10 ways your church can reach millennials

“What in the world are we going to do about millennials?”

This is the question I heard the Church murmur and whisper and more recently shout from the rooftops.  Some have given up, some have fared well, but many churches find themselves confused and desperately needing help when it comes to reaching so many that I call friends born mostly between 1980 and 1995.  A few researchers expand this bracket to 2000, but many draw the line between Millennials and Generation Z somewhere between 1996-1998.

Lazy, entitled, man buns, unemployed, essential oils- while some these words are adjectives and some of these words are nouns, these are the descriptions of our generation.  I won’t go on my soap box of why we are often misunderstood, but I think Tim Elmore says it well in his introduction to his book, Generation iY.   He describes that if a seasoned sailor were out at sea and felt a new gust of wind from a totally new direction, he would not turn and fuss at the wind.  Rather, he would adjust his sails accordingly.  Churches, though, respond to millennials’ new and unique nature in quite polarizing ways.

Of each generation currently making up the population, millennials come in dead last on Church attendance.  I have sat in seminary classes, Christian conferences, and across the table from various ministry personnel who have all found themselves either really excited about the changes millennials offered their churches or really lost as to how to handle them, an important piece of information to have under control considering we are now the largest generation.

So here are a few practical tips to better engage millennials, increasing their attendance and involvement.

     1.  Hire a millennial.

Many (especially GenXers) love to harp on what a lazy generation we are.  We are so unemployed and lazy, yet what many don’t recognize is that many of us reached a working age when the economy was crashing.  Others of us later in the bracket, came to a working age when many healthcare reforms were made, limiting many employers from the jobs they could offer.  There are less and less blue collared jobs as they are being outsourced to various countries where manufacturing needs can be met at cheaper rates.  There are very few full time jobs available.  Employers are no longer coming to colleges and hiring students.  Instead, we spend hours upon hours in a career center and crafting the perfect resume and cover letter, knowing our resume will typically only be viewed for about 45 seconds.

Churches, this can be to your benefit.  Hire a millennial, maybe even part time.  Invite them to meetings where decisions are made that effect your whole congregation and get their input.  The most influential people to millennials are millennials.  Want to influence us?  Show us you believe in our generation by having one of us on your team.

     2.  Be clear about what you’re about.

Millennials are naturally distrusting of large corporations and organizations.  Have a stated purpose and mission somewhere obvious on the wall, in your bulletin, and on your website.  Don’t assume we will tithe because that’s what we’re supposed to do or what we watched our parents do if a clear budget is not accessible.  When you’re hosting an event or launching a new campaign have a clearly stated purpose for it.  Don’t just assume we are behind everything you are doing because we are a part of your organization.  Our membership has to be enticed and maintained and offered a lot of coffee each step of the way.

     3.  Focus on visuals.

I really can’t say this enough.  Maybe when you’re hiring a millennial, hire a graphic designer.  If you publish absolutely anything typed in Comic Sans font or using WordArt you might as well go ahead and throw it in every millennial’s trash can.  Millennials are experts on brand clarity and consistency.  We are masters at social media marketing and this is a way we can really benefit your church and your ministry.  But millennials will rarely be bought in if your bulletin, slideshow, and website haven’t had a serious facelift in the last 3 years, or really the last 3 months.

     4.  Website.

When we are new to town or looking for a new church in town, the very first thing we visit is a website.  Here’s what will bring millennials to your church:

  • aesthetic appeal
  • easy to find times of when to be there
  • stories of people who have been to your church via video
  • clearly stated mission and purpose
  • diversity of ministry staff (race and gender)
  • up to date calendar of events with good graphic design promoting each event

 5.  Singles.

Our generation is marrying later and later.  The average age a millennial marries is around 28 years old.  If your church drops off in the programs and events it offers between high school and young marrieds or young parents, you are dropping off on millennials.

     6.  Offer events that are solely about building community

While we are the most connected generation through social media, smartphones, etc., we are also the generation most starved for community.  Many of us don’t work in an office where we know what’s going on with John in the cubicle next to us’s daughter.  Many of us work from home or coffee shops because our work is photography, graphic design, social media marketing, etc.  Millennials look to the church as a way to bridge true, deep, and authentic connection with others.  If every event is packed with programming, it’s easy to miss the people around you.  Millennials are looking for nights the church all go bowling together, movie nights in the parking lot, or other events that are just about getting to know each other.

     7.  Stop assuming we are useless.

I think this is a way churches are really missing out.  The millennials in your church most likely cannot cross stitch and quilt like the boomers can, but they are creative.  They can reinvent the same systems you have been using forever to check in preschoolers, often by suggesting new technology that could really benefit your ministry.  Ask us questions.  Show us our input is valid and we have a place in the church.

 8.  Offer services on Sunday night.

We are not a crowd that is okay with anything before 10am.  Remember how you used to have that sun rise service for the boomers?  Change it to a sunset service for the millennials and you’re right on track!

   9.  Share stories.

There is power in story and millennials are particularly captivated by them.  Have members of your church share their story through a video or interview on Sunday morning.  Have the person being baptized share their story of coming to know Christ.  Encourage small group leaders to not just teach, but share about who they are.  We want a place where we can know and be known.

