I spent five years as a youth pastor before I accepted a Senior Pastor’s role. I love young people and it’s probably because I am still, in many ways, a big kid a heart. I love their energy, optimism and potential. Because of this, I’ve taken a particular interest in what interest’s the so-called “millennial” generation and their journey with Jesus Christ. I compiled a short list of a things I’ve observed that will help keep Millennials interested in their local church without jeopardizing or erasing the identity of the church.
Shorter Services: This is our fault not theirs. We created the 30-minute TV show with a commercial break at the 12-minute mark, not them. So don’t expect them to sit through an hour of singing then an hour-long sermon, with 10 minutes of announcements if you don’t plan to offer a few commercial breaks! Seriously, shorter services work in their world because they value their time and your efficiency with it.
Dress Code: You don't have to ease up on your dress code, but you do have to ease up on their dress code. Millennials seem to be much more comfortable in casual to business-casual attire. Their casual attire should not be confused with inappropriate attire, however. Millennials are very appropriate. And know this: it is likely that you are more uncomfortable with their attire, than they are with yours. Most millennials buy into the ‘do you’ theory easier than boomers and Gen X’ers. They are less likely to judge your outfit than you are to judge theirs.
Ease up on the Depth: Okay, well, don’t ease up, just find a more creative way to introduce deeper theological principles into sermons. Millennials could care less that the Strong’s Concordance number 5368 is “love.” Even less of them are impressed with the Greek verb parsing. They are relatively simple (which is not to be confused with simple minded) and are not as moved with how you got the Bible knowledge as much as they are with the knowledge itself. So ease up on making them theologians and share the message of Christ with simplicity, relevancy, and conviction.
Embrace Technology: The Millennials world is almost literally live in the palm of their hands. Almost everything they want, short of human touch, is found on their phones, ipads, touch devices and things of the sort. This is a part of their world and meeting them in their platform will go a long way to them receiving your message. Technology and innovation is more than a matter of convenience for them, it defines their generations’ contribution to humanity. So consider lights, video messaging, push pay programs, online campuses, aps, and other social media mediums where they can engage with the church, its members, leaders and its mission.
Stay Missional: Millennials seem to prefer causes to church programs. It’s easier to get a millennial to volunteer at a voter march than to volunteer for the annual Church Cake fair. They are eager to make their mark on the global world and you have to think bigger than the annual Church Cake contest to get them interested. They’d spend every Saturday of the year if you can show them how they can affect the world through a particular cause that interests them. Think beyond your borders: wells for Africa, human trafficking, global warming- take these types of global initiatives and connect their meaning to to local ones.
Show Humanity: Leaders are not perfect and they know it. The Millennials have recognized and challenged the gulf we’ve created between the pulpit and the pews like no generation ever has. Their leaders rise from among them versus apart from them. To stay relevant in their world, leaders must be willing to share the scars that prove Christ’s victory. Your testimony is important to this generation for relevancy and identity. So do not hide behind the cloth and titles to disassociate with their struggle. Instead use wisdom to share your journey and allow the journey of others to be shared with them so the transforming power of Jesus Christ can be evidence to a generation that desires vulnerability and authenticity from its religious leaders.