The Way to a Millennial’s Heart

Posted On June 11, 2015

What’s the way to a millennial’s heart? Is it through hashtags, rock bands, gourmet coffee and tablet giveaways?

Some churches these days seem to think so, trying to project themselves as “hip” in order to draw millennials back to organized religion. They’ve eschewed more traditional church services in favor of slickly produced, high-tech gatherings with trendy names and logos and an emphasis on style over substance.

Blogger and author Rachel Held Evans believes they’re missing the point, and that’s what has them missing the mark on their goal of attracting a younger audience.

Nearly 60 percent of people ages 18 to 29 with a Christian background have dropped out of church, according to statistics cited by Held Evans in a Washington Post op-ed piece, and 25 percent of millennials claim no religious affiliation.

Some megachurches take a business approach to reversing that trend, hiring marketing departments with the task of increasing membership. But the emphasis on numbers is part of the problem. This shouldn’t be about keeping score. It shouldn’t be about defining yourself by how many members you have. It should be about impact. What kind of impact are you having on the members you do have?

Quality. Not quantity.

Held Evans cites research from Barna Group and the Cornerstone Knowledge Network that two-thirds of millennials prefer a “classic” service over a “trendy” one, and only 8 percent of young people who don’t attend church say it’s because church is “out of date.”

It’s not that they don’t like rock bands and free iPads. It’s that they’ve grown up in an age of hyper-communication in which they’ve been inundated with enough advertising and marketing that they know when they’re being patronized.

“We can smell B.S. from a mile away,” Held Evans said in an interview with The Atlantic promoting her book, Searching for Sunday. “So if you’re just trying to sell us a product, we can tell.”

Those who come to church, Held Evans maintains, don’t come there to be entertained. They can get that elsewhere. They’re looking for more. It’s up to churches to give it to them.

And we’re not talking free iPads.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials