Lyman Beecher Stowe, in “Saints, Sinners, and Beechers,” tells of one occasion when Thomas K. Beecher substituted for his famous brother, Henry Ward Beecher, at Plymouth Church, Brooklyn. Many curiosity seekers came to see and hear Henry Ward Beecher. Upon Thomas K. Beecher’s appearance in the pulpit, the sightseers started for the doors. Thomas K. raised his hand for attention, and made this announcement: “All those who came here this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may now withdraw from the church; all who came to worship God may remain.”
In this blog post, we want to examine what Millennials are seeking in the area of spirituality. I am avoiding the term worship because first it is a loaded word these days and Millennials are finding ways to grow in their faith outside of the Sunday Morning worship experience. There is a paradigm shift among Millennials, they have very little interest in the worship wars Baby Boomers have waged for decades. For Millennials, their focus has centered on new areas of importance in their spiritual formation. Thom Rainer, who researches church life and effectiveness for an organization called LifeWay, recently commented in a blog post, “What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials,” on the three things that matter most to Millennials with regard to worship. Rainer points out that “style” of worship is not their focus.
Millennials desire music that has rich content and reflects deep biblical and theological truths.
Consider what Leadership Journal Managing Editor Drew Dyck identifies as the potential point of connection:
“Millennials have a dim view of the 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”).
In our attempts to attract Millennials we often water down the music. It has at times become repetitive and shallow. For Millennials, this is not hip, it’s not trendy, and it is not working. They want music that stands on a foundation of deep biblical truth. Millennials want music that stood the test of time, that has deep theological roots. For the historic church, this is good news, we already have that.
Millennials desire authenticity in a worship service.
We don’t need to “gen up” emotions. The power of God’s word and his presence in worship is all we need.
Millennial blogger Ben Irwin wrote: “When a church tells me how I should feel (‘Clap if you’re excited about Jesus!’), it smacks of inauthenticity. Sometimes I don’t feel like clapping. Sometimes I need to worship in the midst of my brokenness and confusion — not in spite of it and certainly not in denial of it.”
This large generation wants a quality worship service.
Blogger Amy Peterson puts it this way: “I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘relevant.’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”
Quality is a reflection of the authenticity noted above, as is adequate preparation by the worship leaders both spiritually and in the amount of time they use to prepare. In that sense, quality worship services are possible for churches of all sizes.
To further explain, Millennials are particularly sensitive when the people worshipping on Sunday mornings and the pastors leading worship are just going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether. A major challenge we face with a liturgical format is that it is very easy to get complacent, and take for granted proper preparation. The love we have for serving God in the historic liturgy should be evident in the manner in which we lead God’s people into His presence through that worship experience.
It is apparent that a church that preaches the Word of God with depth and substance should connect with this generation. They are seeking a bigger God, a deeper faith, they are looking for strength in the risen and reigning Christ. That is the Church’s foundation, preach that with boldness and confidence that salvation is found in Christ alone. We have that truth, we have the Means of Grace we don’t need to try to be hip and flashy.
An interesting article from a Millennial: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jesus-doesnt-tweet/2015/04/30/fb07ef1a-ed01-11e4-8666-a1d756d0218e_story.html
The other blogs in this series on Millennials: