A friend of mine moved to a city north of where I live and took over a struggling Spirit-filled church. He is a good leader and he quickly built a new leadership team to help him as the church began a tough journey to becoming healthy.
He made a lot of changes – the music, the worship, the preaching, the way things function. He dreamed and cast vision and then worked hard to bring things into line with that new vision. He successfully transitioned the church and it began to grow. And, he added a new Saturday night service for the youth. Those that are known as Millennials (born between 1980 – 2000). They are a generation that is less ‘religious’ then previous generations and although interested in the supernatural and often believing in Jesus, they have little interest in or use for the church. See the notes at the end.
As time went on the Saturday evening service began to see substantial growth. Very similar in format and in preaching content to the Sunday morning service. However, a little livelier, a little louder, more informal, with an opportunity to discuss the teaching after the basic content was presented. As this new service began to grow it soon saw several hundred in attendance. It was amazing. New life for an older church; growth where there had been a steady decline in numbers; life and optimism replacing the pessimistic outlook of previous years. Saturday night became the key service for this church as it reinvented itself.
I asked a number of Millennials why they attended the Saturday services on a regular basis. Their answer did not surprise me. The stated two reasons: First, they came to be with others their own age to talk and relate. The world would call this building relationships. We would call this fellowship. Second, there was good quality coffee available in a relaxed setting where people could simply drink coffee and talk. No mention of the worship – which was better than good. No mention of the teaching – which was engaging, relevant, and on topic for Millennials. Fellowship with like-minded, same-age group and good coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. Hum! Starbucks with a spiritual overtone.
When pressed about the music and worship they all agreed it was better than good, in fact, some thought it was amazing. When questioned about the teaching of the lead pastor – again, everyone thought that he did an amazing job presenting truth and engaging their hearts and minds. But, they came for the coffee and the fellowship.
My point: The message we preach does not change. However, we need to be in touch with the current trends in our culture and society. Then, address the never-changing message to them in a viable, relevant, understandable way being sensitive to their understanding and approach to life and the Christian faith.
If we are going fishing for wide-mouth bass we use different bait then we would use to catch a walleye. So, we need to be aware of who we are trying to reach, what they believe, how they view life, and what the key elements of their social relationships are. Then, we use the right bait – the appropriate methods – to present the never-changing message of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
This is what my friend did when moving to an older church in a mid-sized city and he successfully touched a generation seeing many come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, are the generational demographic cohort following Generation X and preceding Generation Z. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years. Millennials are sometimes referred to as “echo boomers” due to a major surge in birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s, and because millennials are often the children of the baby boomers. Although millennial characteristics vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions, the generation has been generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.
Peter Pan generation: American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled millennials as the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan generation, because of the members’ perceived tendency for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than most generations before them. These labels were also a reference to a trend toward members living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations. Kimberly Palmer regards the high cost of housing and higher education, and the relative affluence of older generations, as among the factors driving the trend. Questions regarding a clear definition of what it means to be an adult also impacts a debate about delayed transitions into adulthood and the emergence of a new life stage, Emerging Adulthood. A 2012 study by professors at Brigham Young University found that college students were more likely to define “adult” based on certain personal abilities and characteristics rather than more traditional “rite of passage” events. Larry Nelson noted that “In prior generations, you get married and you start a career and you do that immediately. What young people today are seeing is that approach has led to divorces, to people unhappy with their careers … The majority want to get married […] they just want to do it right the first time, the same thing with their careers.” Their expectations have had a dampening effect on millennials’ rate of marriage.
Religion: In the U.S., millennials are the least likely to be religious when compared to older generations. There is a trend towards irreligion that has been increasing since the 1940s. 29 percent of Americans born between 1983 and 1994 are irreligious, as opposed to 21 percent born between 1963 and 1981, 15 percent born between 1948 and 1962 and only 7 percent born before 1948. A 2005 study looked at 1,385 people aged 18 to 25 and found that more than half of those in the study said that they pray regularly before a meal. One-third said that they discussed religion with friends, attended religious services, and read religious material weekly. Twenty-three percent of those studied did not identify themselves as religious practitioners. A Pew Research Center study on millennials shows that of those between 18–29 years old, only 3% of these emerging adults self-identified as “atheists” and only 4% self-identified as “agnostics“. Overall, 25% of millennials are “Nones” and 75% are religiously affiliated.
Over half of millennials polled in the United Kingdom in 2013 said they had “no religion nor attended a place of worship”, other than for a wedding or a funeral. 25% said they “believe in a God“, while 19% believed in a “spiritual greater power” and 38% said they did not believe in God nor any other “greater spiritual power”. The poll also found 41% thought religion was “the cause of evil” in the world more often than good. The British Social Attitudes Survey found that 71% of British 18–24 year-olds were not religious, with just 3% affiliated to the once-dominant Church of England.