4 Ideas for Churches to Reach & Engage Millennials

A week or so ago a pastor at a church near Las Vegas sent me an email and asked, “Do you think this Bible will actually bring Millennials back to church?”  I hadn’t heard of the Bible until his question.  Have you seen the Emoji Bible Translation yet?

A day later I had another email from a pastor here in Kansas City who asked me, “Is this translation going to be as effective as the Message?”

My response…. No, I don’t think so to the first pastor’s question and absolutely no way to the second pastor’s question!  I do not think that a Bible written, in part, with emojis in order to make an emotional and relevant connection to Millennials will be a thing now or anytime in the future.  

Want Millennials to come to your church? Do these four things:

  1. Be you, but don’t be about you.  In other words be authentically who you are in areas such as leadership, music, arts, technology, etc. without being artificial.  However, when you are you, don’t be about you.  “It is okay to be you, it isn’t okay to be about you,” said one Millennial in a focus group a few months ago. Be, instead, about God’s mission.  Millennials connect with meaning and purpose for their lives and they seek ways to make the world a better place.  Be intentional about communicating your faith community’s role in participating in God’s mission to restore the world toward its intended wholeness.
  2. Use story to preach, teach, equip and send.  Story is the currency of our culture – use it as often as you can to fire the imagination of Millennials.  Stories connect us with an already existent reality and move us all into the future with purposefulness.  Stories also activate our brains by helping us see the world in new and fresh ways, connecting us to things we have heard, read and seen.  Stories can also provide a common experience for all, which leads to a shared vision.  Who doesn’t love a story of human struggle that leads toward accomplishment and victory?  
  3. Talk about Jesus and talk about him a lot.  Millennials, those who would enter your church, want to hear about the center of it all – Jesus – the apex of the story of God.  Recently we asked 100 Millennials who they would describe Jesus to be and 50% of them said, “God’s Son the Savior of the world.”  Teach Jesus, especially the humanness of Jesus. Jesus and his “like us” moments of sorrow, frustration, fear, joy, fellowship, etc. will help Millennials see the reality of Jesus and connect to his life. 
  4. Make the Lord’s Prayer (and the Kingdom theology within) central to your teaching.  Millennials want to see the world be a better place.  Research indicates that Millennials are willing to do just about anything to see the world as a better place become reality, even if it means they have to give up personal property or financial stability to make it happen.  To me, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is what Millennials are looking for.  They may not be able to articulate it and they may not be able to grasp all that it means immediately, but in the end, they’ll resonate with a Kingdom ethic that values the common good.  


So, no, I don’t think a new Emoji Translation Bible will bring Millennials back to church.  I do, however, think that a commitment to the 4 ideas and practices above will be a stronger attempt at reaching and engaging Millennials.