Millennials Are More Than a Strategy For the Church Survival

Young Men and Women of Different Ethnic Groups

Here is some breaking news for all those congregations trying to market their ministry to reach Millennials.

Millennials are people.  They are more than a group to target market. They are not just a set of numbers that add to the gross national product.  Millennials are the not the salvation of the local church. They are not a bunch of group marketing test subjects. They do not all think alike anymore that Generation X’s are all the same. Millennials are not a bunch of whiney, entitled, self-centered adults as some in my generation have pegged them.  What this generation offers to the world is a passion and knowledge base not seen in previous generations.  They are people who have hurts, pain, struggles, and an ambition for a better life for their families.  In that regard, they are like everyone else. To understand this talented group, you need to stop reading studies, stop studying statistics about them and be willing to have a conversation with them.

“We were completely surprised,” said J. Walter Thompson’s Ann Mack. “There has been a faulty portrayal of millennials by the media. These people are not the self-entitled, coddled slackers they’re made out to be. Misnomers and myths about them are all over the place.” (UPI 3/30/08)

Here are some things I have discovered to talking with Millennials. I will say this upfront, I am by no means an expert, but I do love to study people. So, this is not scientific, and I would like my Millennial followers to fill in the gaps of my observations.

Observation 1: Millennials tend to have an inner calling to give and make a difference in the world.

I would describe this in Biblical terms. In a John 13 mindset. Here is that section of Scripture.

 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he sent a message to the world that the idea of power, prestige, and position has been turned upside down.  How can the King of the universe take on the passive role of a servant?  I love how William Barclay describes the meaning of the foot washing event.

“Jesus knew all things had been given into his hands. He knew that his hour of humiliation was near, but he was aware that his hour of glory was also near. Such a consciousness might well have filled him with pride; and yet, with the knowledge of the power and the glory that were his, he washed his disciples’ feet. At that moment when he might have had supreme pride, he had supreme humility. Love is always like that.”[1] In this foot washing context, a Millennial might see this strange Rabbi as a compassionate leader.  What a shift, a leader who is a servant first.  They would connect with a leader who sees the bigger picture.  Jesus noticed the hurting.  He had compassion on the masses.  Jesus stopped to impact and transform the lives of the community.  All things that the Millennials I have the pleasure of interacting and connecting with value.

Observation Two: A Different Kind of Leadership Needed.

What I have noticed with this Millennial generation is that they get service.  What I see in many Millennials is a desire to make an immediate positive impact on the world in which they live. My generation tended to emphasize that winning at all costs is the goal.  We were taught to value rugged individualism.  So, we struggle to understand this generation that leans toward working as a collective.  Millennials that I have collaborated with value servant leadership.  Give me the problem and then stand back and let us as a team figure out creative solutions.  They learned to think more about people than themselves. Millennials tend to function better with social interaction.  So, this servant leadership model that Jesus lays out for the disciples resonates with this generation.

In a book by David Stark, he includes this quote, “Ordinary people, concerned by a problem, an issue, or injustice, have been empowered to become extraordinary champions of change. This is the Millennial approach to activism, as well as to business, personal attitudes, and sometimes overall life choices…Millennials have high ideals. But they also know their ideal must be actionable and realizable.”

To engage with some of these passionate young people, remember they are more well-rounded, intelligent and loving than many have reported.

Stay tuned more observations to come. In the meantime here are other posts.

[1]  Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of John (Vol. 2, p. 160). Louisville, KY: Edinburgh.


What Millennial Parents Want in a Christian School


This post is a summary of a presentation I gave at a teacher’s conference in the fall of 2017.  The presentation was on what do millennial parents want in a Christian day school.  Some of you are thinking they want what everyone else wants, right?  Well not so fast.  Because this generation is not as grounded in faith as previous generations there is a shift in what they value and desire for their children.  I will give you just a taste of what four factors will determine their educational choices.  This is based on August 2017 Barna Research study on Parents and Christian Schools.  I have included the link if you want to dig deeper into the findings.

  1. Safety

According to Barna Research, “A safe environment is the most essential feature when choosing a school for parents of both current (98% essential) and prospective (94%) Christian school students. Safety can mean anything from a toxin-free building or a padded playground to bullying prevention. However, it can also include ‘cultural safety,’ such as feeling safe to ask questions or express doubt, learning to work through differences or a general sense of belonging and respect. Prospective parents, though more generous toward public (21%) and charter schools (35%), also give private Christian schools (both 42%) a 10 of out 10 for their ability to provide a safe environment.” [1]

You can see how this is important to parents regardless of age.  As we look at the world around us, it is becoming more and more of a dangerous place.  And the places that were off limits in the past, schools, churches, concerts have all come under attack in recent years.

