What church leaders need to know to engage the next generation
by Jess Rainer
I love my generation. As a Millennial, I am seeing my generation make a tremendous impact across the globe. Have you ever heard of Facebook? The founder and CEO is a Millennial. And we all aspire to make the kind of impact Facebook has made.
The church is at a crucial point in engaging and reaching Millennials. The oldest Millennial is reaching a defined point in adulthood where habits and opinions are not easily changed. The youngest Millennial is now entering most churches’ student ministries.
What do church leaders need to know in order to engage Millennials? There are four key elements in connecting Millennials with the church.
Millennials are focused on our individual communities. Churches that desire to reach this generation should be focused on their communities as well. “Church as usual” will not attract or retain Millennials. Rather, we want church activities, the church budget and the people in the church making an impact on the community.
As mentioned earlier, Millennials are the most educated generation in American history. And we’re not just educated, we’re smart. If we do not know something, we know where to find the answer. In other words, as Christians, we have to “know our stuff.” Millennial Christians are constantly being challenged for our beliefs. We often have to prove being Christian means we can be intelligent as well. For the church, Millennials want Bible-rich teaching. We want to be articulate in our beliefs. We want to be ready to defend Scripture. We want to be ready to answer our peers’ questions about Christianity.
Additionally, we want Bible-rich teaching because we want to grow as people. If 9/11 taught us anything, it taught us life is brief and death is inevitable. The desire to grow in knowledge in order to make the most of this life is very important to us. And this is true for Millennial non-Christians as well. If Millennials are going to commit to a belief system, we want to know as much as possible.
Relationships are a major driving force for Millennials. Sixty-one percent of Millennials say family is the most important thing in their life. Friends come in as the second most important thing. We are connected to each other and our families. And staying connected is easy. It’s a rare moment to see a Millennial without any technology. In fact, 73 percent of Millennials say their cell phone is vital to their lives. Why? Because we are connected to each other through technology and media. Churches that use relationships as a primary means to reach Millennials will be most successful.
Millennials are committed to the causes we are passionate about. A Millennial non-Christian who begins a relationship with Christ will become one of the most passionate members of the church. Millennial Christians will become one of the most effective evangelistic tools of the church if we are given the chance to succeed. Millennials want to commit to something bigger than themselves. Why not Christ and the Church?
Jess Rainer is missions and administration pastor at Grace Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., and co-author of The Millennials (B&H).