How to Attract Millennials to Church

Modern Church Leader feat. Tony Fernandez
How to Attract Millennials to Church feat. Tony Fernandez on Modern Church Leader

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How to Attract Millennials to Church

The question of how to reach millennials has been on the mind of almost every church leader. While some are still trying to figure out their approach, others have decided to try something new. 

Having said that, how would you contextualize the gospel as your means to connect to today's youth?

This was something that the apostle Paul understood. He did this when he set the tone for his speech to the Athenians on Mars' Hill, which began with a few comforting words about "the Unknown God" before moving on to a sermon on sin and salvation (Acts 17:22-31). When he stated, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." he was referring to a similar situation (I Corinthians 9:22).

Apostle Paul tailored the letter to each recipient. He kept the message but changed the approach to reach more people.

It seems that this is exactly what is required to reach out to the millennials. Most of them are tired of the church's restrictive “ideology.” However, we believe they will be more receptive to the Good News if presented in a relational context.

We want to communicate the gospel to them in a way that meets their attitudes, preconceptions, and most profound needs while also addressing essential salvation themes like sin, repentance, and salvation. Many churches are failing to fulfill the Great Commission because they are failing to reach the largest demographic in the country, the millennial generation.

In this episode, we'll hear from Tony Fernandez, Evangelist at Broward Church, as he shares his insights on effectively reaching out to the millennial generation. 

“Is the message that we are really teaching, is it something that's reaching our people? And if it's not, then maybe we should make a concerted effort to really reach younger people.”
-Tony Hernandez

He passionately believes that the church can thrive only if it is multigenerational and devoted to reaching the next generation. While this may appear to be a simple undertaking, their church went to extraordinary measures to reach out to the millennial generation and shift from tradition.

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • How to create a church culture that makes it easier to reach millennials
  • Some ways to preach to millennials
  • Strategies for increasing the engagement of millennials
  • How to optimize the organizational structure for growth
  • And so much more…

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[5:57] We really need to save our generation. And so the conversation started to brew in us, like, what would Jesus's message be for our generation.

[6:44] Is the message that we are really teaching, is it something that's reaching our people? And if it's not, then maybe we should make a concerted effort to really reach younger people. We started with a really small group, and God has blossomed that group into, I think, a couple of 100 people that are now in that age range.

[11:10] In terms of the way I relate to them, it is on the level of you don't even want to do that. Like, that's not where you want to be. And I think that message really resonates with my generation.

[31:06] No one has ever tried to evangelize the world in 2021. Like, we're the first people to have ever done this because we're the first people to ever live right now. And so, we have to have a humble, creative mindset.

[34:50] We talked about social media; we really want to figure out how do we make our social media into a community? How do we get them off of being online and into people's homes? And I know no one wants to do this, but for me, it's like you can't build community online, solely online.

podcast transcript

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Tony Fernandez (00:00):
When Peter preaches in Acts chapter two, that first sermon, on the day of Pentecost, he converts all these Jews. And, he does it with a really Jewish message. And then, in Acts chapter 17, when Paul preaches, he converts these Gentiles with this really Gentile message, where he doesn't even use the scriptures. So, we use that as kind of a crux for us to think about, is the message that we're teaching, not the message of the Bible, because we know that's universal, but is the message that we are really teaching, is it something that's reaching our people?

Narrator (00:09):
Welcome to the modern church leader where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the Kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.

Frank Barry (00:09):
Hey, what's going on Tony? Welcome to the podcast.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
It's good to be here. I'm excited.

Frank Barry (00:09):
This is going to be fun. So, for the audience, I mean, we've been talking. We actually only met recently, but we've had some great conversations. But, why don't you tell the audience where you're from and a little bit about the church you lead, how you got into ministry, kind of give us your story a little bit.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
Yeah, thanks. Yeah. Thanks for the opportunity and what a cool platform that you're on here. So yeah, my name is Tony. I was raised in New York City, or in New York, I guess, and then made my way down to South Florida. I was down to south Florida Broward area, which is where Fort Lauderdale is, and just kind of figuring out my own spiritual life at the time. And, God had made it really clear to me just that I was just not doing really well spiritually.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
Long story short is I got connected to the guy who's leading the church, and the church I'm a part of now, my parents were in this church. And, he invited me to go down to South America to take a Hope Youth Corps, to kind of straighten myself out. I was dating someone that wasn't a Christian. It was just kind of a mess. And then basically, brought me down to Brazil. Changed my life. Came back. And, one thing led to another. God really restore my faith, allowed me to kind of understand he had a plan for the world, that really, I could be something in the ministry.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
And so, I was placed in the ministry after getting married, to do teen ministry. I did teen ministry in the church that I'm leading now, for about four years. I did campus ministry for about four years. And then we moved off to something that we called the Millennial Initiative, which I'm sure we'll get into a little bit later. And then, eventually, when the leader of the church left, he put another person in charge. And, that person ended up moving to Scotland. And, when they moved to Scotland, they were looking for another person to replace them, to be the kind of lead minister here in Broward.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
I was part of the search team. I was like, "Let's find somebody it's going to be great."

