The life of your church depends upon your ability to connect the gospel with the next generation (Judges 2:10). The next generation your church needs to reach with the gospel is millennials.
But here is the trouble: Many millennials who are raised in the church leave and do not come back. What is more, many millennials are leaving the church in significant numbers.
Now, when it comes to connecting with millennials, it is easier said than done. In many ways, especially for older and more established churches, it will require a shift in the life of your church. From the way you are structured to the activities your church is involved with throughout the week, your church may not be prepared to build lasting relationships with the millennials in your community.
To help you think through how to reach millennials, here are five things they are looking for in your church.
Millennials do not care if you are cool or relevant. They care if you are authentically Christian.
Fight the temptation to hide or play down what you believe as a church. Remember, anyone can purchase a Bible or go online and find out what you believe, so why not go ahead and live authentically for Jesus. Besides,conservative churches are thriving, whereas liberal churches are in decline.
In general, millennials are interested in having an authentic relationship with Jesus, his church, and the history of the saints. Give them an opportunity to have this experience by inviting them to give their life to Jesus, get involved with your church, and to experience a connection with the past through the life of your church.
We cannot overstate the importance of preaching. For nearly two millennia, preaching was an activity done in person. To hear a sermon, someone had to be physically present in a local church, attend a public gather, or listen to a pastor on the radio or watch him or her on TV.
Today, preaching has taken on a new meaning. You can listen to your favorite preacher when you want on a podcast, watch their sermon on YouTube, and maybe even stream his or her service live from the comfort of their home.
With this in mind, millennials are interested in being discipled. They want to know what it practically means to live and love like Jesus.
Now, we’re not saying they do not want to hear your preach. That is not the case at all. What we are emphasizing is that you need to create opportunities for millennials to be discipled.
If you want to keep millennials around, then you need to build long-term relationships. To foster these types of relationships does not mean that your pastor and his or her staff need to have one-on-one relationships with every single person. Your church’s leadership needs to be intentional in creating community among its members and visitors.
Even though the quality of preaching may draw people to your church, it will not keep millennials there for long. Think about it. They can listen to or watch your sermon during the week, so they do not need to be physically present with your church.
To do this, create clear next steps for your members and visitors to get connected. Arrange a time for the pastors, staff, and church leaders — e.g., elders or deacons — to meet with people throughout the week. If you have small groups, then let people know what they are, why they are important, and how they can get connected. These are two little things you can do that will have a significant impact.
Millennials are interested in being directly involved in the work of the ministry; not sitting on their hands in the pews.
Invite them to participate in the work of God through your church by devoting their time and talent to the work of the ministry. Encourage them to think about their skills and experience and pray how they can best serve the Lord with the abilities he has given them.
If you do not have a ministry they can easily fit into, then look to create new opportunities or directly support the work they want to do.
Millennials value honesty, personal and corporate accountability, and transparency.
According to David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, “Millennials live in an era of radical transparency, powered by social and digital tools.” This need for transparency not only has implications for how your church handles its finances, but also how you manage the work of the ministry and the life of the church.
Whether it’s a Bible study or a service project in your community, share with the members of your church the work you are doing. When it comes to your finances, consider being more open about your church’s salary practices and how the church spends its money. These are only a few things your church can do to be more transparent.
A life of transparency will give millennials — and others within your church — reassurance that your church values them as an individual by being open to them and valuing their input.
We know this is not an exhaustive list, so what would you add? Share your advice in the comments below.