About a week ago, I asked a handful of my peers to answer a few questions about their relationship with the modern day church. The questions raged from multiple choice to fill in the blank and I tried to invite participants from all types of religious and non-religious backgrounds.
On the final question of the survey I asked the respondents to describe exactly what they'd like to see the church do or offer in order to better reach them as a whole generation. The question was a fill in the blank and to my surprise the answers were incredibly helpful.
Through 17 personal responses, I found that millennials' desires for the church all boiled down into three categories. While every individual's story is unique, almost every single response fits into one of these three categories.
Honestly, this isn't surprising at all. If you know anything about millennials, it's that we crave authentic experiences. What's more is that this is the reason church was created in the first place. It was meant to be a place where Christians gathered together in genuine fellowship to worship and pray together in community.
While it may be easy to point at certain events, meetings or ideas that supposedly encompass this idea, look around and see if your church is truly encouraging authentic relationships between its' members. I heard one pastor say that the word “community” or “relationships” should be synonymous with the word “friends.” How many in your congregation do you consider to truly be your friends?
This also is not surprising. We millennials love to have a purpose. I actually just got off the phone with a pier who was in search of a local volunteer opportunity. We crave meaningful volunteer work, and yet the church isn't always the first place to offer this type of opportunity.
Perhaps your local church should start up some programs that help the community, such as a soup kitchen, a clothes closet, or house building projects. I can't think of a better way to be Jesus' hands and feet.
Age Relevant Curriculum
Personally, this is the reason I quit attending Sunday School as a young adult. Every Sunday I was learning about babies and marriage and that was the last thing on my mind as a 23 year old. It's a few years later, I'm a few years older, and there still isn't a relevant Sunday School class available for my current place in life. Though disappointed, I am not blaming the church. There seems to be a lack of Bible study materials in general for this age. The Bible is very black and white with kids and again with married folk, but somehow it seems to skip the gray area in between where so many millennials may currently find themselves. We're young, we're career-focused, and we're dating but we are by no means associating with the “young families” classes and events that we keep getting invited to. Where's the in between?
Each of these three things are very, very simple to incorporate into the goals and strategies of your local church. Genuine hearts, serving spirits and relevant curriculum are all things the church should be doing automatically, however it is always nice to be reminded of the basics. Often times we forget why we started something and that is when gentle reminds are helpful and useful for our future.
As a whole, most of the participants agreed that it was a two-way street. While the church could definitely change a few things, the millennials admitted that they too needed to step up to the plate.
Millennials don't operate separately from the church. We are the church. You, as a reader, are part of the church. Anyone, anywhere, who calls themselves a Christian, has a role to play within the church as a whole. We all have gifts and talents that we should be using to better ourselves, our community and our church full of our Christian friends. Imagine how beautiful your congregation would be if we all lived with our gifts out in the open, easily sharable with one another.