclusions. Brian wasn’t giving ten tips from the original authors but ten applications built upon some of their observations. I chose to run Brian’s article and I stand by my choice.

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