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
The elders here approached me, and really the evangelists who left kind of set motion for this to happen. But, they asked if I would kind of take that role, and that we could staff us a little bit differently so that I didn't have the burden of trying to be everybody's pastor, but I could really focus in. And so,, I've been doing that now for about, I don't know, five years or so. And so it's been great. Yeah. The Broward Church, we love it. It's a growing church, a thriving church, and I'm just really grateful to be able to here.

Frank Barry (00:09):
Yeah. That's amazing. I mean, that's obviously a lot packed into a couple of minutes. So, tell us about the church. You've been leading it for about five years as the senior pastor, senior minister. And, a lot has happened, but tell us a little bit about the church before we jump into some of those projects.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
Yeah. No, certainly there's sort of a pre-pandemic church and a post-pandemic church.

Frank Barry (00:09):
Yes.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
And so, I'll just kind of tell you pre-pandemic, because certainly it's hard to even think about what to quantify when we start talking about what happens... The pandemic really was a watershed moment for all of the churches.

Frank Barry (00:09):
Totally.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
And so... But yeah, before, we probably had somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 people give or take, on Sunday mornings, if you include children, that's probably another a hundred, something like that, 850, something like that. The church is in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. It's in a city called Davie, which is super family focused.But, there are two campuses. There's the school called Noah Southeastern University in Broward College, which used to be Broward Community College, but now is a four year college.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
The church was planted in 1972.

Frank Barry (00:09):
Wow.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
And so, you have members that are still from 1972, a lot of people that were in the crossroads movement or whatever from Gainesville, Florida. And then, you have a bunch of young people that are new to the church, just coming. And so, what's really cool is you have both groups, and they're trying to figure out how to work together. So, that's a little bit of the demographics of the group. We have a great group of people that are older and then a really new dynamic, younger generation raising up in the church.

Frank Barry (00:09):
Yeah. Well, let's jump into... So you mentioned the Millennial Project. So before, you were on staff at the church, but you weren't the senior guy, yet, leading the church.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (00:09):
But, you guys took on this Millennial Project, and I think it's really interesting, just everything kind of about it, and the focus on a particular group of people and all that. So, tell us a little bit about that project, why it got started, and kind of what happened.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
Yeah. One of the things that happened is that, when my wife and I got married, we noticed that, except for the campus ministry, there were not a lot of younger people sort of in our age demographic. We looked around and we were like, "Wow," It's like, there's my wife and I, and then the next people are in their forties. And at the time, we were like 22 or something like that.

Frank Barry (00:09):
Right. Right. Big gap.

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
Yeah. And, maybe that's not exactly right, but something like that. And so, I was thinking to myself like, "Wow, we really need to save our generation."

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
And so, the conversation started to brew in us. like, "What would Jesus's message be for our generation? What would be compelling?"

Tony Fernandez (00:09):
And, we hadn't really taken a lot of time to consider that. When Peter preaches in Acts chapter two, that first sermon, on the day of Pentecost, he converts all these Jews and he does it with a really Jewish message. And then, in Acts 17, when Paul preaches, he converts these Gentiles with this really Gentile message, where he doesn't even use the scriptures. He just kind of helps kind of connect God in their logic. And that was a really useful message.

Tony Fernandez (00:17):
And so, we've used that as kind of a crux for us to think about, "Well, is the message that we're teaching, not the message of the Bible, because we know that's universal, but is the message that we are really teaching, is it something that's reaching our people? And if it's not, then maybe we should make a concerted effort really, to reach younger people."

Tony Fernandez (06:56):
And so, we started with the really small group. And man, God has blossomed that group into, I think, a couple hundred people that are now in that age range.

Frank Barry (07:05):
Wow.

Tony Fernandez (07:05):
And yeah, it's been awesome.

Frank Barry (07:08):
Yeah.I mean that, so you guys decided to focus on the younger generation, as the church. The reason I think it's interesting, I think a lot of churches go through this. Right? The church, at one point it's planted, and it grows, or maybe at some stage in it's lifecycle, it grows. And then, those people that were around in the earlier days, obviously, they're around, they have kids, they get older and then the church starts aging at some point. And, not at every church, but I think there's plenty of churches that this is something that they face, the church starts aging. And then, how do you bring back the younger generation? And, how do you inspire the younger generation and help that group kind of grow again in the church? So, what did you guys do? When you started it, what were some of the things that you saw really work and saw God working through?

Tony Fernandez (08:04):
Yeah, there were a couple of things. I would say the first thing was that we were trying to speak to a postmodern generation. The moment that we're in culturally, is very different than the moment when these churches started. The message that resonated was a very different message.

Frank Barry (08:22):
Right.

Tony Fernandez (08:22):
And so, I think about what really resonates with my people, and I go, "Wow, there's something different here."

Tony Fernandez (08:29):
And so, what we did was we had big events, invited them all. They were fun. And then, we said, "These are the things that resonate to our people. Let's preach them. Let's teach them.

Tony Fernandez (08:37):
And, people got converted. They fell in love with the idea of Jesus. And then, as that happened, there were the other thing that's really interesting is we became a great place for you to land after you had gone to college, and maybe you had become a Christian somewhere else, and gone to college. And, they were looking for a church that felt a little bit more modern, younger, and their message resonated. So, people were like, "I'd love to move there and be a part of the church there." And so we, we grew by way of attraction, but also by way of, just of conversion.

Frank Barry (09:07):
Right. Yeah. What do you remember, or what sticks out in terms of some of the ways that ... the messages that resonated with that generation at that time? Was there anything that just like, "Oh man, when you talk about Jesus, these things really stand out to them."

Tony Fernandez (09:26):
Yeah. I think we're in the rise right now of a couple of... from people like Jordan Peterson to people like John Mark Comer, when the rise of kind of these, what I would call intellectual people that are also asking people to take responsibility. That message, to me, is something that Jesus preached, but is also really resonating, particularly for younger males.

Tony Fernandez (09:52):
And, we started to kind of do that. "Okay, well, what does Jesus teach here? What does Jesus teach here that would resonate for my people?"

Tony Fernandez (10:00):
Well, Jesus tells us, in John chapter six, when they cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, all the people that were following Jesus. Jesus looks at them and is like, "You want to come here because you ate and had your fill. Don't work for food that will spoil and fade. Work for food that will endure to eternal life."

Tony Fernandez (10:19):
And so he has this moment where he goes, "You just want me for what I give you. That's not enough."

Tony Fernandez (10:25):
To me, that's a really compelling message. Because it's like, "Wait, so I shouldn't just come to you for kind of a self-help thing. I should come to you for who you are. And that's bigger than then maybe a..."

Tony Fernandez (10:39):
Yeah. That's one idea. The other idea is that, I think that the statement about is sin of an evil that the person who does needs to be crushed for, or is it something that's crushing the person? Those are two different ways of looking at sin. When I see a man who's struggling with a porn addiction, I'm going, "Wow. The sin has crushed them." Not, "That man needs to be crushed because of his sin."

Tony Fernandez (11:10):
And, it's true that he needs to be crushed. God, whatever. But, in terms of the way I relate to them, is on the level of, "You don't even want to do that. That's not where you want to be." And, I think that message really resonates to my generation. So, those are two little snapshots.

Frank Barry (11:24):
Yeah, no, that's good. How did the leadership of the church you were on the team, but there was other leaders and you weren't necessarily the guy kind of directing the vision at the time, when you decided to focus on a real specific demographic like that, did other things in the church change? And, how did the leadership kind of get around that vision?

Tony Fernandez (11:48):
Yeah, we have been supported all the way along. So, it's hard for me. I know, I talk to some church leaders ... or some younger leaders who say that one of the biggest challenges that they feel like they're just by themselves. I don't feel that at all. Our eldership is behind me, 100%. The guys who were above me, were behind me 100%, and supporting me and encouraging me. And so for us, it was like, "How much money do we need? When do you want to use the building?" They were all on board for this. And so, it couldn't have happened unless we were unified in this vision. And so, I just felt incredibly supported. And so, because of that, I can't even speak to... How were we supported? Because it was just like a blank check for anything that they believed yeah. That they believe [crosstalk 00:12:36].

Frank Barry (12:36):
It could happen. You also mentioned in a previous conversation, some of the driving factor of why you and the leadership of the church really decided to focus on that ministry. So, you shared a minute ago, you got married. You looked around, you're like, "Oh, there's only a couple of me here. And then the next group is the 40 plussers, of which I'm one. So, I'm only slightly offended, but it's okay.

Tony Fernandez (13:03):
Well, Amen. You're still welcome to our church.

Frank Barry (13:09):
But, I remember in our last conversation, you said something also about focusing on kind of those younger professionals, younger marrieds, not necessarily high school or college or younger. And, there was real reasons around kind of the makeup of the community. Can you shed some light on that in terms of how you-

Tony Fernandez (13:31):
Yeah, absolutely.

Frank Barry (13:32):
... picked a group, in a way. It sounds weird. As the church were meant to reach out to every everybody in the community. But, it's like, when you live in a community that looks one way, you naturally want to go, "Okay." Look around and figure it out.

Tony Fernandez (13:45):
Broward County, where I'm at, is 50% single. So, and primarily, they're younger singles. You come to South Florida because you want to live a life on the beach. And, this is a nice place to be a 30 something year old, single professional. This is a great place for that. So, yeah. We looked around, and we saw that not only is there no us, but there's a lot of us in the world, in the church around us. And so, yeah. It seemed like a no-brainer. Like, "We need to focus on the colleges, because they're right here, literally five miles away. And, we need to focus on the singles because they're right here."