  1. Quality Teachers
    The definition of what is a quality teacher is changing with this next generation. Quality is defined by the strength of the relationship between parent and teacher. Here is what the research says.

Children experience a wide range of relationships at school, but the core ones are with peers and teachers. Parents want warm teachers who they can reach easily. “Teachers who really care about their students” (98%) is the aspect of schools that Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) parents are most likely to say is essential (tied with safety at 98%), followed closely by “accessible teachers,” which slightly fewer (94%) said was a necessity.  Parents whose children are in private Christian schools tend to rank their experience with the schools very highly. Almost six in 10 (59%) give their current school a 10 of out 10 for “Teachers who really care about their students” and over half (52%) give the same ranking to “accessible teachers.” For prospective parents, almost four in 10 (38%) gave a 10 out of 10 for “Teachers who really care about their students” and about one-third (34%) gave the same rating for “accessible teachers.”[2]

  1. Academic Excellence

One of the more surprising revelations from the study are the goals prospective parents want for the academic futures of their children. Barna research points out that:

“Academic excellence is a top priority for parents of both current and prospective Christian school students. Nearly all current Christian school parents (95%) say it is essential. For prospective parents, that number is slightly lower, at 88 percent. Surprisingly, parents do not consider academic excellence more important as their children grow older and closer to the window for college admissions.”

  1. Character Development & Spirituality

It is in this sector that the greatest divide begins to become more evident.  According to the Barna Research:

“Current and prospective parents both also give high priority to “intentionally developing children’s character” (current: 94%, prospective: 73%). But in addition, current parents especially desire spiritual development for their children. This reinforces the above findings showing how most current Christian school parents believe that character and spiritual development are among the ultimate purposes of education.

When it comes to spiritual formation specifically, more than eight in 10 (82%) parents of current students believe it is essential when weighing a choice between different schools, but only one-quarter of parents of prospective students (26%) feel the same.”

Where we currently connect character development to faith this next generation appears to separate character from faith.

This reminds me a study of character formation.  In the 1950s a psychologist, Stanton Samenow, and a psychiatrist, Samuel Yochelson, sharing the conventional wisdom that crime is caused by environment, set out to prove their point. They began a 17-year study involving thousands of hours of clinical testing of 250 inmates in the District of Columbia. To their astonishment, they discovered that the cause of crime cannot be traced to environment, poverty, or oppression. Instead, crime is the result of individuals making, as they put it, wrong moral choices.

In their 1977 work The Criminal Personality, they concluded that the answer to crime is a “conversion of the wrong-doer to a more responsible lifestyle.” In 1987, Harvard professors James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein came to similar conclusions in their book Crime and Human Nature. They determined that the cause of crime is a lack of proper moral training among young people during the morally formative years, particularly ages one to six. [3]

The challenge Christians schools will need to address is how do you reconnect faith to character development?  We don’t want to just produce good students, we are called as believers to develop disciples.  Character is forged with the transformation of the new life in Christ. The apostle Paul describes how a character is formed.

But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

These are interesting times for the church, but Jesus has equipped us just for these times.

Other posts in the studies done to connect the church with Millennials:




[3] Christianity Today, August 16, 1993, p. 30.


Millennials Want a Mentoring and Discipling Church

lightstock_473506_download_medium_byrene_haney_“Mentoring and discipling this next generation is everything.”- Aspen Group CEO Ed Bahler, a founding partner of the Cornerstone Knowledge Network.

What is mentoring?  The Management Mentors website defines it this way: “Mentoring is most often defined as a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentoree) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth.”  That sounds great.  However, before you start matching older wiser leaders with the 20-something in your church, you need to know that this is not what Millennials are looking for in a church. Think about it. Have millennials ever taken a traditional approach to anything? Have they ever done things the easy way? Millennials are a different breed, not a bad breed just a different breed, a unique group of individuals.

