On March 23rd, Rev. Sarai Rice came to our church and gave a wonderful presentation about trends in the church, and started the discussion about what we can do about it. In her presentation, she mentioned some of the habits that we see in Millennials and how that’s affecting the church. As I looked around, I could see that some of my fellow church members were struggling to understand why my peers act the way they do. Allow me to attempt to fill in the gaps, especially as it relates to church:
1. Sunday mornings are difficult for us. The demands of our week are stressful, and so the weekend is when we spend time doing things we enjoy. There is a great temptation to see the weekend as two Saturdays, not a Saturday and a Sunday. Given the choice between another full day of rest or attending worship, going to church is losing that battle more often than it used to.
2. It’s becoming increasingly hard to identify with the church. Establishments and institutions are slowly losing their influence and priority with Millennials. Also, we are seeing more and more stories about the church at its worst, and the gut reaction is to say “If that’s Christianity, I want no part of it.”
3. We don’t want to feel judged. Trust me, if church is the only place all week where I can’t use my cellphone or bring in my favorite Starbucks latte without getting a weird look, I won’t be back. I want to be accepted for who I am, not feel ostracized for who I’m not.
4. We want to know what we’re signing up for before we decide to belong. Traditionally, the church has asked for membership to be obtained before allowing participation in the life of the church. Millennials operate inversely- we want to “try on” the church before deciding if we want to join or not.
5. Give us a chance to lead. We want to use our gifts and talents to serve the church, not just be spectators. Whether that’s helping on a Sunday or doing behind the scenes work during the week, we want to feel like we are part of something bigger.
6. We value authenticity. If the church claims to care for the poor, are they actually following through on it? If it is open and affirming to the LGBTQ community, does that reflect itself in the congregation and staff, or is it just lip service? Back up what you say with actions.
7. Some of us can’t give to the church the way you want us to. College debt is a huge issue for us, and when we have some extra cash lying around, our top priority isn’t to give it to the church. If I’m going to be philanthropic with my spare change, chances are I’ll give it directly to a non-profit rather than give to the church and hope that it ends up supporting who I want it to.
8. I want to know that you care about me. There’s a temptation in the church to expect young adults to return to church once they get married or have children, and at that point we have ministries ready for them. But Millennials are getting married later and putting off having children. When we’re at a crucial point in our lives, it can feel like the church has little to offer us at our stage of life.
9. We want to be a part of the community. If all we wanted to do was learn about God or hear a sermon, we’d look one up on YouTube. When we come to worship, we are looking to encounter God and join in fellowship with others.
10. We want to be a part of the community AS IS. I don’t need you to try and make me the greatest cup of coffee- I already have a favorite coffee shop that does that. I don’t need the worship to sound like my favorite rock concert- if I wanted that, I’d go to my favorite rock concert. Don’t try too hard to make the church fit what you think I’m looking for. Just be yourself and do what you do well.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and is based on my observations and understanding of my peers. What can we do to make our church a better place for Millennials like me? Let’s start the conversation here. I want to hear from you what you think about this. Or, if there’s something you want to know more about- ask! I’ll be right here to answer for you.