7 Keys to Reaching Millennials

How to reverse the trend of young people leaving the church.

The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

I was a part of a church plant built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We were amazed at the number of young people we reached. Defying statistics.

I’ve now updated this post because we are currently in a growing, revitalized, established church and—amazingly—our fastest growing group is the millennial generation. Again, defying statistics.

It must be more than structure or age of church—or even style of worship.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few things—and these are the things that regardless of type of church have remained true.

Here are seven thoughts for the church to reach millennials:

Love them—Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults—and they want it to be unconditional love—through the good times of their life and the times they mess up. And they want us to love first, without qualifications added.

Be biblically true—Millennials don’t want fluff or sugar-coating. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want the people who teach to teach what they believe—and then be willing to discuss it with them as they explore.

Be culturally aware and relevant—This generation has been exposed to the problems, challenges and changes in the world. And changes are coming fast. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

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Give them a place to plug in—They want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want you to support them in their pursuits. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world—and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input—You have to allow millennials to do things their way—often with technology—within groups of friends—sometimes unscripted. A church that is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them—The overused word is authentic, but this generation wants to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles and fears.

Guide them—I love this about them—they are wisdom-seekers. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today crave older adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis; while extending love, grace and support.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching millennials?

Again, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s as much a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.