3 Ideas for Helping Millennials Find Community
Nations all around the globe are exploring new definitions of what it means and looks like to be a family – a community. It is important for the church to be involved in these discussions, and for churches with differing definitions and perspectives on family to be in open dialogue with one another. Above all, the church is God’s family, the very bride of Christ, where we gather together around Christ’s table and are sent to live Jesus’ mission of new life and redemptive love together.
“Millennials value community, family, and creativity in their work,” states Alexandra Deck (@AlexCalukovic). Deck continues that almost half of millennials state that living near family and friends is also important. For millennials, who are exiting the church the phrase the “family of God” is for too often either seen as cliquish and out-of-touch with the speed of daily life. For non-religious millennials, the phrase makes no sense at all.
Ask anyone who attends church on a consistent basis, and he or she will likely be quick to describe his or her church as welcoming, inviting, and a true community. For those accustomed to the rhythms and ways of life within the walls of the church, these descriptions are the norm. Small groups, life groups, Core groups, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, whatever method your church uses to foster community and intimacy, it is imperative that these groups always remain inclusive, welcoming to new friends. Be intentional about the words you use and the practices you undertake to make sure that newcomers quickly feel a part of the gathering. With a friend, go and visit a church and denomination you’ve never been to for a taste of what it feels like being on the outside looking in.
Healthy families or communities are full of diversity -ages, opinions, and passions. Embracing and experiencing diversity is incredibly important to millennials, whether it’s in conversations of sexuality, definitions of family, or theological doctrines.
Providing safe spaces for these important conversations about diversity to take place, where millennials will be accepted, loved, and able to share their thoughts without being judged, is an incredibly important part of the work of the church. These conversations can take place in the relative safety and anonymity of the internet or over meals after Sunday services.
In Philip Zaleski’s new book The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, he describes someone called “The Second Friend.” The Second Friend is the person who “disagrees with you about everything, has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one, the great comrade with whom you engage in perpetual argument that concludes with victory — a greater access to truth — on each side.” These “Second Friend” relationships can only develop where there is a foundation of love and trust above all. That is what it means to be family.
How can your church change now to connect with millennials and their desire for community? Here are a few ideas…
Start something new. Most churches are slow to embrace any kind of change without discussing it to death through meeting. Getting into a practice and rhythm of trying new things, even if they “fail,” opens up space to connect with new people.
Create space where meaningful dialogue and relationships can develop. One hour a week is not sufficient time for some people to come out of their shells and truly speak their hearts. Some of these conversations will take place digitally, where people tend to speak more boldly than face to face.
Survey those in your congregation who are millennial. Ask them what changes they would like to see take place in order to better connect with their friends and cohorts. However, if you do ask, be quick to utilize at least one of the ideas to show you value their insight and partnership.
Church is the kind of family where there is always room for one more at the table, where everyone’s voice is important, where sharing in the fullness of life matters more than weekly worship attendance.