A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. The letter reads:
“I’ve gone to church for 30 years now. In that time, I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time, and the pastors are wasting their time.”
This started a real controversy in the Letters to the Editor column – much to the delight of the editor.
This letter could have been written today by anyone of the young people who have checked out of Sunday Morning worship. If you have followed this blog long enough, you know I am not here to bash anyone but to offer you encouragement and practical solutions.
With that disclaimer in mind here is interesting research from The Barna Group about Millennials. Then I will give you some practical ways to connect with Millennials.
The Barna Group found:
- The unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade, from 44% to 52%, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing among the nation’s population.
- Nearly six in ten (59%) of these young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away from either their faith or from the institutional church at some point in their first decade of adult life.
- Third, when asked what has helped their faith grow, “church” does not make even the top 10 factors. Instead, the most common drivers of spiritual growth, as identified by Millennials themselves, are prayer, family and friends, the Bible, having children, and their relationship with Jesus.
They are echoing the feelings in the letter written over 30 years ago that somehow the messages of the church are not connecting with them. I believe a huge part of the disconnect is that we are still operating with a churched culture mindset. We are still trying to reach the Christians who have drifted away, preaching and teaching the same way we did decades ago. However, this generation is facing challenges to its faith that previous generations never did. While this is the case, hope still remains. There is a way to connect with this younger generation that is searching for answers.
The New Front Door
You need to know your audience. Back in the good ole days, you could send out a mass mailing and you could expect to reach possibly one to three percent of the population. Things have changed.
We live in a digital world and us as a people have a need to remain connected. That change in culture affects the way we shop. Before I go to a restaurant, for example, I go to their website, I check out their menu, and I read the reviews. Likewise, this is the door Millennials enter first when it comes to church shopping. Your website is the front door to connect with Millennials. Millennials will use your website to see if your congregation is worth a face-to-face interaction because you need to understand time is precious to them.
Key Website features
You need to think of your website as a welcome center.
What information would you have on your website to make the first time visitor feel at home? Design your front page in that manner.
Your website needs to be easy to navigate not only is that a good idea for Millennials, it is a good idea period. Who wants to spend all day trying to figure out your website? Besides Millennials are accessing information often on the go. As Amber van Natten for News Cred wrote, “Despite the value of long-form content, 41% of Millennials said the main reason they abandon content is that it’s too long. Keep the context of your content in mind – are they on a mobile device looking for a quick distraction or researching for real, in-depth information?”
So keep the content short, informative and to the point. Consequently, it is critical to gear the front page so that outsiders can understand it and navigate it easily.
Make Your Web Presence A Social Gathering Place
Equally important is the fact that Millennials meet outsiders in on-line social gathering places. If we learn to engage and connect with them in this realm they can become our greatest advocates for the spreading of the Gospel among their peers. Check this quote out, “When millennials fall in love with a product or an organization, they tell the world — through social media and face-to-face conversations. The Millennials who love your product are your best marketing tool. These evangelists will sell your product for you if you give them a forum and the means to do so.” – Joel Kaplan for Mashable
Moreover, Millennials want to connect online and be part of a community. Image having them sharing podcast of your sermons, Bible studies and blog posts virally to their unchurched friends. It could have a similar impact that Dr. Martin Luther experienced when he put the word of God in the language and the hands of the German common folks. Think of the global impact. To meet this amazing opportunity many churches now have a volunteer or a paid staff person for digital and social communications, because this is where your members and outsiders are living.
In conclusion, in the opening letter about the effectiveness of preaching, the discussion went on for weeks until someone wrote the following clincher:
“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time, my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”
Preaching is not the issue, the Word of God is still effective and powerful today. Our challenge is how to connect that Word of God with a population that is searching for community, but not necessarily ready to darken the doors of our building. We meet them where they are in the digital world they travel.