There has been a lot of focus on millennials of late, and the biggest reason the church is talking about them is because statistically they aren’t GOING to church.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify that being in a church building or an official member of a local congregation is not a requirement to BE the Church, but GOING to Church used to be the clear marker. The Church, especially in the west, for too long has equated church attendance and membership to faith. Essentially: If someone attends church then they must be a ‘better’ person than someone who doesn’t. The problem is that church attendance and membership doesn’t perfectly equate to faith or “good.”
I was out to dinner last night and saw a family praying before their meal together, and as soon as they said “amen”, the dad yelled at a daughter about how her chair was positioned. Seeing this made a seemingly meaningful moment feel cheap. I think this is just a small example of why many millennials have passed on Church. They have examined the fruits of the church community that they know and have found the Church wanting.
So then, is there any hope for the Church and millennials?
I think that the Church NEEDS millennials in order to no longer just survive, but to become more who Jesus calls the us to be, the Kingdom of God. We are missing an important rock that would provide better balance. This isn’t just a millennial thing or a filling a pew thing, but a desire for everyone to be a part of the Kingdom of God.
Here are a few reasons why I think that the Church needs millennials:
1. Millennials see beyond what currently is to what could be.
One of the reasons I love working with teens and young adults is that they have an amazing gift to see beyond what is. Maybe it is because life hasn’t beaten it out of them yet, or maybe it is because they haven’t been lulled to sleep by the monotonousness of work, home, tv, sleep, repeat. Whatever it is, I think that the church needs more of it. They need dreamers who can ask “What if?” and find where God is at work in the community and push the church to jump in.
2. Millennials demand answer to their “WHY?” and “We’ve always done it this way” doesn’t work.
This is one of the biggest things that the Church needs right now, but probably doesn’t want. To do things just because we always have just doesn’t compute. Millennials want a “why.” The “why” is important because it sets a reason and purpose behind doing something. If there isn’t a reason or purpose, then kill it. It really is that simple to Millennials, but for the Church it might mean years or decades of wasted time and resources because we just kept the status quo (which by the way, doesn’t work anymore).
3. Millennials are some of the most creative people.
Everyday I see new Millennials coming up with new ideas, starting new companies, blogs, videos, products, etc. They feed off of each other’s creativity in a sort of synergy way that is simply amazing. Because so much information is available all the time, they have become experts in using all different types of tech and media and information to create an even better ideas to make our world a better place. They can do this for the church too! Millennials are finding a huge value to their souls in ancient spiritual practices like silence, solitude, journaling, etc. While the church thinks they want the newest praise team, Millennials might prefer a small group discussion that involves art and lectio divina.
4. Millennials are willing to take huge risks without being paralyzed by possible failure.
This is the big one. While risks always have a possibility to fail, Millennials are able to see the payoff more than the possible failure. The Church has become way too good at asking, “How do we avoid getting sewed?” and have stopped asking, “What crazy thing is God calling us to do?”
All of this doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope. I think there is a huge potential for Millennials in the Church but the church CANNOT maintain what it has always been to do it.
Here are a couple steps for the Church to take to connect to Millennials:
1. The Church needs to stop trying to be relevant, cool, or new. Just simply be an authentic community of people seeking to love God and love people.
Millennials, and really everyone, want the Church to be REAL, not relevant. Just be yourself. If you are a hardcore traditional Church, then do that with all you have. If you find your Church to be gifted with artists, then use them in every way possible. If you have teachers, host amazing Bible studies. Whatever you do, make sure it is authentic to who you are as a Church. We have to stop jumping on the newest church trends just because.
2. The Church needs to give Millennials a real voice and allow them to take risks in the name of the Church.
This is probably the best place to start and hardest thing for the Church to do. The Church has to let go of control. Which, let’s face it, God should have been the one in control anyway not the trustees or finance committees. Have Millennials preach, lead Bible studies, start mission projects, serve on church committees, and not just as a token, but as a real voice. Have a “Big Crazy Risks” line item in your church budget that is specifically to fund the new risks adventures that just might change your community.
So, that’s a lot, what do you think? What do you agree with? What don’t you like? How do we do this?