20 Things Millennials Will Say to the Church Part 1
Over the next few weeks we’ll do some forward thinking to help us gain some perspective on millennials and the church. We’ll look at 20 things millennials will say to the church in 20 years that we can begin addressing now. Here are the first 4:
1. “We were here the whole time, ready to listen and talk, you just didn’t want to have a conversation; except inside your actual church building, which really wasn’t a conversation as much as it was a monologue.”
Churches must see the importance of 1) reaching OUT to Millennials. Millennials are the largest population segment in the US and you can’t find any? Well, then, maybe go to where they are? 2) Conversation is key. Millennials, not unlike any other generational mindset, seek authentic, honest and vulnerable conversations that lead to deeper, more meaningful conversations. If a monologue is what suits you best, it’ll be extremely difficult to capture the imagination if Millennials who have a strong desire for and commitment to sharing their opinion. 3) Very few churches are designed with the aesthetic to inspire people. Most modern churches are built, in the US anyway, for maximum use and efficiency. This can be beautiful, but most are not. Your church is likely not a draw, unless, of course, you are intentional about the community using it as a place to host functions such as concerts, HS graduations, forums, town halls, etc. Open up your building and grounds to the community and see what happens.
2. “We tried to figure out what you meant by “discipleship” but we don’t learn best in classrooms.”
In order to engage the Millennials you do have in your church, you’ll need a more robust definition of discipleship. We cannot merely think of discipleship as classes and small groups. We must think of discipleship as the on-going, holistic process of guiding people toward becoming like Jesus. It is a process of co-journeying through life as co-pilgrims that fundamentally begins with a personal relationship, progresses with and through shared spiritual discovery and growth in God’s mission and ends only when the relationship ceases to remain.
Discipleship, then, is life on mission, together with others. Life on mission is participation with others to restore the world toward its intended wholeness. How well can we disciple people in a classroom? Classrooms can be a key part of the journey, no doubt, but missional discipleship happens in the midst of everyday life.
3. “We would have LOVED to go on a mission with you but the requirement was we needed to be a mature ‘believer’.”
In recent months we (Burlap) have conducted several qualitative research projects. The three most common threads of thinking throughout our surveys have been that Millennials, regardless of segment, have a deep desire for travel, food and the common good. Sounds like a mission trip to me, how about you?
Start with mission trips, both domestic and international, and see how many Millennials jump on board. Does a person really need to be a believer to “do good” or to “make the world a better place?” I contend all good belongs to God.
In a recent article, Bloomberg presented a new kind of tourism. Here is the link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-26/-social-impact-vacations-detroit-beats-the-beach Will an adjustment to this concept of Social-impact Vacations, built on theologically sound foundation, of course, help your church reach Millennials? Try it and see what happens.
4. “We couldn’t find Jesus amidst all your arguing and disunity.”
Millennials who come to church, or show any interest at all in institutional religion, know what they are looking for. They are looking for Jesus. Yet, they come across a link to Huffington Post, or any other major news outlet, via their social media feeds and they don’t find harmony and peace in the name of Jesus. Instead, they are met with an overwhelmingly disruptive series of arguments filled with privilege and often hate.
Christians disagree, no doubt. I don’t agree with my closest friends on certain matters of faith. However, isn’t a safe, peaceful and unifying community possible? In order to reach Millennials, churches will need to be clear about their theological positions but at the same time, express them in a way that represents what they came looking for in the first place — the way of Jesus which is generosity, hospitality, faithfulness, and truth in love.
Your turn. Do you see these as emerging perspectives of millennials? Why or why not?