Tony Fernandez (14:28):
And also, there's fam, but the thing about the families is that because they're so dominant already in the church, we didn't have to focus... I remember a lot of the conversations were like, "We need some people to help with our marriage ministry." And, we probably did, but the thing is all the maturity was in the marriage ministry. We had people that had been Christians for 30 years who were in marriage ministries. And so, if we're trying to take... We could absolutely have used those people to just help the people who are 40 plus who are trying to figure out their lives. We didn't have to spend more money on that, because there was already so much maturity. And what we're hoping to produce is that same exact effect, but with our younger generation, and we just didn't really have it. And so, it made all the sense in the world, because of the demographic that [crosstalk 00:15:13].

Frank Barry (15:12):
Area. Yeah. You look at the area and go, "Okay, the area is predominantly like this, or a large group of it is like this. We should focus on the mini-"

Tony Fernandez (15:22):
Yeah. I mean, if you're in Atlanta, or you're in wherever, and it works for cultures too... We look around at one of the biggest struggles we have here is that we are predominantly Hispanic, but our church has a Spanish Ministry. And so, a lot of the Spanish people go there. And so, when you come into our church, you're like, "Where are the Spanish people?"

Frank Barry (15:41):
Right.

Tony Fernandez (15:41):
And, we have to think about that. Like, "Oh wait, there should be a lot of Hispanics in our church."

Tony Fernandez (15:45):
Or, if you're in Atlanta, there should be a lot of African Americans in your church. It should look like the community that it was placed in. And, I think sometimes, what we get caught up in is we all have a church model for how we are thinking about growth, which is, for us, in our fellowship churches, get on campus, blitz the campus. And, sometimes you have the minister in his backpack, and he's on the community college that has 4,000 students. And, there are 50,000 married people just in the vicinity of the church. And, it doesn't really make much sense. And, so anyway, those are some of the things that drove us to make those decisions.

Frank Barry (16:22):
Yeah. Well, man, it sounds like it was, and is continuing to really pay off and God's working through it. So, that's cool. In all of that, you also became the senior pastor at the church, and then kind of ushered in almost a new organizational structure. You thought about staffing and the kinds of roles we need to keep growing the church, and to change and all the things. So, I mean, talk to us a little bit about that. You kind of get into this position, and then you look around and go, "Okay." And, I'm putting words in your mouth, but, you look around and you're like, "Okay, we need some change from a staffing perspective."

Frank Barry (17:02):
How did you go through that with a church that's been around since, forget what you said since the '60s or-

Tony Fernandez (17:08):
1972. Yeah.

Frank Barry (17:09):
Yeah. So, you're like, "Okay, we need to think about the kind of the organizational model, and the staffing, and make some changes." So how'd that go down?

Tony Fernandez (17:19):
So, this is again, where I would just love to highlight the eldership that we already have in place, because they were incredibly supportive. So, when I was asked to take the lead role, one of the first things that we mentioned, or we kind of proposed to the group was, "Hey, we should have somebody to think about the small groups." Because, I had just been trying to grow this whole millennial thing. I didn't want to go from the primary engine of the church to thinking about people's marriages. As much as I love people's marriages. And I respect the need for marriage counseling and all that stuff. But, sometimes the pastoral role just becomes kind of like a helping of people's marriages. And, I just didn't want to do that. We had an eldership for that.

Tony Fernandez (18:05):
And so, I also didn't want to think about all the small groups, and trying to train all the small group leaders and, and that type of thing. I was really focused on the kind of the public ministry, like a public ministry and the growth of the church. And so, I made a recommendation that we would hire what we would call a community group leader. Someone to lead our small group leaders, give them the support they need, highlight them, encourage them. And if there was anything that needed some direction, I could certainly lend it [crosstalk 00:18:33].

Frank Barry (18:34):
... kind of thing.

Tony Fernandez (18:35):
Exactly.

Frank Barry (18:35):
Just to put a point on it, that was a new role in the church staffing structure.

Tony Fernandez (18:41):
Exactly. The lead guy had always been the small group leader, always been [crosstalk 00:18:45].

Frank Barry (18:45):
The guy that kind of trained everybody, and did the marriage counseling and like all-

Tony Fernandez (18:51):
Exactly. And, we had an elder, that hadn't been on staff, but was just the perfect person. And so, we asked him. He sold his business. He got on staff. He has done a fantastic job leading our small groups. But, every once in a while, I'll come in and kind of lend some vision to it. But, just in terms of taking care of it, helping lead it, helping guide people, he's A plus at that. And so, we love that.

Tony Fernandez (19:17):
And so, then I started thinking, "Well, if I don't have to think about small group leadership, and I can really think about the public ministry, if I had my way, in terms of looking at the budget, what are some funds that I could allocate so that we can continue to push the public ministry?"

Tony Fernandez (19:34):
And so, immediately the thought was, "Let's have someone that can do some communication stuff. Let's have someone..." And at first, I'm thinking "Let's have someone that can do Instagram, Facebook, do all of our digital services. Lead the film crew." I'm thinking, "Lead the worship. One person could do all of that. No problem." You know?

