5 Characteristics Millennials Are Looking For In Church
By: Bob Sutton August 28, 2013
There has been much chatter recently about why Millennials are leaving the church. Several theories have been presented from leaders across the country. One of the most fundamental flaws of writing blog post about a topic like that is that there cannot be a single answer. The group of people who are referred to as Millennials is too big to be characterized as a cohesive unit, and they didn’t all decide to leave the church for the same reason.
Full disclosure…I’m not a millennial. I belong to that fun group known as GenX by a whopping 14 days. Had I been born 2 weeks later, I would be a Millennial, but as it is, I’m lumped in with a completely different group, who I’m sure left the church for an even different reason than the Millennials about which I’m writing.
Rather than exploring why they leave, let’s look into why they stay or join in. Here are five characteristics Millennials are looking for in a church home:
Church leaders who are honest and forthcoming about their flaws are much more attractive to this generation. Millennials grew up hearing about church leaders caught in scandalous affairs and watching thieves posing as pastors. Many have not lost their faith in Jesus but have lost their trust in church at large.
Leaders who are honest about struggles do more to point to Jesus as the leader of their church. Rather than making a name for themselves, these pastors will attract people who also want to be authentic and seek Jesus’ as the leader of their lives.
2. EngagementFor many who grew up going to church, hearing the “facts” of the gospels preached on Sunday is not enough to keep them coming back. Millennials want you as a church leader to engage with the text because it is living and breathing. It isn’t about providing a captivating sermon, though that is important, it is about bringing the text of the Gospel into your culture and community. It is important to teach with a genuine passion for those who hear, but also those who might be affected if the hearers take action. Which leads to…
The world is so much smaller now that people are so easily connected and few are more connected than Millennials. For the most part, this group is aware of what is going on globally and locally, but often they are not sure how they can directly engage with those in need.
As church leaders, it is crucial to provide opportunities for these people to affect change. If you are unsure where to start, have an organization who shares your church’s vision set up a booth in the lobby and speak from the stage. Millennials want to be empowered to do meaningful work on a local and global scale. Your church can be a great avenue for that missional connection.
This is a fun-loving generation. Because they are so connected, people may think Millennials withdraw from face to face relationships in favor less direct communication. The opposite is true. They crave connection on a personal level with people who genuinely care about them. Help them bond by having a small group ministry that allows groups to form organically and intentionally. The object here is not to create ‘cliques’ but to provide a consistent and safe place for them to open up about life and faith.
For Millennials who grew up in the church, this is not as big a deal, but for those exploring faith for the first time, having an environment that is approachable and welcoming is essential to having a positive experience. The aesthetics of the worship space, the comfort of the seating, and the familiarity of the music all play a roll in creating an environment that is approachable. If there are liturgical or ritual elements to your Sunday services, make sure they are explained well from the stage.
Millennials want all of these elements when looking for a place to call their church home, and if I may speak for my GenX friends, they want these same things too.
In fact, none of these things are new to the modern church. All of these elements are seen in Acts 2 as the New Testament believers began to grow together. How each of these look today may look a little different, but Millennials today still want a church that is authentic, missional, approachable, encourages fellowship, and provides opportunities for engagement.
How has your church successfully implemented these things that millennials are looking for in church?