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What a College Student Needs from the Church

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to share a guest blogger with you, but I am overjoyed for that guest blogger to be Miss Erin Jagus!  I had the privilege of getting to know Erin last year as she is a Berry College student and have loved learning more about her heart to love the people around her fiercely.  Erin shared her experiences on what she’s learned college students need from a church congregation.

EJAG


I have had the wonderful blessing of being a part of a revival that is taking place at Berry College this year. With the scholarship that I have, I live on Berry’s campus year-round (yes even summer and most of winter break) and work. This past summer, a student started to lead a worship night in our dorm’s common space. It was simply a night to come and worship each week. A friend of mine, and a LifeCast (read more about LifeCast here) short term intern last year, was on campus during the training week before LifeCast. On that Thursday, he came to the worship night and the Lord gave him a beautiful vision—to keep this going even when the school year starts. When school started, my friend asked me to speak. We were expecting maybe 20 people to show up, but the Lord had other plans. Fifty-nine people packed into a common space on campus that first week. Since then, we have continued meeting under the name “Common Worship” in different spaces across campus each week and the Lord has been moving in mighty ways. Now, I get to do more behind-the-scenes work along with seven others who have a heart of leadership and a passion for seeing our community grow closer to the Lord.

Part of being behind-the-scenes means that I get to sit in on a lot of meetings. A lot of the meetings thus far in the semester have been discussing whether Common Worship needs to become a Student Organization. When we are asked this, we always are told to be thinking of how to answer the questions “What need are you meeting on campus?” and “How is what you’re doing any different from what other religious groups are doing?”

This is a slightly weird thing to think about, because in simple explanation, it might sound similar to any other religious group meeting. We gather, pray, sing, someone speaks, we sing, pray, and then we disperse. Why is what Common Worship is doing different? What need is Common Worship meeting? To be honest, I don’t have a clear answer. Common Worship is completely student-lead and most of us are under the age of 20. In talking to the leadership team and those that come every week, here were some of the common themes:

 

  1. Prayer: Priscilla Shirer would tell you that prayer is part of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 (see verse 18), and I would wholeheartedly agree with her. Instead of having prayer be the last thought, God is teaching us to make it one of our first responses to any situation. In preparation for our weekly event, the leadership team spends a great deal of time on our faces—both as a group corporately thanking Him and asking the Lord to have His way in us, then individually asking the Lord to guide us and make us bold. One of the sweetest parts of my week is after Common Worship is over. After hanging out and packing up, we go to next week’s location and just pray over the space, the speaker who will share, and the community that will come. We know that our gathering only happens once a week, but we believe that the Lord is working in the hearts of His people always.

 

  1. Community: A huge part of the college experience is finding where you belong. A huge part of the human experience is wanting to feel known. Our hearts were made for connection; our souls were made for community. One of my personal passions is a community that is intentional. Not just a community that knows names and faces, but a community that knows each other’s joys and sorrows. A community that does not just come together once a week, but a community that does life together. College students love coffee, love food, and love conversation. Conversation leads to connection and connection leads to community. I think intentional communities give us a small taste of heaven on earth.

 

  1. Authenticity: Everyone wants to know that they are not alone in what they are going through, genuinely and really. No one wants a performer, someone who will put on their “Christian mask” for a night and play a role. Be willing to stop pretending like everything is alright. Be honest. Be open. Be genuine. Be real. We learn from each other’s stories. I love how the Lord teaches through trials and pain but does not leave them to be painful. He uses them for His glory in His timing. What I love about an authentic environment is that it spreads—from one heart to another to a community to the world. I think authenticity is the place where shackles of religion break off and lead to a real relationship with the Father.

 

There are people who regularly attend Common Worship each week who do not regularly attend a church in Rome. To be completely honest with you, I am still on a journey to find a church to attend and serve.

But the church is not just a building to attend each Sunday and Wednesday. We are the Church. You are the church. I am the church.

As believers, we are image bearers. A synonym for bearer is “bringer”. We bring the image of God, the kingdom of heaven, to the Earth through the power of Christ at work within us.

I cannot express to you enough just how in awe I am of what God is doing here. He is reviving this campus, realigning our heartbeats to His. He is preparing the hearts of this campus for greater things. Getting to serve at Common Worship makes me feel alive—body, mind, and soul. Getting to worship with fellow college students at Common Worship makes me feel alive—body, mind, and soul. Our generation is yearning to know the Lord. Our generation is asking the Lord to lead us from dead religion to dynamic relationship.

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.