Moving beyond the walls of the church to be the church with the next generation
College students and ‘twentysomethings’ who stay connected to a local church are twice as likely to have had a close personal friendship with an adult Christian who helped them connect faith to life
by David Kinnaman • President, The Barna Group
We want to help you learn more about the next generation in order to maximize your efforts to spiritually engage them. Over years of research, one thing remains clear: the relationship between Millennials and the church is shifting.
Although this list isn’t exhaustive, here are five major themes we’ve identified from our research.
1. Make Room for Meaningful Relationships
The first factor that will engage Millennials at church is as simple as it is integral: relationships. When comparing twentysomethings who have remained active in their faith after high school and twentysomethings who have dropped out of church, our research uncovered a significant difference between the two.
Those who stay are twice as likely to have had a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active).
The same pattern is evident among more intentional relationships such as mentoring—nearly three in ten active Millennials (28% ) had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor, compared to the just one in ten dropouts (11%) who would say the same.
2. Create Reverse Mentoring Opportunities
The term “reverse mentoring” has come to describe the kind of give and take between young and experienced leaders. Effective ministry to Millennials means helping these young believers discover their own mission in the world, not merely asking them to wait their turn.
Millennials who remain active in church are twice as likely as dropouts to say they served the poor through their church (33% versus 14%). They are also more likely to say they went on a trip that helped expand their thinking (29% versus 16%) and more likely to indicate they had found a cause or issue at church that motivates them (24% versus 10%).
3. Teach Connection Between Vocation & Discipleship
Churches can deepen their connection with Millennials by teaching a more potent theology of vocation, or calling. Many churches seem to leave this kind of vocation-based outcome largely at the door—unless these students show interest in traditional church-based ministry. But what Millennials are seeking goes beyond this. Vocational discipleship is a way to help Millennials connect to the rich history of Christianity with their own unique work God has called them to—whether it’s within the walls of the church or not…