     10.  Use social media.

Use it.  Live it.  Breathe it.  Post your sermons, tweet quotes that stood out, put your next big event on your Instagram story.  Reference social media in your sermons.  Create Facebook events for your events.  Create images of quotes from your church others can share to bring more and more people to your page.

Don’t know how to start? See number 1.


What insights do you have?

Comment below.

15 books I read in 2015

So I am not really a reader.  It feels really weird for me to review books or to recommend them.  But for those of you who are and are much more faithful to read books even when you aren’t forced to, here are 15 books I read this past year!

(All titles are links to purchase the books on Amazon.  Books sorted in alphabetic order.)

  1. Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected ; Kayla Aimee
    Find my review of Anchored here.Anchored
  2. Cinderella Ate My Daughter ; Peggy Orenstein
    I will admit, I had to read this for a class or probably never would have unless I somehow came across the sparkly cover.  There were parts of this book I hated and a few when I was really discouraged, but seeing this book through the eyes of a mom who  is concerned about the world her daughter is growing up in is so beneficial.  Great book for anyone interested in thinking about “girlhood” in a new light. Cinderella Ate my daughter
  3. Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer ; Priscilla Shirer

    Find my review of Fervent here.
    Fervent

  4. Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls–Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental Toxins ; Leonard Sax
    This book also falls into the category of books I had to read for class, but I am so thankful I did.  Dr. Sax writes this book both for parents and for any helping professionals who work with girls (e.g. teachers, pastors, counselors, etc.).  What I love about this book is that Dr. Sax not only elaborates on problems in girl world, he also offers solutions.
    girls on the edge
  5. Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have; Annie Downs
    (Taken from my RESOURCES page)
    So I kind of had a girl crush on Annie when I listened to a sermon by her on singleness and found her at a conference in Nashville, TN. We talked about nail polish and she was super cool so I bought her book.  I am not the type to read a book all the way through in anything shorter than a couple years (if I ever finish), but I read this one in a month.  I felt like I was sitting and having coffee with Annie throughout every chapter.  It’s great. Read it.
    LABB
  6. Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World ; Bob Goff
    Where do I begin? I had this book for a long time and knew I needed to read it then finally did and I only wished I had read it sooner.  Bob Goff’s story is so cool, but hearing the lessons that he has learned throughout his life was both fun and inspiring.  Just read it, okay?
    Love Does
  7. Popular: Boys, Booze, and Jesus ; Tindell Baldwin
    I’ll admit, I was skeptical about this one, as I am about any thing with the subtitle “Boys, Booze, and Jesus”.  Tindell Baldwin is Kristian Stanfill’s (Vocalist and Guitarist, Passion Band) sister, who had a hard time growing up in his shadow or her family’s shadow in general.  In this book, she shares her experience of choosing boys, choosing booze, and eventually choosing Jesus.  We used this book for my high school girls’ small group and while they weren’t the best about reading it (surprise, surprise ;), Tindell’s vulnerability in this book lead to great and authentic discussions.  Also, she’s agreed to meet with us in March so STAY TUNED!
    POPULAR
  8. Salvaging My Identity ; Jennifer Mills & Rachel Lovingood
    My focus this summer was on Identity in Christ so I was on the lookout for any and all resources.  I loved the simplicity of this book that spoke to me at a 8th grade girl level (I feel so understood there). I also loved the format that was only 2-4 pages and an easy yet encouraging way to start my day! I sent this to all my middle school girl small group moms as a good read for middle school girls over the summer!
    Salvaging my identity
  9. So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids ; Diane Levin
    This also falls in the category of a book for class, but don’t lose sight there!  This book was extremely eye-opening but also frightening as I saw the rampant effects of hyper sexualization in children, 7 years ago, not to mention the rampant effects today. If you have a kid, work with kids, or know a kid, I would read this. But, be aware, you will get weird looks in coffee shops.
    SSSS
  10. The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance ; John Trent & Gary Smalley 
    I was a little hesitant to share this one, but the message and understanding of the importance of unconditional love from parents is so good. If you work with anyone who tells you about things they’re struggling with, this book provides a great lens of understanding the roles parents sometimes play in those scars.
    The blessing
  11. The Elements of Counseling ; Scott Meier & Susan Davis
    Good bookshelf book for anyone working in the counseling realm.
    Counseling
  12. The Four Loves ; C.S. Lewis
    C. S. Lewis unpacks the 4 types of love in Greek that are used in the New Testament.  He simplifies huge ideas with lots of fun stories along the way.
    4 loves
  13. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming ; Henri Nouwen
    I think the Prodigal Son is a story I could read every day and get something new out of it every time.  This narrative is all about Nowen’s interaction with Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and highlights so many perspectives through which to interact with the grace of the Father in this parable.
    Prodigal
  14. The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls from Today’s Pressures and Conflicting Expectations ; Stephen Hinshaw 
    This book explains and summarizes so well the challenges of girl world, but is written like a Psychology paper and can be kind of hard to get through.
    triple bind
  15. Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ ; Mark Driscoll
    As far as Identity in Christ resources go, I really enjoyed how this book and sermon series discuss Identity in Christ based on the book of Ephesians.
    WYTYA


    What’s your favorite book you read this year?