If you stop and examine many of our teaching methods, they are based on discipleship that has at its core a mentoring mindset. In the old discipleship models, we used for the previous generation people came to the church and sat at the feet of the pastor and were instructed.  That discipleship model contained these essential elements:

  • Teaches the mentoree about a specific issue. (We called that youth and adult instruction)
  • Coaches the mentoree on a particular skill. (Training in the use of spiritual gifts.)
  • Facilitates the mentoree’s growth by sharing resources and networks. (We put people to work on boards and committees.)
  • Challenges the mentoree to move beyond his or her comfort zone. (People moved up the ministry ladder into leadership positions.)
  • Creates a safe learning environment for taking risks. (Sending people out to carry out the ministry of the church.)
  • Focuses on the mentoree’s total development. (Developing spiritual maturity)

However, Millennials don’t want a one-way information dump where they sit and receive mountains of information.  What the church needs to adapt to is the dawning of a new mentoring model.  One that fully engages Millennials in a dialogue with mutual sharing of information.  You see Millennials have something they can teach the church as well as need to learn from the church.  By developing a new understanding of discipleship and instruction called reverse mentoring both the church and the young adults today grow together.

What is reverse mentoring you say?

According to Techopedia, reverse mentoring is an initiative where older executives are mentored by younger employees on topics like technology, social media, and current trends. You read that correctly. Millennials mentor executives.

How does this work?  Imagine your seasoned ministry leaders following this radical concept and using reverse mentoring to gain a deeper understanding of the emerging culture.  As the church attempts to get a handle on this postmodern thought, Millennials could help the church become fluent in the language of the emergent conversation. “The best way to do this is to become a willing and intentional student of the culture, to become the humble protégé; instead of the mentor.[1]

Reverse mentoring takes into account that Millennials want to be taken seriously today and not just seen for some distant future leadership position.

The Benefits of Reverse Mentoring

What is the church’s biggest challenge?  We are fresh idea deprived.  With reverse mentoring, the church gets an injection of fresh ideas and a new perspective.  Reverse mentoring counteracts ministry blind spots that come from doing ministry the same way for too long.  This approach to ministry acknowledges everyone within an organization has something to bring to the table. By pairing a younger, less-experienced ministry professional with older leaders, reverse mentoring helps young disciples gain confidence and strengthen their leadership skills while assisting older disciples to stay up-to-date on the latest ministry ideas while at the same time enhance the overall ministry of the congregation.

Discipleship is a critical responsibility of the shepherd. Paul makes it that clear. Here is the context for that preparation from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, “12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, 16 who is the head.”


More posts in this series:

Congregational Life and Ministry, Millennials

Millennials Want a Courageous Church


This post continues a series on the kind of church young people today are seeking.  It should be clear by now that this is not all that different from what most people are seeking. However, there are some stark differences in the level of importance one group places on these factors over and above another.

Millennials are seeking a courageous Church

Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.[1]According to Barna Research on Millennials a common struggle young people today are faced with are cultural challenges.  And the issue the church faces is how does it respond to that challenge of teaching cultural discernment to young adults?  Here is how Barna describes the landscape: “Millennials need guidance on engaging culture meaningfully and from a distinctly Christian perspective. This idea of finding a way to bring their faith in Jesus to the problems they encounter in the world is one of the most powerful motivations for today’s practicing Christian Millennials. They don’t want their faith to be relegated to Sunday worship, and this desire for holistic faith is something the Church can speak to in a meaningful way. “

So, what does this mean?

People in their twenties want to be challenged to think about difficult messages. They don’t just want to have easy topics each week. Millennials want to dive into difficult-to-understand topics and passages and explore how they apply. Take young people on a spiritual journey of discovery through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  Provide an environment where you can have a dialogue to discuss real issues. For example, “Here’s why you should stay sexually pure until marriage. Here’s why it’s good to tithe. How do you witness to the LBGT community?”

Imagine a sermon series that address the question, “Can I be a Christian IF…” and you fill in the blank with some of the tough issues of our day, such as woman’s reproduction rights, social justice, race relations, and there is even some question if you can be a Christian if you are on one political side or the other. I understand there are some pastors out there getting nervous just thinking about taking on such possibly divisive issues.  Something for you to consider, if we can’t have these conversations in the church where can we have them?  Where can members go to get a balanced biblical dialogue about the questions that are running through their minds?  The internet is not the new source of truth.  And who better to lead this discussion than a person well versed in the understanding of the truth of God’s Word and the compassionate soul to respect other viewpoints, yet still point people to God’s divine plan for humanity?  Of course, to pull this off requires courage.

A Word of Caution

Jim Fiebig says, “There’s a fine line between courage and foolishness. Too bad it’s not a fence.”  This post is not a license to be mean or condescending.  Millennials and no one else wants to be apart of a church that condemns and appears intolerant. We want to approach tough issues with sensitivity and love while still holding to the truth of God’s Word.  That is a fine line and I don’t know where that line is until we cross it.  But we need to find a way to lead in this changing, scary at times post-Christian society.  May God gives us the courage and the wisdom to do just that.

[1] Eddie Rickenbacker, Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993, p. 12.

Other posts on the topic:

Congregational Life and Ministry, Millennials

Millennials Want a Community Church


In his 1983 acceptance speech for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, [Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn] recalled the words he heard as a child when his elders sought to explain the ruinous upheavals in Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” He added, “If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: ‘men have forgotten God.'”  – John Wilson, reviewing “Solzhenitsyn and the Modern World, in Christianity Today, Feb 7, 1994, p. 57.

Interesting that even back in 1983 a shift was happening; more and more people were drifting away from God.  As millennials enter adulthood that trend has reached a critical mass. Millennials defined as 18-34 by 2015 are not attending church as much as some previous generations.  Barna Research reports, “about one-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds are practicing Christians, meaning they attend church at least once a month and strongly affirm that their religious faith is very important in their life.”  What are the factors keeping them away? To be clear I am speaking in generalities here.  Not all Millennials fall into this category. It is always a bit dangerous to peg an entire group based on market research, so keep that in mind as you read this.  Millennials are individuals.  Millennials are also a very talented group, with enormous potential to radically change the world.  When Millennials find their unique calling, watch out world.

Millennials want Authentic Community.  

Community is nurtured through intentional, authentic, honest, real relationships.   A community is not a Sunday morning only experience.  This unique relationship is formed by living life together.  It is forged over the hot coals of brokenness and restoration.  Over the coals of tackling difficult faith issues, and societal contradictions through this journey of faith. Community means daring to have uncomfortable faith conversations.

Millennials Want an Active Role in the Church’s Transformational Story

“Millennials aren’t looking for the perfect church, they’re looking for a captivating story to join.” Rusty Gates

Millennials are seeking a more prominent role to play in the Gospel story than merely sitting in the pews.

They have heard countless sermons on all of the various parts of the body of Christ and the many spiritual gifts given to the people of God.  Now they are looking for a way to put their talents and passions to work as a vital part of the church and school.  Before you get overly excited and think, great now, we can put their names on the ballot or all those vacant board positions, don’t! Pump the brakes on that one. It not about serving on some board it is about joining fellow believers on a faith journey where relationships are formed.  Being a Sunday-morning-only church does not produce, deep, meaningful relationships for Millennials. If we are honest, that doesn’t create deep, meaningful relationships with most Christians.

Among those Millennials remaining active and connected to the church, relationships are the glue that connects them.  The most positive church experiences among Millennials are relational.

“Seven out of 10 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.” David Kinnaman

Before you start thinking their demands are unrealistic.  That desire to connect relationally with the church is biblical.  Here what Jesus says in John 15, Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.” (CEV) My call to the church that wants to reach Millennials be a John 15 relationally connecting church.

In summary, Millennials are seeking anything different than anyone else.  It is not rocket science.  It does not require you to change your worship and your constitutions.  It requires you to focus on the Work of God, teach and preach the truth.  Focus on God’s mission and carry out that mission in that impacts the people in your community.

More on this topic:



Five Key Ways to Connect With Millennials


Dear Millennials,

This is the Church writing to you. We have been trying to reach you for decades, although admittedly with little to no success. We have tried all kinds of methods to connect with you. We have dumped our traditional service, fired our organists and replaced them with a praise band leader and more edgy music. Still, you do not come. We have put away our suits and ties and dress more casually, yet you still do not come. We have moved our worship service out of the sanctuary into the gym, added mood lighting changed worship time to later on Sunday, and still, you do not come. We have abandoned the assigned Scripture readings for Sunday and replaced them with sermon series more in touch with today’s challenges and you know what happened?  You still did not come. So this is an open letter to Millennials with a simple plea. Help us figure you out.


The Frustrated Church

Maybe this letter could appear in your local newspaper as you feel this frustration. How do we reach what some have called the “Lost Generation?” I pray this blog today will give you some insights. It is based on some very telling research from the Barna Group.

In a study about Millennials, the Barna Group uncovered some key details:

  • 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 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.

