Time Magazine has called them 'The ME Generation'. Howe and Strauss say there are '7 Core Traits' of the Millenials. Kinnaman says they are falling out of the church at alarming rates. Christianity Today stated recently that they are being retained in the Black church. Millenials are making their impact on America.
Everyone is talking about Millenials. Every generation has its own unique set of traits. And that is why the church must be a 'becoming church'. A church that is interested in the generational setting they exist. That will require the church to morph its methods to a culture that has dismissed the church of any validity of speaking into their lives. And the church must take this task of sociological adjustment serious.
Just look at the conferences across the country, the books being written, the vast amount of information in blogs, and even christian television programming that dots the landscape of America. I just put 'millenial' into the search engine of my computer. There were 3,070,000 results. They aren't going away from our society. They will only grow up and leave a culture to the next generation. The 'like' or the 'Z' generation (or whatever we end up calling them) will inherit the Millenials' world. So, how can the church retain this era? How does the church close the back door and involve this influential set?
Here are 5 suggestions for the 'becoming church' if we are going to restore the voice of Christianity in this generation:
If we lose our genuineness, we lose the Mills. They value honesty and forwardness in an institution. Especially the religious or faith community. This doesn't mean we lose the lights and the screens. It means we have a reason for using the lights and the screens. They are looking for genuine preaching, advertising, intentions, and relationships.
If we are going to retain the Mills, the church must emphasize the team. That we value the entire Body of Christ. That our denominational walls are kept as porous and flexible as possible. We must be willing to worship at 'St. Stephens Full Gospel Missionary Baptist Assembly'. This is a humorous way of being as true to the scriptures and embracing an ecumenical fellowship. The walls and the ceilings are being tested. And that is okay. As long as we celebrate the unity of Christ.
If we fail to remain sociologically correct, we succeed at losing this generation. And I'm not talking about putting the pastor in jeans or changing the color of the sanctuary carpet or maintaining a fresh website. It goes beyond dress and color palette and flash players. How about our language and preaching that weds the 1st century to the 21st century? What about meeting Mills where they are at with small group discipleship and spiritual formation? What are the topics addressed in our messaging? The greatest theologians and sociologists on the planet should be pastors.
This millenial generation loves causes. It might be digging wells in Africa or building homes in South America or fighting Human Trafficking in Europe. Or a plethora of other issues globally. If you want to draw Mills to your church, give them a cause worth dying for. I believe if we teach the gospel (which is the truest definition of biblical and social justice) completely, the Mills will see the Kingdom of God and become committed followers of Christ. There is no greater cause than that of the Kingdom of God. Because within the gospel we find the crux of every cause: spiritual and physical need being met. Alongside the church's promotion of 'missions', we must effectively share our 'mission'.
The last suggestion to retain the Mills is to stay young. Honoring the past while valuing the present and the future is not death to a church. An inter-generational (and not merely a multi-generational) vision is required. It is not enough to have the generations present. They must be relative by honoring and valuing each other. Are your deacons, elders, department leaders, ushers, and other key positions of leadership in the church aging? How can you get younger and involve the Mills?
If the church doesn't continue to be strong at sociology, we lose. Our 'millenial anxiety' must be replaced with a 'millenial excitement'. Or, we will merely read another Time article on why the next generation is still exiting the church.