As a member of the millennial generation, I can attest that church hasn’t always appealed to me. Sitting for an hour or two without checking my Twitter feed or posting a selfie? Absurd! Research shows that I’m not alone—according to a Barna study, over 50% of millennials have not attended church in the past six months, and just over 25% have attended church in the past week.
But it’s more than just the lack of technology; my generation has grown up in a culture that has increasingly encouraged “finding yourself” outside of a religion and has taught acceptance of all cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. Public schools teach evolution with such robust confidence that one of my college friends—a strong, lifelong Christian—didn’t even realize some modern scientific theories contradicted Christianity. The world entices us with acceptance and facts, and the church seemingly offers only condemnation and loose interpretations of an ancient book.
So how can your church reach out to my distrusting, technology-centered generation? Putting up a screen in the front of your sanctuary won’t act like a magnet to twenty-somethings, and contemporary music isn’t a fly trap for high schoolers. Here are a few ideas to help your church reach out to resistant millennials:
First, it’s important to address relevant topics. Millennials—and the rest of your congregation—are constantly bombarded with opinions on homosexuality, abortion, and transgenderism. Christian views on these topics are classified as hateful and outdated, so we want (need!) to be equipped with information we can use when confronted with difficult topics.
Don’t preach a watered-down, surface-level version of Christianity. Millennials were raised in the age of the Internet, so we want the facts at lightning speed. We can find any biblical contradiction with a simple Google search (probably on our iPhone after the service has ended), so preach the true Gospel, including the stuff that’s difficult to swallow. Teach us how to be like Jesus, explain a controversial verse, or define the Greek translation of a word; just don’t regurgitate already well-known information.
Encourage interaction. Most churches that my generation attended during childhood—if we attended church at all—were strict and quiet. There was no interaction, save for a small smile as you silently scooted into your pew. Offer some kind of community where young people can support one another. It’s hard to be a Christian, so providing a Bible study or youth group will offer meaningful encouragement from our peers.
Lastly, be willing to listen and change. Our generation desires to be heard, and we want our ideas to be valued. We ask difficult questions. Answer them honestly; don’t beat around the bush. Give us concrete information—like a Bible verse or link to a blog article—that we can use to answer our questions. If we have a suggestion, don’t brush it off. We want to be taken seriously, so hear us out.
Of course, these ideas are just a starting point from one lowly millennial, not a foolproof plan to fill your pews with twenty-somethings. Be real, honest, and friendly. Once we put down our iPhones, we’re not as aloof as we seem. We care about things besides social media, we crave community, and we desire to learn more about Christ.
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