Growth Through Small Groups

39% of Millennials said small groups are the best way to grow in their Christian Faith

We recently asked 800 millennials from around the US a few questions about discipleship.  We, like many of you, are curious to know how millennials feel about becoming more deeply committed Christians and the best way for them to progress or grow toward that goal.

We are using this data to develop insights to help church leaders such as pastors, boards and councils, etc. discover the most effective way(s) for them to reach millennials and to establish initiatives that engage millennials, therefore weaving new stories of faith and culture.

We asked these 800 Christians(ages 18-34, single and married and married with kids), “What is the most effective way for you to grow as a Christian.”  The results were as follows:

  • 17% said with a mentor

  • 39% said with a small group of friends/peers

  • 2% said through a formal class or course

  • 26% said through mission work/social causes

  • 16% said by listening to a sermon

We really weren’t at all surprised that 39% said through a small group of friends.  This speaks to what we know about millennials – they want to find an authentic community in which to thrive.

We are also aware that the first lens, so to speak, through which some millennials engage the world relates to social causes and global concerns. We call this segment of millennials, “Global Givers.”  Of those surveyed, 26% said this is the best way for them to grow in their Christian faith.

Again, we aren’t surprised that only 2% said they grow best through a formal class or course.

We were surprised, however, to see the sermon at 16%.  To be honest, when we sat down to informally list our assumptions, we thought this would be closer to 5-10%.  Our assumption was not based on the fact that we do not hold a high priority for sermons.  However, based on some other conversations we’ve had with millennials, the sermon wasn’t in the top five or six reasons why they went to church.

Here are three of several insights we’ve developed based on this one set of data.

  1. Mentoring is key. While it doesn’t rank the highest, it does reveal the other data that we have been collecting that points to the fact that millennials desire a mentor (or mentors) in their life. Growing in their faith is not an exception to this.

  2. Fostering community is essential. Nearly half of the millennials surveyed find their small group of friends and peers as the chief means of growing in their faith. We must, as churches desiring to effectively reach and engage millennials, find ways to foster a sense of authentic community and connection.

  3. Sermons matter. It is not enough just to provide a place where millennials can connect in community. While that may be their highest stated value in faith formation, the sermon is important. Preachers, are you continuing to develop inspiring sermons that stir millennials to action?

For other insights feel free to reach out to us at  Join the conversation at @thinkburlap on Twitter.