Being in my church, it’s hard to believe that Christianity supposedly has a hard time keeping Millennials.
Our entire church is filled with young adults. Millennials open the doors for you. Millennials hand you bulletins and coffee. Millennials usher you into your parking spot. And each week, new millennials are being drawn to our community.
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that my church is “doing it right.” But it is accurate to say that my church is doing it differently—and that’s what’s making the difference.
Here’s what I mean.
I’ve been in churches struggling to eek out a weekly attendance. I’ve been in churches with an overwhelming lack of young adults. And in those communities, I can’t help but notice how different they are from my church.
This isn’t purely a difference of style. A church’s “cool factor” isn’t what’s bringing in Millennials.
We have to understand that Millennials have a different makeup than previous generations.
While the older generations grew up in a slower culture—one that wasn’t so infiltrated with the values and marketing techniques of mass media—we (Millennials) are growing up in a different time—one that’s defined by the barrage of advertisements pushing us to be more self-centered.
While the older generations are trying to catch up with this way of culture, we’re trying to move ahead of it.
Meaning, Millennials are well aware of culture and its marketing tactics—and we’re tired of it. A recent study shows that a whopping 84% of Millennials are fed up with traditional advertising. It’s what we’ve grown up with. It’s what we understand. But we don’t want more of this noise.
We want different.
That’s a common thread that runs through all generations. We all want to experience something different in church than what we’re used to in culture. But Millennials differ in that they notice the difference more than other generations.
Millennials have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to the church acting like the broader culture.
Millennials want different. And so, the key to reaching Millennials then is making sure our character is different than the greater culture. But in what way? What character are we looking to define our church experience?
We are looking for something that’s incredibly difficult to find in our culture of advertisements, media, consumerism, and image management.
We are looking for authentic selflessness.
We easily pick up on when others seek a profit to something. We’ve grown up in the culture that always tries to sell us something. We’ve grown up in the environment that tells us that meaning is found in ourselves. But what we want is the community that tells us and shows us differently—that meaning is found in living for God and for others.
In other words, we want Jesus—and we are less tolerant of church cultures not living like Jesus. We want a true selflessness to define our church communities. That’s what makes us stay. That’s what we really want.
So then, what does this practically look like?
First off, this does not require Millennials to be more forgiving or accepting. While they should accept the brokenness of individuals, we shouldn’t force them to water down their standards of what the church should look like. As a church, we should aim to meet each other on the highest plain possible.
We start with transforming our own church culture.
Our churches must discover the power of true selflessness—not getting people to simply fill seats or give to a new building project, but rather compel people to lead lives that make a difference everywhere they go.
We need church to push us outside of ourselves. We don’t need an entity to cater to our vanity or get us to lead more self-absorbed lives.
We need a church culture that enables us to rightly understand how our beliefs allow us to make a difference in the world.
We don’t need a church that tries to sell us on the Gospel. We need a church to tell us the Gospel, and then show it in their service to others.
We need a church that gives us less of “we will offer you this” and more a culture of “this is how we love others.”
And finally, we need a church that trusts our willingness to serve with the Gospel in mind. Trust us to not walk out at the first sign of trouble because we apparently lack commitment. Instead, focus less on keeping us, and more on sending us out.
We are looking for different. We are looking for selflessness, and the more churches place this as a priority in their culture, the more Millennials they’ll see coming through the doors.
And surprisingly, the first step toward this selflessness is to stop talking about attracting Millennials and start loving others instead.
That’s where you’ll find us.
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