This might surprise you if you were involved in the Worship Wars of the last 20+ years, but style is the least important of all of these “ways to keep Millennials.” Millennials aren’t solely leaving traditional hymn-singing, tie-wearing churches or contemporary radio-hit-singing, jeans-wearing churches. They are leaving all churches (except for historically black ones, according to this recent Relevant article. Rock on.)
However, for the churches watching their teens, 20-somethings and young 30s slowly trickling out the door, the main problem is not about coffee selection, skinny jeans or electric guitars. But there is something to be said for the presentation of each church’s unique style.
Sometimes Change is Needed
While cultural relevance should never take over the Gospel or foundations of the faith on a list of priorities, we can’t continue doing things the way we’ve always done them with this new generation. Millennials have shorter attention spans, as a whole, with a greater desire for kinesthetic learning and interaction. “Listening to a lecture” as one young man put it so bluntly, isn’t exactly a desirable setting for attracting lifelong texters, social media addicts and video gamers. I believe it’s possible to tweak and adjust style without watering down substance… in fact, as we discussed a few weeks ago, what Millennials need is more depth!
Perhaps a better way to say this is that we are an active generation. We need to do and lead and apply in order to learn. We need to be able to respond, interact, participate, even if it’s just asking us to write a personal response down in our notes or giving us tools to use in devotional times that tie in with the week’s lesson. We want to experience faith and community, not simply hear about or study them.
We need the church to model this. Leaders can include fewer rhetorical questions and more actual questions. They can inspire more real discussions and accept fewer “Sunday School answers.” Utilizing technology such as text-a-question Q&A sessions or the limitless possibilities of social media can help, as long as students know when to put their phones away and simply listen without distractions.
But Don’t Change Who You Are
More than anything, I hope this is an encouragement to all churches: keeping your teens and young adults doesn’t require changing your style every time a new ministry fad pops up. Everyone’s ministry has different strengths and weaknesses. I know that is a cliché, but especially when it comes to the outer trappings, Obsessive Comparison Disorder (to use Paul Angone’s term) runs rampant.
As we discovered a few weeks ago, authenticity is far more important to Millennials than attempts to be cool. Keeping Millennials is not about keeping up with every one of the trends; it’s about doing what God has called us to do with excellence. Sometimes that will mean changing to be better ministers to the so-called “next” generation. But may that change never come at the cost of our unique purposes as members of the Body of Christ.
Other posts in our Millennial Exodus series: