Millennials are taking over — but are they taking over your church?
Expected to outnumber the Boomers within the next couple years, millennials are climbing to the top as America’s largest generation, and they’re bringing their values with them. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the U.S. public are becoming less religious, particularly in the millennial generation, with just 50 percent of younger millennials saying they believe in God with certainty.
This demographic grew up in a completely different world than those prior. They were taught the importance to think for themselves and to find their own values, while commitment, traditions and rules act as a cage to their self expression.
Is your approach millennial focused?
With this widening disconnect between the church and millennials, it’s imperative that your outreach efforts not only resonate with millennials but keep them coming back for more.
Let’s start with Sunday.
Sunday morning service acts as the main entry point for many of those who are seeking a church to call their home. It’s a time for the church to come together for fellowship and spiritual renewal through communal worship and a deep dive into God’s word regularly led by the lead pastor.
Newcomers and long-time members alike gather to form one body, just like a classroom, conference or sales pitch. While this comparison can draw a negative stigma, many of the same skills and best practices can be used by the pastor when reaching and engaging the congregation in a meaningful and memorable way — especially when it comes to millennials.
Now let’s dive in.
1. Grab Their Attention
Millennials need their attention grabbed so hard they don’t have an excuse to switch from their Bible app to Instagram mid-sermon. Holding onto their attention within your first few sentences can make the difference between full engagement or hearing the rest of your message at all. Whether it’s beginning with a surprise, telling a story or cracking a joke, your introduction is key to capturing their minds for the duration of your teaching.
2. Get to the Point
One of the major differences between millennials and previous generations is the need for immediacy. Millennials grew up during the boom in technology, filled with advances in convenience and accelerated distribution of information.This means they’re used to getting what they want, when they want it from online grocery ordering and real-time ridesharing to Googling anything, anytime they need to know something. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s now the culture we need to understand when choosing our Sunday message delivery.
3. Transparency & Authenticity
When grabbing their attention and throughout the rest of your message, it’s important to be yourself. Millennials crave transparency and a relatable connection and can spot anything less a million miles away. They are bombarded with it in their daily lives from the “perfect selfies” on social media to surface level communication in the workplace — they just want relationships that are real and that starts with you and your message. Also, they want an environment where they can be themselves, so even if you’re not a jean wearer, it may be time to update the dress code to be a little more millennial friendly.
Getting the congregation involved may seem difficult, but, no matter the reason for attending, everyone is there in that moment listening to you. The key to authentic interaction is to frame your message as a conversation rather than a speech or performance. Most pastors want nothing more than the congregation to join in or shout out an “amen”; however, millennials may feel awkward in breaking the fourth wall, the invisible barrier preventing them from becoming a part of the message, before the pastor does. You have to lay the precedent for their involvement and provide them a comfortable excuse to join the conversation. The following are examples of ways to involve your congregation:
Break the ice with greeting your neighbor
Live polling via smart devices or show of hands
Q&A through texting during or prior to Sunday morning
Break into small groups/group discussion with neighbors
Demonstration using congregation volunteers
Have them stand, clap or raise hands to different points of the message
5. Meaningful Content & Visuals
Most pastors are gifted with words, but did you know that visual communication is the preferred form of content for millennials — as well as most of the U.S.? Visual learners make up over 65 percent of the population, and 80 percent of what people remember is what they see, compared with the 20 percent who remember what they read. Interweaving your message with engaging content and visuals allows your congregation to digest your message — no matter what their learning style.
6. Quality Control
As you can tell from the previous points, capturing and holding onto the attention of the congregation, especially millennials, can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to make sure your meaningful content and visuals aren’t distracting from your message. We all know that no one is perfect; however, having someone in place to double check and make sure the simplest of mistakes are avoided can make all the difference. The following are several examples of distracting content and visuals that can easily be avoided:
Misaligned text and images
Unbulleted or all-caps talking points
Distorted or pixelated images
Inconsistent text emphasis
Another area that can be distracting to your congregation is the overall environment of the Sunday service. Some of these factors may be out of your hands due to location, budgetary restrictions, etc.; however, it’s important to limit as many distractions as possible. The following are several examples of environmental factors that could benefit your congregation:
Projector screens are positioned to be seen by any seats in the room
Sound system and acoustics are optimized not only for the worship band, but for the pastor’s microphone, with speakers positioned correctly
Decorations, props and visuals are not in anyone’s way or distracting
Doors are closed to eliminate outdoor noise
Proper lighting to help those who are tired stay awake
Air conditioning set to a comfortable temperature
8. Call to Action AKA “GO!”
Millennials are some of the hardest workers when they put their mind to it. But what they pour their effort into depends on what they truly care about. Your message is a time for reflection and learning, but it’s also a time for application. Giving a call to action (an instruction to evoke an immediate response) that combines the love of Jesus with the values of your millennial audience provides an immediate spiritual route to be taken.
Grab their attention, Get to the Point, Be Yourself, And Send them Out.
Millennials are not okay with mediocre, so can you imagine what God can do with an army of fired-up millennials?
Stay-tuned for part two of our blog, “Church Tips on Effectively Reaching the Millennial.”
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