20 Things Millennials Will Say to the Church Part 5
The last few weeks we’ve done some forward thinking to help us gain some perspective on millennials and the church. We looked at 20 things millennials will say to the church in 20 years that we can begin addressing now. Here are the first 4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16 and finally 17-20:
17. “We told you we were spiritual and not religious and yet you tried to make us religious anyway.”
Millennials are very spiritual people. Like many of us non-Millennials, Millennials are as interested in the mysteries of our universe, the notion of a supreme being, the forces at work in the world and the transcendent. What is Christian faith but a belief in the seemingly impossible, the resurrection of a dead man who was God? Millennials need the space to explore and experience God. They don’t need the system of beliefs that so many Millennials view as merely a set of rules that restrict them from enjoying life. At least that is the way that so many Millennials see it. It isn’t that they are not interested in God or Jesus. For many Millennials it is simply not worth their time to be a part of something marked by a rigid disposition of insincerity, judgment and hypocrisy.
Of course, most Christians do not see the Christian faith through the lens described above. Most Christians are generous people who show grace and mercy extravagantly because of the grace and mercy shown them. However, we have work to do in order to help Millennials see past the institution of religion and join us in our pursuit of mystery, love, beauty, peace and all things beyond the ordinary such as God.
18. “We never expected you to be Apple or Microsoft but, gosh, you could have done a better job embracing and utilizing technology to try and engage us.”
Churches must use technology in their efforts to reach, engage and empower Millennials. Millennials do not expect the church to be the industry leader in technology – they know you are not a technology firm or creative agency. Millennials do, however, expect churches to use the technology available to help them explore and encounter God and engage community on deeper levels.
Burlap recently conducted a quick research project re: church and technology. We asked 100 church going Millennials, “How important is it to you that your church uses technology (social media, apps, podcasts, etc.) to help you grow in your faith?” 87% said that it was ’very important’ to them. I realize this is a relatively small sample size. However, the insights gathered from this survey are easily understood – Millennials want and need the church to engage the technology available to them in order to help them grow in their faith.
In addition to asking how important it was for the church to employ technology to help them in their faith development, we also asked how many of them felt like their churches were doing this already. An abysmal 8% said they thought there church was “utilizing technology effectively.”
19. “I wish the church would have made more strategic and informed plans to reach me 20 years ago. My kids need me to be a spiritual influence in their lives and I feel ill-equipped.”
Same old story… single adults get coupled and those that have kids begin looking for ways to help them become good citizen and to begin embodying the ethics and values that will make them a great person. Often, couples with kids turn to the church for help. Sometimes they are looking to introduce their kids to Jesus. Most often, however, parents and guardians are simply looking to provide their children with good values, the foundational ones that help them become a good person for the rest of their life.
Churches that choose to thoughtfully and carefully reach, engage, and empower Millennials today, will likely be the place that Millennials return to for help when they have the next generation emerging and the parents of the next generation (now Millennials) realize that support from others is key to their child’s success. The church can and should play this role now so that it can be a vital contributor 20 years from now.
20. “The church wasn’t diverse enough for us. We thrive in diverse environments and seek diversity as part of a holistic outlook on life.”
I realize you can’t just make a church diverse by snapping your fingers. When I talk with pastors and church leaders about this subject I usually get this kind of response, “We are who we are. We can’t just make the church racially or ethnically diverse. We are a product of our community.” I totally understand that idea and would agree. Besides, the last thing you would want to claim is to be a racially or ethnically diverse church and yet be totally inauthentic – Millennials will sniff that out quick.
To a Millennial, race and ethnicity are a vital part of diversity, yes, of course. However, diversity to a Millennial is about more than just race and ethnicity. Diversity that is important to Millennials is diversity in age, gender, political views, language, theology, socioeconomics, education, etc. Churches should highlight these kinds of diversity within its church community in order to capture the heart of Millennials. This, of course, must be done in an authentic way. It can be done, however, when a church is intentional about its leadership presence, who’s on stage, etc.