Frank Barry (19:55):
There's so many of those people out there that have all of those talents.

Tony Fernandez (20:00):
I'm like, "Mo problem." So I'm literally thinking about it. And so, we hired one person. Realized very quickly that this is not the job for one person. This is probably the job for four or five people. And so-

Frank Barry (20:11):
And, just pause real quick, the first hire-

Tony Fernandez (20:14):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (20:15):
... was a full-time position? An intern?

Tony Fernandez (20:19):
Yeah. The first hire was a full-time position, but didn't last very long, primarily because the guy who was excellent, but his primary talent was really in video. And, I quickly discovered that video was maybe the last thing we were going to be able to focus on, because there were so many other things that we really needed to work on.

Tony Fernandez (20:37):
And so, we started having some conversations. And, our youth minister had gone to school for graphic design, knew a little bit of web development and said, "Okay, maybe I can step into this role and oversee a lot of other people."

Tony Fernandez (20:52):
And so, I was like, "All right, cool." So I was like, "Well, then we need to hire someone to do youth ministry."

Tony Fernandez (20:58):
So, we pulled him off youth ministry, hired a couple of interns to kind of be under him. So, he was leading youth ministry and doing some communication stuff. Eventually, he built a website. We started getting some traction on Instagram and Facebook and stuff like that. His predecessor had filmed a video of me talking about the church. And, it was like cinematic and beautiful. And, we put it as an ad on Facebook, and it got like 20,000 views or something stupid like that. I think we were promoting a bring your neighbor day Sunday, like a outreach Sunday. And so, that week, so many people came. [crosstalk 00:21:39]

Frank Barry (21:38):
From a Facebook ad? A great video. You put work on the video, but you ran an ad to it.

Tony Fernandez (21:45):
Yes. Yeah, exactly. And so, we were like, "Whoa."

Tony Fernandez (21:48):
And so, now we're thinking, "We have to invest in this. We have to think about this."

Tony Fernandez (21:53):
But, we didn't know. So, for us, it was like catching lightning, the bottle. It was like, "How do we? Okay, what are we going to do next?" [crosstalk 00:22:01]

Frank Barry (22:01):
Right. In a sense though, I guess I just want to clarify for the listener, you made this decision that said, "We need to hire a communications' person," another role that didn't exist and had not ever really existed from a staffing kind of perspective. Right?

Tony Fernandez (22:21):
Exactly.

Frank Barry (22:21):
So, it's like, this is a person that isn't like a pastoral person or a preacher, or any of that, or an administrator. But no, this is like communications. They know a little bit of like website and email and social, and they're going to do that full time. And, I know you pulled them out of, kind of student ministry and then replaced them with some interns. But, you're like, "Okay, we got to do this."

Frank Barry (22:42):
And then, you make this video, you run some ads and this magical moment happens. But, it wouldn't happen if-

Tony Fernandez (22:49):
Yeah, and the crazy-

Frank Barry (22:49):
... you didn't go down that path.

Tony Fernandez (22:51):
Well, the craziest thing about that, and to speak to what you're saying, Frank, is so important, is that we didn't have it all figured out because we had no idea what we were doing. We were asked, What is his job description before I hired him?" And I'm like, "I don't know."

Frank Barry (23:11):
Do you know how to use Facebook and Instagram on your phone? That's a good start.

Tony Fernandez (23:16):
I had no clue. And, we also had some of our elders, and rightly so, ask, "Okay, well, is their next step to be appointed as a pastor or an evangelist? Or, is that the trajectory of their..."

Tony Fernandez (23:28):
And, I'm like, "I don't think... I don't think so." But, I didn't know, like, maybe. Because, all we knew is you come through youth ministry, you go to campus ministry or university, and then you do the church one day. That's what happens. That's all we knew. And so, we were making it up as we went along. Now, we have defined roles and stuff like that. But before, we had no idea what we're doing.

Tony Fernandez (23:54):
So, that led us to think, "Wow, even this role is just, there's a lot. Trying to do social and video, and it's just a lot."

Tony Fernandez (24:04):
I was preaching, and I was also leading the worship. So, I played my guitar, and the song would be finished, and then I would pray. And as I was praying, I would have somebody remove the guitar from me, and put on a jacket.

Frank Barry (24:20):
You should have just rolled it around and had it on your back and just started preaching.

Tony Fernandez (24:25):
Yeah. I'm telling you. And so many jokes are, "It's a new me," or something stupid like that. And then I'm like, "Maybe I shouldn't lead the last song." And, I look around, it's like, no one else. We came from an acapella, traditional looking service, and we're trying to move towards modern. And so, I don't know what I'm doing. So yeah, I'm playing the songs.

