Not one of Those Millennials
Generally, I have no problem being grouped in with my generational peers. We are dealt a lot of criticism from other generations, but for the most part we laugh it off and take it in stride. Millennials are used to being accused of “ruining” everything from diamonds to brunch to chain restaurants. Yet, I struggle with the claim that Millennials have “ruined” the church.
You see, I don’t feel like I am one of those church-killing Millennials. Personally, I don’t fit into the stereotypes used to prove that Millennials are “ruining” the church:
● I regularly attend my church, probably 49 out of 52 Sundays a year. I have no problem waking up to go to church on Sunday morning. (In fact, I even prefer an earlier worship time, because that leaves more of my day free after church.)
● I consistently give to my church, both with my time as a volunteer and with my money.
● I am interested and involved in the structures and polities of my church. I read finance reports, attend denominational conferences and conventions, and pay close attention to possible doctrinal changes.
● I do not need a particular worship style in order to attend church. I am comfortable worshipping in a highly-structured liturgical service with hymns, or in a dark room with fog machines and modern worship songs. I can tune into the presence of God in an ancient cathedral or a contemporary church sanctuary.
So when churches throw up their hands and declare in exhaustion and frustration, “Where are the Millennials?” I want to respond, “I am right here!” I have been here all along. I never left. I am here to stay. And frankly, I sometimes feel overlooked in my church’s attempts to “reach out” to my friends and peers.
Often when churches are trying to “attract” Millennials, they begin by changing worship styles, service times, and even theological doctrines. Yet none of those pieces have been what has kept me in the church, and none of them would have probably brought me back if I had left. What did keep me connected to my faith community was the opportunities I was given by those in my church to have a voice, to be in leadership, and to serve others.
If you are not reaching many Millennials and want to begin, first look in your own pews. If you have been consulting the latest trends or fad advice as your strategy, instead begin by engaging the Millennials who may already be a part of your congregation. Allow them to speak into the direction and vision of your church. Find out what has kept them in church, and keep doing those things. Put them in leadership roles and positions. Elect them to committees and boards. Ask them what their friends need and want in a church, and start by implementing their suggestions.
The regularly-attending Millennials in your church are attending for good reasons. If you aren’t sure why, find out, and be sure not to overlook them as valuable resources.