4 Ways to Transcend Cool and Connect with Millennials
On Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, most Saturday nights and early Sunday mornings, there are hundreds of new posts with the hashtags that resemble something like #rocking worship. From fog machines and light shows to bands covering the latest songs in contemporary Christian music, #rocking worship reflects some churches in their attempts to maintain cultural relevance by being cool or hip. Other churches meet in coffee shops or movie theaters and seek to attract younger generations with tattooed pastors often with big personalities and still others try to be relevant by avoiding any sermons that might offend listeners in some way.
Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide, examines the tension many churches feel to try and be “cool” in order to reach and keep millennials in their congregations.
“As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real,” says McCracken. “Putting on a fashionable face may bring in energetic crowds in the short term, but in my experience a church’s honesty about the cost of discipleship is what grows people in the long term… Christianity’s true relevance lies not in the gospel’s comfortable trendiness but in its uncomfortable transcendence, as a truth with the power to rebuff, renew and restore wayward humanity as every epoch in history.”
Writing for Washingtonpost.com, McCracken concludes, “They (millennials) want the church to be the church: an institution that embraces awkward people, confronts sin, transforms lives, subverts the sovereignty of self, serves others and provides meaning more substantial than the ephemera of fickle fads.”
In our culture that seemingly grows more superficial every passing moment, how can the church actually be the church, a people who live out the radical love and grace of Jesus Christ?
Churches, and pastors specifically, need to help people think theologically about all aspects of life. Our theology affects our politics, our entertainment choices – the daily living out of our lives. Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Practical theology helps followers of Jesus choose love, forgiveness, and hope, recognizing that the way of Jesus requires sacrifice and humility. Theology is best done in community, as we learn to follow Jesus together.
Practice round table leadership.
Many churches are structured in a hierarchy similar to businesses, with CEOs and COOs, a top-down model of authority. Following Jesus is about serving together, and honoring the voice of the marginalized among us. Invite millennials, children, and people of all ages into conversations about the vision and mission of your church.
Be a voice of hope.
Hope is grounded in who God is. Reflect on the stories and actions of God in the past, God’s faithfulness and character, as I AM WHO I AM. We do not control or manipulate God, but because of the resurrection, we have hope for the future. God will not abandon or forsake us regardless of the dire circumstances or the deplorability of culture. Millennials are full of optimism; show them how hope is the language and lifestyle of faith.
Be the church.
Regularly teach that being church does not mean being perfect or having all the answers; that being the church is leaning into the forgiveness and life found only in Christ. All of our brokenness and shortcomings are redeemed, woven into God’s Great Story of new life for all of creation.
Predicting the future is impossible. If the church is always worried about what is coming next, trying to stay up-to-date with the latest cultural trends and fads, it likely will forget to be the needed presence and body of Christ in the world now.