Tony Fernandez (24:45):
And, eventually, I'd led the worship for a conference. And, I saw a guy who I was like, "This is the guy." So, I invited him to come down. It was like really sneaky. He was in his third year of college, I'm like, "Come down for the summer. "You could train under me at Elite Worship, and you could teach our kids how to play. You could teach our kids music or something like that. And, towards the end of the summer, I'm like, "Stay here. Don't go to college." And, it's probably bad. I actually didn't tell them not to go to college. I'm just kidding.

Frank Barry (25:19):
Just go to college here. Just go here.

Tony Fernandez (25:23):
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. We have great universities here. But, oh gosh, I mean... So anyway, that led to our third new hire for us. We hired a worship leader. So a small group leader, then this communications' person, then we hired this worship guy. And for me, I thought to myself, "How could we have ever gone without somebody like this? To think about the ministry in a way that would lead our people into the presence of God." And man, he's done such a phenomenal job.

Tony Fernandez (26:00):
But, in that same internship, we had a campus girl who was trying to do our university ministry. And, she was like, "I can do Instagram."

Tony Fernandez (26:08):
So, I was like, "Oh yeah, you can help us with Instagram? All right, cool. Come to our digital team."

Tony Fernandez (26:13):
Our digital team was like me and that guy. We're meeting and like trying to strategize things that we didn't have any time for. But, she started coming, and really quickly we realized that maybe her best skillset was to do Instagram for the church. And so, she's full-time on staff, to do basically Instagram and all of our social. So, she does a lot of our social. [crosstalk 00:26:35]

Frank Barry (26:35):
You fast forwarded. So you hired a full-time worship leader, who also produces your whole Sunday experience now. Right?

Tony Fernandez (26:43):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (26:43):
And, your online component to an extent somehow, over there. And then, you're like, "Great, we've got this communications' person, but we also have this hidden gem, that kills at social media. Let's hire her too." And so, you've got a communications' person and a social media person.

Tony Fernandez (27:05):
And at first, she was doing University and social. And that was like, "That's what we're going to go. And, because we can't really justify it."

Tony Fernandez (27:13):
But then again, when the elders start seeing people walk into the doors who are like, "How'd you find us?"

Tony Fernandez (27:19):
And they're like, "Instagram."

Tony Fernandez (27:21):
They're like, "Oh, oh."

Tony Fernandez (27:23):
And, it's week after week. And, not just one person, but 10 people a Sunday, or 20 people a Sunday. It starts going, "This is maybe even more effective than I ever thought it could be."

Tony Fernandez (27:34):
And so, eventually that was an easy sell. And so, she came on. And then, the last person that we hired was a person just to... He's like all the video in the church. So, it's like the first person we hired, except now it's the right time.

Frank Barry (27:48):
It's the right time, yeah to bring the person on.

Tony Fernandez (27:50):
Yeah. So, he is the main production guy for the church.

Frank Barry (27:53):
Okay. Got it. So he produces the service, and any other video.

Tony Fernandez (27:59):
Exactly.

Frank Barry (28:00):
So, you've got a full-time worship leader now. So, you've got you. So, you're the lead pastor, CEO kind of role, vision, strategy, direction, those kind of things. But then you've got worship pastor, small groups leader, social media person, communications' person, and video person. And then, you have some interns, I think, that help with some other ministries, too.

Tony Fernandez (28:29):
Yeah. So, all the other kind of standard people ministry, we have people in as well. So teens, campus, our student ministry, university ministry, and then a single professional's ministry.

Frank Barry (28:41):
Right. So, that kind of staffing structure, today, versus before you came, how different does it look?

Tony Fernandez (28:51):
I mean... So yeah, this whole portion of the church wasn't there. So, what I call the public portion of the church, it just wasn't there. All the shepherding, pastoral stuff was there, but there was no... It's almost like this whole group is like an outreach. Yeah. This is all they do is think about helping and impacting people for the gospel.

Frank Barry (29:18):
Yeah. No, I love it. And, I know you're a humble dude and this isn't all about like, "Oh, Tony did all this stuff." It sounds like you had great leadership, and eldership and all the things, and it came together. And it's like, what I love about it is, you're also telling it kind of in hindsight. You didn't have it figured out. You didn't, five years ago go, "Here's exactly what it looks like."

Frank Barry (29:39):
But, along the way, God opened up doors and did things and brought people and leadership was supportive. And, now you're in this place that's beautiful, and new and different, and going great. And, it's all to magnify Jesus and make an impact.

Frank Barry (29:57):
But it's cool, hearing you go through that transformation, because it's big, right? Changing a staff structure, an organization structure and staffing, and how you think about roles and positions in the church. And then, it looking one way and then a few years later looking totally different. That's pretty rare, from what I've seen.

Tony Fernandez (30:19):
Yeah. I think that the main struggle is that, it's hard for us to break through what we've always seen. And, we need examples and we need illustrations. And, it's also easy to criticize things that don't look like us. And so, people look at other people's creativity, or their process and they go, "Eh," and they belittle it. And, if you want to do something good, you're going to get attacked. It's just the way it is. And then, and at the same time, all of us fall into that same thing, where we look at other people who are doing things different or maybe they are where we want to be, and we go, "Ah, I don't... That's... Well..." And, we criticize them in order to make ourselves feel good. And so, I believe this required all of our staffing to be incredibly humble, that we don't really know what we're doing.

Tony Fernandez (31:07):
And we don't know. No one has ever tried to evangelize the world in 2021. We're the first people to have ever done this, because we're the first people to ever live right now. And so, we have to have a humble, creative mindset. And so, if it wasn't for our eldership, because it's easy for young people to go, "Let's blow it all up and start again." But, it's harder for the elders to go, "Yes, I see what you're saying. It may not be what I would want to do, but I support you, and I believe in you, and I trust you."

Tony Fernandez (31:36):
So to me, the credit doesn't really go to us at all, because, if we were starting a new church, that's how we would do it. That's just the way we would think about things. But, the credit goes to the brothers and sisters who have been here before, or who have been here for a long time, who are allowing people with new ideas to really take the lead.

Frank Barry (31:54):
Yeah. No, I love that. Okay. Last thing I want to jump into, you mentioned it a little bit, and maybe the meat is already been talked about. But, the kind of online, digital, social, your presence, even church online, just kind of everything, digital. What are you guys doing? What's working? What's not working? What have you tried? Where are you headed with it? Just a big old open ended question around-

Tony Fernandez (32:22):
Yeah, great.

Frank Barry (32:23):
... digital ministry.

Tony Fernandez (32:23):
Yeah, this is awesome. So, our digital ministry meetings are today... Today's Thursday. Thursday, we meet Thursday mornings, that's when we get together. And, we discuss where we're going digitally. How we're thinking about the lost, and how we're thinking about impacting people. And so, we really have kind of some drivers. One of the drivers is excellence, which everybody talks about, but a lot of people take for granted. Excellence equals things take time. That's just the way it works. If you want to produce something that's on Instagram or a video and you want it to be excellent, you want to produce a worship song, you want it to be excellent. It's going to take much more time than you think it's going to take. And so, excellence is a key thing for us.

Tony Fernandez (33:08):
Beauty is a key thing for us. It may not sound like something that matters, but to us, we worship a beautiful God, a God who made the whole world and colors and the blink of an eye and the snap of a finger, and there it was. And, for us, we we want to be image bearers in beauty. And so, we want things to be beautiful.

Tony Fernandez (33:26):
And then, we want things to be helpful. And so, this is the piece of it that, we don't want to just support like, "Hey, just come to service. Come to service. Come to service. Come to service. Come to service." Nobody wants to follow an Instagram account like that. No one wants to follow a YouTube page like that. We want this to be helpful content, relevant content for people's lives. But, while we keep those three things in mind, we don't want to malign the Word of God. We want to elevate the teachings of the Scriptures. And so,

Tony Fernandez (33:58):
That's really what we're thinking about out. And so, right now we're working on, we have three different elements for getting people in the doors, digitally. One is via all of our social media platforms. The second is our church online platform, which we're working on constantly. The, guys who do it, fantastically can speak so much more about what they're doing than we can, the little church, comparatively. But, man, we're just trying to be who we are, but also reach people at home.

Tony Fernandez (34:27):
Especially during the pandemic, simple things like addressing a camera and looking at it, and like "I'm talking to you at home," is something that was like, "Nobody wants to do this." But now, we're knowing, we have to do it.

Tony Fernandez (34:40):
Craig Roshelle has been doing it for 20 years. And, we're just now sort of learning value of that. And so, that's one piece of it. The other piece of it, we talked about social media. We really want to figure out how do we make our social media into a community? How do we get them off, online and into people's homes? And, I know no one wants to do this. But, for me, it's like, you can't build community online, solely online. You just can't. You have to have someone to talk to, face to face. And, you have to have a shoulder in which to cry on. And so, we're working on pathways to get people from Instagram followers, into people connected to a home church. We're working on that.

Tony Fernandez (35:27):
So for us, it's like, someone follows us on Instagram. We send them a message. "Hey, is there anything we could pray for you for?" Hopefully that begins a dialogue. And then, our goal is to get them connected to a church. And, a lot of times we, we reach out to them and tell them that's our goal. And then they unfollow us. And we're like, "Well, that's a win, right? That's a win for us."

Tony Fernandez (35:47):
And the last thing, we're trying to produce music. And, we're working on, our family of churches has a rich tradition of original music. And, we're just wanting to continue in that vein and produce some stuff [crosstalk 00:36:01].

Frank Barry (36:02):
I know we're going to do another episode, and talk more about that whole journey, which I think is awesome, and fascinating. From a digital ministry perspective, you mentioned you did this video, you ran an ad, tons of people showed up. How have you, maybe not reproduced that exact moment, but how have you kind of built on that thinking? And is there any real practical things that you guys do on a week to week basis that you see like, "Oh, people are still coming in the door because of our digital presence?"

