A lot of churches are struggling to connect with Millennials, for a large number of reasons. The biggest reason I’ve noticed, while wearing both the “church leader” hat and the “millennial” hat, is that the church isn’t sharing information in to social ‘watering holes’.
A ‘watering hole’ is a hub that the community gathers regularly. In ancient times, it was often a well or a marketplace. More recently, it was the downtown area of a city or village. Now, the ‘watering hole’ has moved online to social media. Before, you’d look for ‘Help Wanted’ signs in windows to find a job, now we go to different websites. If you wanted to get to know even a little bit about someone, you’d have to go to their house. Now, we have virtual living rooms on Facebook.
Many churches continue to make community announcements, celebrate birthdays, and organize events using the techniques they did twenty years ago: passing clipboards and having the pastor tell the congregation what was going on. The problem is that the churches kids (Millennials) can’t hear them, because we’re not there.
Some churches have made the shift fairly well, communicating clearly using social media. Others continue announcing things to increasingly empty pews. It’s important to spend some time on this cultural move, because it is where the church (broadly speaking) has failed the community to be missional. So here are some observations I have for the churches struggling with this shift: –
You HAVE to make the shift – This first thought is the hardest pill to swallow, but this is an urgent situation. Culture has moved. If the church is going to remain a place where the culture can encounter Christ as it has, the church needs to begin sharing information is a culturally relevant way.
Understand that your kids are a mission, not a means – I’ve had jobs that were clearly just to pay bills. Working at McDonalds was a means to an end for me. So I got “good enough” to keep my job, get occasional raises, and make some money. But I never really put in any extra effort to get promotions or invest in the job, because it was only a means to an end.
Too many churches treat their kids (Millennials) like I treated McDonalds: they try “just enough” to reach the next generation to get them in the pews. Churches have Facebook pages and websites that haven’t been touched in years in order to “reach the younger people”.
When the church got started in the 1st century, they were sold out to the mission. They learned cultural customs and languages. They went to the places where people were in order to talk to them about Christ. They didn’t learn “just enough Farsi or Turkish”.
The Millennial generation, and the growing generation of Millennials’ kids, are not simply a means for the church to continue. We are the mission field. The thing is that the church doesn’t have to go to remote villages half way around the world to try and reach us. But it does mean that the church has to be intentional about being missional.