Catching the Unicorn – The Church & Attracting Millennials

cgj-square-logoA few weeks ago Jason, Morgan, and I had a conversation about millennials.  Because I am a millennial, serve millennials as a youth pastor, and Morgan serves millennials as a campus pastor you’d think this is a demographic we’d be able to attract to the church without much effort.

I serve as a youth pastor, working closely in the schools with guidance counselors, meeting weekly with parents and students, and then on top of that work with students daily.  With all of that said, you’d think that those of us in student ministry would know how to make the Gospel message presented in such a way that the millennial population would respond earnestly.

I will say this about millennials and the church: stop trying to “attract” them.  

Attractional ministry rubs me the wrong way.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: attractional ministry is not sustainable.  Stop trying to use attractional ministry to bring millennials into your faith community.

ken-tannerI think our inability to build faith communities with millennials is a symptom of a larger problem.  After recording this episode, Jason & I recorded another episode with Kenneth Tanner.  Ken is a Charismatic Episcopalian priest.

During part 2 of our conversation we talked about the removal of children from worship services.  This is where I think the problem begins.

We are telling children they are not welcome in church.  Period.  

That might sound rough, but when we glare at families with children who make noise in worship, we schedule Sunday School during worship to make it easy for parents to park their children somewhere else, and do little to make room for children in our communities it is no wonder once children grow up they don’t feel welcome in church.

Millennials have been told, maybe inadvertently, since they were children, to stay out of the way while the rest of the church worships and builds community.  Maybe then the problem lies with our churches not willing to make room for anyone other than those who help keep the lights on or are serving on a committee?

If you look at churches like Hillsong in NYC or Australia, they have little problem creating faith communities with millennials.  Yes their music is loud and they use lights.  No that style of worship might not be compelling to you, but the argument can be made that at the least, it is done well. On top of that Hillsong has figured out how to make a 30-minute sermon compelling, relevant, and passion-filled.  After all, Hillsong just released a movie that has attracted millennials to theaters to engage in a worship-movie experience.

We should find ways to share something that Ken said during our conversation with our children:

You’re not just the church of tomorrow. You are the church of today.

Maybe that’s the answer.

Stop treating millennials like they are the church of tomorrow and make space for them to be the church of today.


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