The Truth About Millennials and Church Attendance
The statistics surrounding millennials and church attendance are alarming. Often described as America’s least religious generation, millennials are leaving churches in record numbers. It’s clear that millennials don’t view church in the same way as their parents or grandparents, and churches/ministries must make the necessary adjustments to appeal to this age bracket.
According to studies by Pew Research Center:
- 71% of millennials are at least “fairly certain” they believe in God
- 67% of millennials rank religion as at least “somewhat important” in their lives
- But only 28% attend church at least once a week
When most people share a belief in God, but only 28% of them attend a church, it’s clear that the issue exists within the church. Let’s look at some of the reasons why that may be.
Why Millennials Aren’t Going to Church
Researcher and president of LifeWay Christian Resources Thom Rainer says three things matter the most to millennials:
- They want rich content.
- They don’t want to be lied to.
- They want a good quality worship service.
It’s clear that today’s generation wants a more authentic experience. Today’s church needs to create theologically rich experiences for their members.
Priorities have also shifted. According to this study by Pew Research Center, millennials top three priorities are as follows: being a good parent, having a successful marriage, and helping others in need. Way down on the list at number five is living a religious life.
The modern church might scoff at millennials for not prioritizing religion more. Could it be that millennials care less about their religious beliefs than previous generations? The research says that most believe in God; that most want rich, authentic experiences; and that most prioritize helping others in need over living a religious life.
The truth about millennials and church attendance isn’t that they are less spiritual—it’s that they don’t want to go through the motions of religion anymore.
How Are Other Churches Addressing Millennials and Church Attendance?
Consider the case of Parkway Baptist Church. Pastor Armour D. Stephenson III sat with his church in a meeting in 2006 and laid out his vision for the church. No more suits on Sundays. Services would be shorter and start later. Hymns would be replaced by contemporary gospel, and the choir was renamed the “worship team.”
These changes initially spelled doom for the church. Attendance dropped from about 300 to 80 almost overnight. But as word got around, attendance slowly grew and now they have over 1000 members.
Another church, The Cause Church in Kansas City, realized that in order to meet a changing demographic, they had to meet people where they are. If statistics suggest that 68% of millennials value getting enough sleep as important to their personal lives, then having a service at 8:30 AM is not a great idea. So, The Cause has later church services and more options for when members can attend.
Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church has addressed this need (and the crazy schedules of millennials) in a different way. He uses technology to help get his messages online. He has nine campuses spread throughout South Carolina, and he uses live-streaming services to help project his services to these campuses and online all over the world.
Furtick told his church that he’d seen a video of worshippers in the Russian capital of Moscow singing a song from their worship team. Imagine having that kind of reach—the ability to project your services around the world for people to experience and be blessed by!
What Can You Do to Attract Millennials to Your Church Services?
First and foremost, you must be willing to embrace change. There will be people in your church who won’t like change. You may even wind up losing members. But you have to decide what is more important: doing things the traditional way or attracting people to your church.
If we’ve learned anything about millennials and church attendance, however, it’s that traditional services are pushing them away. What good is a church service if nobody attends? You don’t have to water down the teachings of your church. You just need to embrace new methods for distributing your message.
So, what can you do to help stem the rising tides of low church attendance among millennials and start bringing people back through your doors? Embrace the following suggestions from recklessly alive:
- Create authentic communities with a shared purpose centered around service. One way to do this would be to create an online community for your church where you can coordinate authentic, community-building activities and services.
- Create a real and relevant place for young adults to learn, grow, and be vulnerable. This could happen in your church, but it could also happen online making use of social media, forums, or other software to allow discussion among church members.
- Create regular outlets to discover the needs of young adults both inside and outside of the church. What’s the point of a ministry if it isn’t meeting the needs of the people it’s trying to reach? Find ways to get feedback on what your members want. A great way to do this is to create polls and discussions online.
- Look at the data and take a risk. Try something new. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. If you don’t try something soon, you may join one of the 4,000 to 7,000 churches that close their doors each year.
Why You Should Put Church Services Online
Perhaps the best reasons for putting church services online can be explained by looking at the reasons why people aren’t attending church. Here are a few reasons why people aren’t attending church as much as they used to:
- Higher focus on kids’ activities. Parents are traveling more for their children’s sporting activities.
- Travel is on the rise (both for business and pleasure).
- Blended and single-parent families create situations where children are not always able to attend.
- Self-directed spirituality. People are looking less and less to church leaders to help them grow spiritually.
Any one of these things might not have much of an effect, but together they create a radical shift in the way society is structured compared to 30 years ago. Given the massive societal shifts created by the boom of technology and the change in the structure of the family, a shift is also needed within the church.
The truth about millennials and church attendance may be a hard pill to swallow, but you need to embrace the change. If you’re interested in putting your church services online and would like to talk to someone who can help, consider scheduling a free consultation. The future of your church depends on your willingness to adapt.
Millennials have changed the rules (and needs) of the game. It’s time that the church steps up and meets those needs.