They’re that frustrating group that makes you tear your hair out because getting them involved and returning to the church is so painfully difficult—Millennials.
But there’s still hope—despite the religious disillusionment among so many of their peers, there are still millions of Millennials (people who are currently in their early teens to early 30s, or born after 1980) who are attending church and are active in their faith.
But to tap into these millions you’re going to need to build relationships with them. While it isn’t easy, it’s immensely important. According to a study by Barna Group, those Millennials remaining at church were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active).
David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, states that “among those who remain active, this much is clear: the most positive church experiences among Millennials are relational. This stands true from the inverse angle as well: Seven out of ten Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly nine out of ten never had a mentor at the church.”
Kinnaman says that this shows us how a very large number of teenagers who go to church don’t feel accepted. “This kind of information should be a wake-up call to ministry leaders as well as to churched adults of the necessity of becoming friends with the next generation of believers,” he says.
So how does your church truly reach those Millennials, find the means to build relationships with them, and make them feel relationally accepted?
1. Be available to them.
According to another Barna study, among practicing Christian Millennials:
- 70% read scripture on a phone, tablet, or online
- 59% say they search for spiritual content online
- 56% check out a church online before visiting
- 38% fact-check statements their faith leader makes in sermons, blogs, or other places
Millennials constantly integrate technology into their lives. The good news is that all of these technologies that are used by Millennials are available to churches as well.
If someone is looking for a new church, websites such as Faithstreet help people find one. Mobile apps are available for Bible study, verse memorization, and spiritual reading at church functions. Apps like Church Life and ChurchCast allow you to stay in touch with your members and staff—you can create an app for your own church where they can download audio and video of sermons and read daily devotionals, as well as get other useful information.
Maintain active Twitter and Facebook accounts so that Millennials can follow you and learn about your church and upcoming events and information.
Start a blog and make that accessible through your website so that they can read your content and interact with other members, and also start online forums for your members to join, start conversations, debate certain topics, and build relationships.
Stay up to date and tune into what keeps Millennials coming back. David Kinnaman adds:
“They have grown up in a culture and among peers who are often neutral or resistant to the gospel. And life feels accelerated compared with 15 years ago—the ubiquity of information makes it harder for many to find meaning in institutions that feel out of step with the times. Millennials often describe church, for instance, as ‘not relevant’ or say that attending worship services ‘feels like a boring duty.’”
2. Recruit them to a cause—provide ministry and leadership opportunities.
Millennials enjoy serving—your church needs to make sure that there are plenty of ministry and leadership opportunities available to them. They want to be involved in something big, in affecting change, and they want to be given responsibility and leadership roles; they want to be trusted.
Steve Saccone, the ministry development pastor at the Highway Community in Mountain View, California, and author of Protégé: Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders, states: “Young leaders crave opportunity for someone to take a risk on them, believe in them, and to have a person who opens doors for them and cheers them on in their growth journey as a leader.”
In order to keep Millennials involved in your church, you should get them involved in a cause so that they can make a meaningful, tangible difference, as opposed to just giving them a volunteer role within the church. Bob Sutton, the Director of Candidate Relations at Vanderbloemen Search Group, agrees:
“As church leaders, it is crucial to provide opportunities for these people to affect change. If you are unsure where to start, have an organization who shares your church’s vision set up a booth in the lobby and speak from the stage. Milllennials want to be empowered to do meaningful work on a local and global scale. Your church can be a great avenue for that missional connection.”
Millennials have more desire to stay connected when they have a supportive and welcoming community and feel like they have been given responsibility. Heather Zempel, discipleship pastor at National Community Church in Washington, D.C., says, “If they feel like they have a community that cares about them and encourages them, they stick. If they feel like they have ownership of some project and will be missed if they aren’t there, they stick.”
So, start organizing more groups, ministries, mission trips, and serious volunteer opportunities with positions of leadership: advertise these opportunities on your website, Twitter, Facebook and send email blasts as well in order to keep the Millennials informed and involved.
Send out surveys to determine the strongest opinions and interests of the Millennials at your church, and then gear your events and opportunities towards those popular interests to ensure good outcome and involvement amongst GenY.
3. Provide online giving.
Barna research shows that “Millennials are giving, yet technology is significantly changing how they give. In fact, Millennial generosity, for the most part, has gone paperless.”
11% of all Millennials donate to a church or faith organization at least once a month, and 39% of practicing Christian Millennials donate to a church or faith organization online at least once a month. 8% of all Millennials make donations to non-profits via text at least once a month, and 20% of practicing Christian Millennials do.
There are many church management systems that have online giving features, as well as many online donation apps and platforms. Reaching Millennials where they are (which is typically their mobile phones) is key—nearly one out of every ten Millennials say they text to donate at least once a month, which doubles among practicing Christian Millennials to two out of ten.
Know of any more great ideas to keep Millennials engaged with your church? Add them in the comments below!