Many of our churches are missing the millennial generation (typically defined as those born between 1980 and 2000). If you want to be that kind of church, too, here are some things that will likely keep you from reaching this generation:
- Pay little attention to doctrine. Beliefs matter to millennials. They’re not going to spend their time in congregations whose attention to doctrine is weak or non-existent.
- Don’t worry about gospel application. Teach Bible content, but don’t help your hearers understand where the Bible’s teachings intersect with their lives. Leave the impression that Sunday’s truths have little relevance to Monday’s living.
- Be distant and boring in the pulpit. This generation welcomes vulnerability. They’ve also grown up with electronic options to listen to good preaching when they can’t find it in a local church. They won’t sit long under poor proclamation.
- Provide few opportunities for service. This generation wants to be hands-on in their faith. If you keep them at arm’s distance while another generation does the church’s work, they will go to church elsewhere.
- Keep the generations separated in your church. Millennials want to learn from older adults. They’re seeking mentors who will walk beside them. The church that provides neither opportunity won’t keep them long.
- Make worship a show rather than a genuine encounter with God. Millennials and “authenticity” go hand-in-hand. They’ve seen enough fake Christianity, and they can often spot it from a distance.
- Neglect social ministry. My generation was so afraid of losing our evangelistic focus (which wasn’t that strong . . .) that we almost ignored social needs. Follow that pattern, and you won’t reach the millennial generation.
- Ignore hard questions. Young people live daily with hard cultural questions. They want to know how the gospel answers those questions, and they’re unafraid to ask. Superficial answers won’t work.
- Be less than open about the church’s finances. Millennials don’t want to know all the details, but they want to be informed enough to trust their giving is making a difference. Financial integrity is important to them.
- Build weak, disconnected small groups. Make sure they focus on transferring information more than on sharing life. If nobody invites millennials into life-on-life groups that emphasize transformation, you’ll likely have succeeded in keeping them away.
Millennials, what would you add?
And, if your church is reaching this generation, tell us what’s working.