When you’re planting a church, it’s relatively simple to handcraft an environment where Millennials can connect. Nothing is set in stone. The style can be flexible, the programming is moldable, and the congregational identity is nascent.


But what if your church was planted eighty years ago? What if your church is willing to change but not wanting to disregard her legacy? What if your church has a genuine heart for a younger generation and their families, but still desires to minister faithfully to those who have invested decades of their life to the church? Do churches have to choose which generation they want to love well?


No.


This is the false narrative in today’s church. We do not have to neglect one generation to love another. Instead, we discover the areas of overlap when it comes to values. People make a long term decision to stay or go to a church based on values over style.



Established churches can use these five ways to engage Millennials:

 

1. Authenticity

The chief value for Millennials is authenticity. This means that they are more than willing to forego flashy for real. Take this example from pop culture: In 2005, George Lucas released Revenge of the Sith, a movie filled to the brim with special effects and CGI. It was touted as a significant landmark for the film industry. Yet ten years later as Disney seeks to launch the next Star Wars installment, one of their biggest brags is their retreat to the use of puppets and “real” effects. The Millennial culture values real over fake, authentic over flashy. Leaders who are vulnerable, accessible, and real garner the respect of Millennials regardless of their style.

 

2. Truth Telling.

Millennials will never buy the statement, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” They just won’t. Open up the Scriptures and tell the truth. When a passage is difficult, don’t explain it away. When the Bible seems to contradict science or history, embrace the tension and speak truthfully about the different ways to read a passage. We should never step down from the Bible’s authority, authenticity, or inerrancy–but we cannot expect Millennials to take this at face value. Show them why the Bible is the most transformative book in human history, and teach them to see it for themselves.

Millennials will never buy the statement, 'God said it, I believe it, that settles it.' They just won't. Click To Tweet

 

3. Simplicity.

Today’s culture is a vortex of busyness. Ask yourself this honest question: when was the last time you were bored? Even our quiet moments are interrupted by a phone alerting us to a new email, tweet, or text message. Schedules are overloaded because every facet of life wants the maximum amount of our attention. Because of this, Millennials value simplicity. They would much rather see a church calendar sparsely filled with meaningful events than a full program schedule to feel guilty about skipping because of their already-overwhelming life. Choose programming selectively based on values and mission.

 

4. Higher Calling.

The irony of Millennials is that they are overcommitted but desire to be challenged. There is a difference between being busy and making an impact.  Millennials want to protect their time so that they can leverage their availability towards something that matters. Be willing to challenge Millennials to big dreams, big goals, and a big impact. They want to change the world, and believe they can. Believe it with them.

Millennials want to change the world, and believe they can. Believe it with them. Click To Tweet

 

5. Clear Communication.

When it comes to communication, engage Millennials on their level. Use social media, email, websites, and apps to communicate information. Don’t be afraid to use snail mail either. This not only honors those who prefer non-digital communication, but may grab the attention of Millennials who are unfamiliar with receiving things in the mail that aren’t junk or bills. Regardless of the medium, communicate consistently, clearly, and excellently. This is the only way Millennials will care about what’s happening at your church. In their view, if you only care a clip art and bad grammar’s amount about your event, why should they invest their limited time?

 

 

Engaging the Millennial generation is less about an epic shift in style, structure, or programming. There are other, more important reasons why these things may need to change. If the goal is simply to make a connection with the next generation, make that effort based on values. Our methods and measures will evolve over time in order to meet needs, but the ability to make a connection across multiple generations is possible apart from these changes. Find where your values overlap, highlight them, and lean into them. You’ll be surprised how many Millennials will overlook a hymn or two for a genuine relationship and connection with Scripture taught well.

Many Millennials will overlook a hymn or two for a genuine relationship and connection with Scripture taught well. Click To Tweet