I have been informally studying the millennial generation for quite a while. I have read many articles by many authors such as Thom Rainer on Millennials and worship styles and Meredith Flynn on her perspective of Capitol Hill Baptist Church—a church that averages over 1,000 in weekly attendance with 700-800 of those being under the age of 35-40. I have had dozens of conversations with those in this age bracket about what is important to them as well as read many books on the topic. I am certainly no expert, but I feel confident in sharing my thoughts on what committed Christian Millennials want in a church.
I am going to assume that we agree that the church worship service is for Christians, not a tool to attract the lost. Good! Now that we have that settled, we can focus our attention on the millennial generation—those born between 1980 and the early 2000’s.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what Christian Millennials want in a church. Some (mostly the older generations) think this age group is just interested in hanging out. Others think this age group is shallow, wishy-washy, and ungrounded. For the record, these caricatures are generally untrue.
So what does resonate with committed Christian Millennials?
Many Millennials grew up witnessing the lack of genuineness that was prevalent in their parents’ churches. They want to see leaders live what they teach. They are tired of seeing people simply go through the motions.
2- Less Extra Stuff
Productions such as Easter plays and choral productions that were so common a generation ago are being abandoned. The quality usually isn’t that great, it requires a ton of time that simply isn’t there, and they are focused on entertainment – and that simply isn’t a draw to many Millennials. Likewise, special music such as solos, quartets, and the like are not much of a focus either. Even choirs are becoming less common, and the ones that still remain are usually filled with those in older age brackets.
3- Rich Content…..in the Sermons and in Songs
Sermons filled with fluff and music with no meaning won’t cut it. That rich content may come in different forms depending on the context. The music styles may vary, and the Millennials are okay with that—they are not tied to any one style as long as there is rich content.
4. Quality in All Things
Simply throwing things together at the last minute won’t cut it. People are used to professionalism in all things…at the daycare where they leave their children, at their work place, everywhere. If the church lacks quality it will be a turnoff to those in this generation.
5. Authentic Community
Millennials do want to hang out, but there’s more to it than that. They want authentic community. They want to do life with other believers. They want the Christian life to be more than attendance at a church service. This is the reason they thrive in small groups.
6. Intentionality in Decision-Making
Doing something solely because it has always been done serves as Millennial repellant. If a church will not ensure that everything they are doing is accomplishing a designated purpose, then what’s the point?
7. A Community Focus
The Millennials want to make a difference in the community. They view this as an important part of the Church’s work. They want more than to simply hold events on the church’s property; they want the church to get out into the community.
8. A Church that Answers Their Questions
For far too long Millennials were simply told what to believe, but not why. As a result, many of them have questions, and they will not attend a church where they are discouraged from asking questions or where they do not get honest, accurate, thoughtful answers.
9. Committed to Simplicity
People are busier than ever. This reality cannot be avoided. In an attempt to be appealing to a consumer generation the church has tried to offer a plethora of programs at a plethora of times in an effort to be appealing to everyone. It hasn’t worked. In fact, the complexities of a program-driven church drives people away. The Millennials are looking for simplicity. They want to be committed to a church that understands this.
Do these characteristics define every Christian millennial? Absolutely not. But they do characterize many of them…at least many of the committed Christian millennials I know. If churches are going to reach the millennial generation, they must be aware of these realities.
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