An ongoing conversation among church leaders is how to engage the elusive millennial. This group, identified as the 80 million Americans born after 1980 and before 2000, is the first generation to grow up in a fully digital world. As a result, they seem to have unique desires and perspectives on what they want out of their relationships, careers, family life and spirituality.
Many blogs and books have been written over the past few years trying to explain and examine the way millennials engage with the world around them. The Church has to grapple with the fact that the way traditional church culture has approached communication and discipleship isn’t working with millennials. There are five things this group of young adults is looking for and the Church must change if we are going to engage and maintain relationship with millennials. We can’t afford to lose them.
1) Transparency and Authenticity
Millennials desire to know the truth, “the real deal.” They have been exposed to SO much through their digital lives by adulthood that as the result they have a pretty good handle on what is true and what is simply being portrayed as true. They don’t want to be fed lines. They want leaders who are willing to admit their mistakes and when they don’t know the answers. Millennials are strongly influenced by UGC (User-Generated Content.) This is content like videos, blogs, discussion posts, audio files and other forms of media created by consumers or end-users. So when they see people posting on Facebook about the amazing message they heard last week at church and posting on Instagram about the community they find in their small group, they take note. That testimony speaks volumes to a Millennial.
2) Social Media Matters
Millennials have mobile devices and use them, all day long. They like the ease of mobile banking, ordering anything they need online and staying connected to people throughout their day through social media. If your church doesn’t have a strong online presence both through your website and on social media, then you are sending a clear message to millennials that you aren’t interested in their involvement. They want to be able to see what is going on in your church online. Most will look to experience your church first through their online experience. It helps to also provide access to the sermon, Bible studies, small groups and devotions through your church website. A church software program like Realm is a perfect way to help your church navigate this process and stay connected with millennials.
3) Desire Opportunities to Lead
Millennials want the chance to lead and they want to see other millennials in leadership. If all the leadership in the church is 30 years older than them, they aren’t going to believe you’re investing in their generation. They want to learn through experience. Often that looks like putting a “green” millennial in a leadership role while a leader with more experience walks beside them. Which leads us to the next point.
Millennials live their lives participating daily on social media but they truly desire face-to-face relationships. They love the concept of learning from someone a few steps ahead of them. They want to lead but they want someone to walk with them, teaching them as they go. Mentoring is a beautiful way to encourage discipleship and accountability at the same time. A millennial is more likely to show up for an early morning coffee date with a mentor that is investing in them, than a Sunday School class where one teacher speaks to a group of other young adults.
5) Want to Make a Difference
Millennials have a strong desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to create change and positively impact the world around them. If your church is already doing that well, then they will desire to be a part. If you have an exclusive culture, they will be turned off by that. However, if you are inclusive to all and use the culture of the church body to help and make a difference in the schools in your community and work corporately to meet the needs of people in your community, they will jump on board!
Millennials are pushing the Church to do things differently. They hold fast to biblical truths and desire sound theology but they want a church that is willing to meet them in their own space and time. They are looking for a church that will invest in them.
For more ideas on ways to engage with millennials, check out our free guide, “5 Must-Haves to Engage with Millennials.”