Would your church pass the test of being a Millennial Church? We’ve all heard something about millennials, some good, some bad. I am one of them, and believe me, I’ve heard it all. We are obsessed with technology and social media, selfies, and individualism. Education rates in America are increasing but for some reason church attendance is falling. Young people are leaving, and it’s a sad trend. A recent study by Barna Group found that only two out of every ten people under the age of thirty believe church attendance is important. When asked, millennials often say the reasons they don’t attend church have to do with hypocrisy, not feeling they can bring their doubts in, and the overall sense that God is missing in the church.
So what is it that millennials are looking for? Why are some churches successful in attracting this generation and others are not? Here’s a list of five things that young people find important and engaging in a Millennial church.
1. Genuineness in the Millennial Church
We’re tired of hearing “feel-good” messages without real, lasting substance. Having a pastor and team of leaders speaking about the gospel with wisdom and discernment brings God and his Word to life.
Francis Chan summed it up in Crazy Love like this, “Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it? It’s crazy if you think about it. The God of the universe – the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and e-minor – loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not…we all know something’s wrong.”
This is the attitude and rut so many churches get stuck in that is not attractive to millennials. It’s conviction and honesty that young people are looking for in a church; genuineness about God’s word and genuineness toward other people. They want to find a place that not only emphasizes the love and sacrifice of God, but the real relationship with Him and how it applies to their lives. Church shouldn’t just be a place to go on Sunday that will give us a boost and make us feel good about ourselves. It should be a place that people can be real, open, and honest while studying the Bible and trying to look more like Jesus.
2. A sense of home
When reading through Acts, the church looks a lot like a family. God has adopted us as his sons and daughters. So why do we not always welcome everyone into our churches with open arms? Millennials are looking for a place that they feel comfortable, welcomed, and not judged, a place that they can be themselves and not hide behind the mask we all so easily can put on.
Our parents influence us far more than we often realize. Whether they were there for you through thick and thin, or your dad walked out on your family, these things shape us. So many millennials have been greatly affected by divorce or strife in their family. The great thing about God is that he can help overcome these seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We are looking for a place with relationships and restoration that maybe have been missing in our actual family. God can rectify this, but young people want and need churches that have open doors and smiling faces, filled with love and compassion.
3. Opportunities to get involved and serve outside of the church
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
In a society and generation where it seems that people are more focused on themselves than ever, Christian millennials are embracing the concept of missions and serving. With more and more opportunities to engage in short-term mission trips, either overseas or within the United States, young people are stepping up and accepting this call. Getting more involved in their communities helps form connections with church members and brings a sense of fulfillment of God’s will. Churches that offer outlets of serving and ministry are not only living Biblically, but are enticing millennial involvement as well.
Even though sometimes our generation thinks we know it all, in reality we need and want spiritual guidance and wisdom from others. Having a community of believers that is diverse both in age and background not only makes everyone feel welcome, it is Biblical. A passage of scripture that we hear all the time talks about the different members of our body and how they work together to create us. The Millennial church is the same way, with each person bringing their unique, individual self to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-30). Young and old, rich and poor, black and white all are a part of God’s Kingdom. This is appealing to millennials because of the increasingly globalized, diverse world and society we live in. We want to get outside of our little bubble of people just like us and get to hear about the experiences of others.
5. Worship and music
This may sound trivial, but the musical aspect of worship services is a huge “make it or break it” for millennials. When you walk in to a worship service for the first time, after you make it past the greeters and coffee stand, the first thing you hear (hopefully besides welcoming voices) is music. As a generalization, young people prefer contemporary services with a band and music that is fresh and well-done. The music is often the thing that stands out the most when remembering what a service was like. Songs are powerful when they speak directly to the heart and for this generation, that’s one of the most important aspects of church. Millennials want high-quality worship music that offers more than just a good foot-tapping beat, but delves into the gritty nature of the human heart.
This generation is looking for a real experience of coming face-to-face with God and His purpose. Learning and loving the true nature of God will look different for everyone, but it’s our job as Christians to share and show what He is like to all generations.
What are other ways to attract and involve the millennials in your community?