Tony Fernandez (36:33):
Yeah, I think right now we're in a little bit of a maintenance mode. Our mode is real... We've already built a little bit of a following, and we kind of know our target demographic on Instagram and on Facebook. And so, for us, the thought is, "Hey, when people walk through a door and we hear that they heard from us on Instagram, now we want to ask another question. Okay. So was it helpful content? Was it the appeal of the family look? What was it that really drew you here?"

Tony Fernandez (36:58):
Because, there are some very large churches in our area that have more of a media budget, that have all the bells and whistles, and we don't. And so, I wonder, what is the thing that attracts them to us? So, we're able to ask some good questions.

Tony Fernandez (37:13):
We also learn that we're a really good place to be a second bounce. I know that sounds like a little bit of a... I don't know, people are like, "I don't want to do that. I want to reach unchurched people." But, a lot of the people that are coming to our doors are people that were churched, but just have not really been deep in their faith. And so, we're leaning into that. We're going, "Okay. If we can be a great help for the person who has experienced Christ in some ways in the bigger church, but it hasn't taken hold of them? Maybe we could be helpful to bring them into a really committed, lasting relationship with Jesus."

Frank Barry (37:50):
Yeah. Yeah. No, I love that. Tony, this has been awesome. I could keep chatting all day, but you know, your time is valuable.

Tony Fernandez (37:57):
Yeah, bro.

Frank Barry (37:58):
Where can people go to kind of see what the Broward Church is doing?

Tony Fernandez (38:02):
Yeah. You could check us out on Instagram or on YouTube, Broward Church on both those platforms. Or, if you want to go on our website, Browardchurch.org. You can look at, especially in the south Florida area, we'd love for you to check us out.

Frank Barry (38:13):
Yeah, absolutely. Or check out some of the new worship music.

Tony Fernandez (38:17):
Yeah, At Broward Worship.

Frank Barry (38:19):
At Broward Worship. Love it. Thanks for joining us today. Thanks for the conversation. And, thanks everyone who watched. See you.

Narrator (38:26):
If you enjoyed this episode of The Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple Podcast, or Spotify, so you never miss an episode. And, we'll see you again next week with another conversation, here, on The Modern Church Leader.

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How to Attract Millennials to Church

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How to Attract Millennials to Church

Learn how to attract millennials by tapping into their interests, values, and beliefs - in the context of a church.

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How to Attract Millennials to Church

The question of how to reach millennials has been on the mind of almost every church leader. While some are still trying to figure out their approach, others have decided to try something new. 

Having said that, how would you contextualize the gospel as your means to connect to today's youth?

This was something that the apostle Paul understood. He did this when he set the tone for his speech to the Athenians on Mars' Hill, which began with a few comforting words about "the Unknown God" before moving on to a sermon on sin and salvation (Acts 17:22-31). When he stated, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." he was referring to a similar situation (I Corinthians 9:22).

Apostle Paul tailored the letter to each recipient. He kept the message but changed the approach to reach more people.

It seems that this is exactly what is required to reach out to the millennials. Most of them are tired of the church's restrictive “ideology.” However, we believe they will be more receptive to the Good News if presented in a relational context.

We want to communicate the gospel to them in a way that meets their attitudes, preconceptions, and most profound needs while also addressing essential salvation themes like sin, repentance, and salvation. Many churches are failing to fulfill the Great Commission because they are failing to reach the largest demographic in the country, the millennial generation.

In this episode, we'll hear from Tony Fernandez, Evangelist at Broward Church, as he shares his insights on effectively reaching out to the millennial generation. 

“Is the message that we are really teaching, is it something that's reaching our people? And if it's not, then maybe we should make a concerted effort to really reach younger people.”
-Tony Hernandez

He passionately believes that the church can thrive only if it is multigenerational and devoted to reaching the next generation. While this may appear to be a simple undertaking, their church went to extraordinary measures to reach out to the millennial generation and shift from tradition.

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • How to create a church culture that makes it easier to reach millennials
  • Some ways to preach to millennials
  • Strategies for increasing the engagement of millennials
  • How to optimize the organizational structure for growth
  • And so much more…

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[5:57] We really need to save our generation. And so the conversation started to brew in us, like, what would Jesus's message be for our generation.

[6:44] Is the message that we are really teaching, is it something that's reaching our people? And if it's not, then maybe we should make a concerted effort to really reach younger people. We started with a really small group, and God has blossomed that group into, I think, a couple of 100 people that are now in that age range.

[11:10] In terms of the way I relate to them, it is on the level of you don't even want to do that. Like, that's not where you want to be. And I think that message really resonates with my generation.

[31:06] No one has ever tried to evangelize the world in 2021. Like, we're the first people to have ever done this because we're the first people to ever live right now. And so, we have to have a humble, creative mindset.

[34:50] We talked about social media; we really want to figure out how do we make our social media into a community? How do we get them off of being online and into people's homes? And I know no one wants to do this, but for me, it's like you can't build community online, solely online.

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