I love being a pastor. It’s not easy. It’s challenging. It’s scary (preparing to teach the Word of God…stricter judgment). But, it’s also very rewarding.
You know when you teach and pour your heart into it, then you care about what happens to the people (the flock). And oh, do I care about the flock I have the privilege to help lead. I love them! Old and young alike. All the way down to the little tots. And I particularly love our millennials. I love that group of young folks (mostly in their 20’s). They are a wonderful group of bright and energetic folks. If you are in your 20’s and you are attending church, then you are the real deal.
We’ve got many of these wonderful folks! Thank the Lord! But, many churches don’t. I read an article recently that outlined the ways a church can hang on to millennials. It was very enlightening. My comments are in italics. The article is titled:
Want to Keep Young People? Here Are Two Central Reasons Why Millennials Stay Connected
“Millennials have a dim view of church. They are highly skeptical of religion. Yet they are still thirsty for transcendence. But when we portray God as a cosmic buddy, we lose them (they have enough friends). When we tell them that God will give them a better marriage and family, it’s white noise (they’re delaying marriage and kids or forgoing them altogether). When we tell them they’re special, we’re merely echoing what educators, coaches and parents have told them their whole lives. But when we present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God, it just might get their attention and capture their hearts as well” (from the blog post “Millennials Don’t Need a Hipper Pastor, They Need a Bigger God”).
I said this same thing over and over in my book: Rite of Passage. We have been raising a generation of kidults because we don’t expect them to do anything hard. Instead of involving them in ministry, we’ve built buildings and programs to keep them out of our hair. It’s been a colossal failure. We must involve people, not entertain them.
Taylor Snodgrass of Church of the 20somethings offers some firsthand insights: “Our generation has been advertised at our whole life, and even now on social media,” he says. “Consequently, when a company isn’t being authentic with their story, we can easily see through this. If the church isn’t giving you the whole story, if it’s sugarcoated and they’re trying to put on an act on stage, people in their 20s will see through this. This causes us to leave. We’re good at seeing when people are lying to us.”
And they are leaving at a clip of about 80-90%
Brian Coffey, senior pastor at First Baptist Church West and East in Geneva, Ill., and himself the father of four Millennial sons, agrees, “Millennials don’t like to be programmed to. They can hear honesty. They have a radar for that.”
“The days of the light and fog machines and overly produced church services are a gone era,” says Tony Ranvestel, lead pastor at Clear River Church in Lafayette, Ind., located near Purdue University.
Amen to that. There is a church in Charlotte, NC that caters to 20-somethings that has the drummer to the Praise Team come down on cables from the ceiling while the rest of the band members swing in on sheets from a trapeze. That’s ridiculous if you ask me!
With 80 percent of the church under 40 years old, Ranvestel and his co-pastor Zach Miller have a clear focus. “We don’t schedule lots of activity,” says Ranvestel. “ We call people to follow Jesus. If you follow Jesus, this leads to serving and justice. You should shovel a neighbor’s driveway, but it’s not a program. It’s disciples in relationship.” All who attend worship are encouraged to join a small group. That’s it.
And that’s why I believe it is important to keep things simple. Therefore, we don’t schedule a lot of activities during the week. Hardly anything to be honest. We try to “meet,” via email and give people the opportunity to be salt and light in their homes and community.
Miller, a Millennial, says, “I appreciate the clear understanding of what is expected and what I can do. We’re not going to overwhelm you with choices. We think you should follow Jesus, and here’s one or two ways to learn to do that.”
Building relationships and learning about Jesus are two central reasons why Millennials stay connected to church. Barna’s research shows that young adults who remain involved in a local church beyond their teen years are twice as likely as those who don’t to have a close personal friendship with an older adult in their faith community (59 percent versus 31 percent).
I have to agree. In today’s America, people my age get entertainment very easily; in some cases without even having to seek it. They are so bombarded by good entertainment, they are almost becoming immune to it. The last place they need or want to be drawn in for sheer entertainment is the Church. First because it’s the total wrong reason for drawing people and second because they will simply become bored and find somewhere that is clearly genuine and meaningful.
I find that my generation is coming to realize there is much more worth in something that is intentionally honest rather than flashy and fun for a while. They are seeing that the intoxication of shallow entertainment is temporary and a waste of time.
Please don’t get me wrong; lights, environmentals and large praise teams are great and it’s how some people worship. My generation greatly enjoys those things in the church…as long as the intent is to worship the Lord and meet with Him.
Next up: Caleb Triplett’s impressions:
I agree 10000000%. My generation isn’t, to most people’s surprise, interested in flashy, fake, and over the top performance centered churches. We want authentic, genuine, and honest community. It’s not that we want to return to hymns or cut out the drums. It’s just that we don’t care. We just want to worship, no matter the style. Where God is the center, and not man. We want to pray, and we want to encounter genuine community. We don’t want to be advertised at, or “sold a product”.
…We are seeing a mass movement away from Christendom as the dominant “religion and lifestyle” choice in our society. Thousands of millennials are fleeing the church in droves, and that leaves what? it leaves the few millennials that are interested, they are most often pretty solid, and pretty hungry. If they weren’t they would have left with the “droves” because it’s certainly more popular. We don’t want popular, hip, or relevant. We want transformation, truth, and genuine community.
I’ll tell you the top words I have heard in talking with other young men and women about what they desired from the Church and the body of Christ:
REAL, GENUINE, TRANSPARENT, TRUTH, PASSION, COMMUNITY, MENTORSHIP, FELLOWSHIP, ACCOUNTABILITY and AUTHENTIC.
Those were the buzz words.
I’ve spent a lot of time around men and women my age that were hungry for Christ, especially at ASU. The group I was involved in, we met in a building with exposed pluming, heat and AC. It had no “rows or pews”, and no pulpit. The churches that most of us went to in Boone had a few things in common. They were unconcerned about denominational preferences and traditions, they were very focused on community and fellowship as the heart of the church (small groups, missions, etc.), and Gospel/Bible/Jesus/Prayer focused (they weren’t concerned about lights, music, buildings, etc).
So there you have it. Pretty solid, straight-up insight huh? The future looks bright if you ask me. I’m encouraged! How do you keep 20-somethings? Involve them and expect great things as disciples of Christ! And I’m glad that I don’t have to come swinging down from the ceiling on a cable! 🙂