Have you ever watched a special on the Discovery Channel where they show a big cat prowling and stalking an animal the cat wants to eat? The camera follows the lion, tiger, cheetah, panther, etc as they slowly position themselves to strike the poor gazelle, antelope, zebra, etc. The cat usually has a look in their eye that is a mix of both excitement and focus. I can almost see the thought bubble above their head while they get in position: “IwantitIwantitIwantit…” it excitedly thinks to itself.
When I, as a young pastor walk into a room of older pastors and congregants, I feel a whole lot like a gazelle in front of a room full of lions. I can feel everyone looking at me, with a lot of focus and excitement, thinking about how much they “want it”.
Now, before you think I’m saying this because I think I’m a great pastor or dynamic leader, let me clear that up. I don’t sense anybody getting excited about me because of abilities as a pastor, speaker, leader, etc. I sense they get excited because I’m one of “them” – I’m a Millennial. And so, they want me. The hope is that if “they have me”, then the rest of the Millennials will show up.
For the last few years, there has been an ongoing discussion in church leadership circles about what it takes to attract and draw in Millennials (Pro Tip: Stop trying to “attract and draw” us). Churches have noticed a sharp decline in attendance from one generation to another. It’s a trend that has many in leadership anxious. And that anxiety has lead a lot of churches to look for younger pastors and clergy to help them reconnect with the younger generations.
I want to see that too. I desperately want to see the church and my generation reconnect. But it’s going to take work on the churches part. A lot of work. And it is the churches responsibility to do the work, and not the Millennials. Here’s why:
- The church is the one with the mission of making disciples, not Millennials.
- It’s not just churches who are trying to get Millennials attention; it’s everyone. Businesses, cities, and civic organizations are all trying to get Millennials’ time, energy, and resources for themselves.
Here’s the thing that should make churches pay more attention: Millennials KNOW that people want our time, energy, and resources. After all, we are the generation that has been marketed too more than any other generation. Ever.
And the truth is, this puts the church in a position it hasn’t been in for a while – in the market at large. I hear the grief from churchgoers all the time:
“Time was, Sunday was sacred, and businesses weren’t open. People took church seriously. Now, it’s just another day.”
“Church used to be important. Nowadays, kids just don’t seem to think it’s important.”
I’ll get into more of that a little bit later on, but those statements reflect the voice of a church that is unused to competition. Churches never had to fight for time, service, or money before. People just went to church, gave their money, and helped out from time to time.
Now, the world is filled with places people can give their time, money, and energy that we are becoming more selective about where we invest ourselves. So now Millennials are looking at businesses that invest in the community and comparing those to churches, which are also supposed to have a positive impact in the world. And they’re seeing which ones have the more profound impact, and investing there. So when a local business does more to help the community out than the church, the church loses out.
Maybe it’s just the capitalism in me speaking, but I like the competition.
Too many churches, for too long, have been poor stewards of the mission God has given them, and now other organizations are challenging them to do better.
But in that challenge, I believe the hope for the church rises up. See, Millennials want to have a profound impact in the world. We want to help the poor of Laos, the homeless in Mexico, and the human trafficking victims in our own backyards. And we’re willing to devote ourselves to those causes.
Causes that the church should be championing.
So that is why I am hopeful for the future of the church and Millennials. Because eventually, the churches message of impact will resonate with us.