Now you may look at this information and come away feeling even more hopeless than before. Well, fear not, hopefully, this blog will give you five simple things, within the capabilities of your local congregation, that will not bust your budget yet still make a kingdom impact with that lost generation every congregation is seeking to connect with. So do I have your attention now? Good, here is why you should be encouraged. From the Barna research:

About one-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds are practicing Christians, meaning they attend church at least once a month and strongly affirm that their religious faith is very important in their life. A majority of Millennials claim to pray each week, one-quarter say they’ve read the Bible or attended a religious small group this week, and one in seven have volunteered at a church in the past seven days.

The Top Three Reasons the Research Says They Attend Church:

54% To be closer to God
31% To learn more about God
16% See the church as God’s hands and feet in the world
So in good Lutheran fashion what does this mean?

  1. Make room for meaningful relationships.

The first factor that will engage Millennials at church is as simple as it is integral: relationships.

My ministry twin Mike Mast would love this. He talks to congregations all the time about the fact that if you want to connect with those outside your walls you have to build relationships with them. Sounds simple, right? Yes and no, because the type of relationships Millennials seek is to develop a close personal friendship with adults in the church. If that kind of deep relationship is formed the studies show that fifty-nine percent (59%) of Millennials will stay at that kind of congregations versus thirty-one percent who are no longer active in a congregation.

So the coaching questions for you Frustrated Church is: What systems do you have in place or could develop to create and environment where deep relationships can be formed?

2. Teach Cultural Discernment

I remember working with a call committee who wanted diversity in their team so that added a millennial. As we were discussing what they wanted in their next pastor an OWL (Older Wiser Lutheran) said, “We have to make sure this next pastor is against gay marriage.” The millennial responded, “I don’t see anything wrong with gay marriage because you love who you love.” Boom goes the cultural clash of values.

Barna’s study found that Frustrate Church needs to provide a vehicle to help Millennials navigate this strange new world of post-Christian values. So it is important that one of the ministry outcomes is to help today’s Millennials to develop discernment skills, especially when it comes to understanding and interpreting today’s culture. To better serve this generation that is lamenting the complexity of life, the Frustrated Church can provide clarity to this frustrated generation. Millennials need help learning how to apply what is in their hearts and minds to today’s cultural realities.

3. Make Reverse Mentoring a Priority.

The Frustrated Church often talks about the leaders of the future. In other words, when I am too old and tired to serve who will take my place? So often the thinking behind that statement is we need some “youngins” to join so we can step down. The Barna Group has learned that an effective ministry to Millennials involves understanding that young people want to be taken seriously today— and not just seen for some distant future leadership position. So how does the Church make room for them to lead now? However, this is the kicker, Millennials don’t want to necessarily lead our Church structure they want to lead a Church that is making an immediate, transformational impact in the community around them and the world. So the idea of sitting in meetings three or four times a month is not what they have in mind. A meeting to plan a community event?  Now you’ve got something.

4. Embrace the Potency of Vocational Discipleship

A fourth way churches can deepen their connection with Millennials is to teach a more potent theology of vocation or calling. This is what Kinnaman calls it “vocational discipleship,” a way to help Millennials connect to the rich history of Christianity with their own unique work God has called them to. Help them find their God-given calling in life, what is the purpose for which God created them. As the sainted Dr. Martin Luther wrote”…the works of monks and priests, however, holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks…all works are measured before God by faith alone.” The Babylonian Captivity of the Church

5. Facilitate connection with Jesus.

Finally, Millennials look to the church to generate a lasting faith by facilitating a deeper sense of intimacy with God. For those in the church who argue they want a watered down version of God’s truth, no. Millennials seek a deeper connection with the crucified and risen Savior. The challenge to the Frustrated Church is: “How do we take them on a deeper spiritual journey?” “How do we create a worship, Bible Study, fellowship culture that leads to a more in-depth, intense, relationship-forming connection with Jesus? A tough challenge I would say, but boy would that be an exciting opportunity not just for Millennials, but for every Christian who currently sits in the pews? So Frustrated Church all is not lost. I would say what the lost generation is seeking, we already have, Truth, Relationships, a sense of Calling and a deeper connection with the Savior. They want we all want, to be a better disciple in this age.

So Frustrated Church, all is not lost. I would say what the lost generation is seeking, what we already have: Truth, Relationships, a sense of Calling and a deeper connection with the Savior. They want what we all want, to be a better disciple in this age.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like to read this one:


Three Steps to Reach Millennials


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.




A Simple Plan to Design Worship That Connects With Millennials



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:



Here is an example of music that is connecting with Millennials: