As a pastor that has worked with Millennials his entire career, I’m asked this question a lot. How do you reach the next generation? This specific question has been asked several times over the past few weeks, as churches and church members from other churches try and figure out why my church is having at least some success reaching the next generation. Those churches are all typically older, traditional, and have at least in some sense come to grips with the fact that if they don’t reach the next generation soon, they will die as a church.
Successfully reaching the next generation isn’t as simple as 1-2-3. If it was, I would have written a book and retired by now. While there are various factors that a church needs to implement, let me share the one way that will have the biggest impact and the one way that most older, traditional churches trip over and stop at. The simplest (and hardest) way to reach the next generation is to create a Sunday morning worship experience that the next generation actually want to come to.
Sunday night services and Wednesday night youth programs are important, but the modern church rises and falls on the Sunday morning worship experience. If you want to reach the next generation, that Sunday morning worship experience has to be something that they actually want to come to and invite their friends to. And therein lies the rub. Most older, traditional church worship services are perfectly designed to reach Boomers or even Builders. Because of stark generational differences, what Boomers and what Millennials prefer in a worship service are usually very different.Half-measures are not enough. Adding a piano and singing one praise song is not going to bring the Millennials calling. Everything from the dress, the style of preaching, the look and layout of the room, as well as the music has to be considered. In short, to successfully reach the next generation, many older, traditional churches will need to create worship services that look vastly different then what they have right now. Most older, traditional churches are unwilling to change in this way, which is why most older, traditional churches are slowly dying off.
But one might ask, “Isn’t this selfish of the Millennials? Why do we have to cater to them to reach them?” There is a hint of truth to this statement. But my counter-argument would be, “Isn’t it selfish of the Boomers and Builders to be unwilling to change to reach their grandchildren through a church service?” Right now, most older traditional churches have worship services perfectly designed to reach Boomers and Builders. Things would be so much simpler if Millennials had the same preference in music, preaching style and worship interaction as the previous generations, but they don’t. The question is, are churches willing to do the hard work necessary to successfully reach the next generation? That is the Great Commission, after all.