Dr. Thom Rainer had an interesting episode today, June 12, 2019 at 7:16. The episode was titled “How can a church without kids reach Millennial Families with Kids?” Here are some of the points that he brought out.
Dr. Rainer gives eight keys for reaching younger generations.
In my experience as a Church Growth Consultant, it is the desire of every older generation that they reach the younger adults and their children. They will often say “they are our future.” However, when it comes to doing the things that appeal to these younger folks, they balk at the direction needed to be taken. They want the younger generation but they want the younger generation to become like them. That is just not going to happen. I read an article the other day that says, “the Millennials are more open to attending a worship service than the senior adults.”
When our guest come to worship with us for the first time, they are doing a ton of evaluations. They are looking around to see who is there and because they have children they are paying close attention to what is offered for the children. They want their children to have a spiritual influence. Also, they are paying attention to the congregation to determine if there are other children there. They want their children to be associated with other children who can learn together. Parents are very protective of their children, especially in a strange place.
The congregation should take this responsibility seriously and make the millennial guest feel comfortable and assure them that their children are a priority. I was in one church and a six year old boy ran across the lobby. An elderly gentleman yelled at the top of his voice to stop running or go home. If I were a parent with small children seeking a church and heard that, I would take the gentleman’s advice and gather up my family and leave.
When searching for a pastor or staff person, the congregation usually will desire some one with children the age of their target group. Just because that minister has children, does not mean that families will be attracted to the church. Again, how we prepare for children each week determines how they will be received in the fellowship. The millennials are willing to take the first step. But many churches are not prepared for these children. In one of my church growth seminars I was told that the number of chairs is important. For example: If you only have 4 chairs set around the table that means you are only expecting 3 children and one worker. The number of chairs is the mindset that we have portrayed to our guest. Don’t over do it. If the room only seats 10 comfortably don’t put 20 chairs out.
Also, the preparation is key for the leader in the children’s department. Have you been to an elementary classroom lately? These children are working on computers. They are no longer writing on their Big Chief tablets but their iPad tablets. These children are being challenged to extend themselves. Color sheets, cotton balls, and pop sickle sticks are of old. Sure, you can pull out the old flannel-graph board and entertain them for a while. I was in one church that had a children’s church program. One of the parents told me that they would not be sending their children back to that class. I asked why and the parent told me that their child told them that all the leader did was to read a story from the Bible. There was no activity that supported the lesson. When first time guests
walk to their car after worship, they are asking their children, ”How was your class, what did you do, what was your lesson on today?" Parents continue to evaluate the attractiveness of the church and it’s appeal in the car as they drive off the campus parking lot.
I have found that the Millennials are mission-minded. They want to see the church out side the walls. What are the ministries to the community? They will be attracted to the church that shows it cares about the community and families like themselves. They want their family to be involved in making a difference. The millennials want to be appreciated. Don’t waste their time on trivial things. They are not going to be attending your “Business Meetings.” But they will attend the group that goes to the park to do a back-yard Bible School. They are going to be attracted to a congregation that is more interested in going than coming. For them, the church takes place outside the walls of the building. So if you want to reach these younger families, then become the church that will invest time and energy in and around the community.
The church that wants to reach the Millennial generation must understand the Millennial generation. They do not think like others. What interests you is a boring time for them. A study of their lifestyle is vital to understand them. For the older generation, you are already introduced to their lifestyle through your grandchildren. As these grandchildren reach the teenage years, they have developed their own set of values, and I can assure you they are not going to be the same as their parents or grandparents. So, the responsibility falls on the senior adults to begin to think like them so that they will have a better understanding of what appeals to this generation. We will not make the Millennials think like us, but we must become as a little child and think like them. Don’t get carried away here.
Some churches have missionary teams that would come and work on a short term basis to assist in reaching these Millennial families. If the church is serious about reaching these families, they could invite the parents to a round-table discussion to determine what the Millennial families desire in a church. Read every article on the life style of the Millennial generation. See what makes them tick and what ticks them off. The senior adults and church leaders need to listen to these things. There are going to be things discussed that some of the older generation will not like or agree with, but if you are serious about wanting the church to reach these families, then pay attention. One senior gentleman said that the testimony that we have never had to paint the walls in the lobby is a stark reminder that we don’t really want young families in our building. We need to get away from the idea that our church plant is a Museum for the saints (we have their plaques and pictures on the wall) but it is to be a hospital for the sinners.
The advertising for the church should be attractive and inviting. The Millennial generation will not get the telephone book down and look for a church. They will go to the Website and get their information. How it is designed and what information it contains will be a great asset to these seeking-families. Information about the church, the pastor and staff, the ministries for them and their children, the calendar of events, and directions to get there plus what they can expect when the arrive will give a great invitation to these families. The church should invest in the cutting edge technology. Don’t short-change these individuals. They are well-versed in presentation and preparation for the worship. Always present the best. Anything less will not be appealing to these high-tech generations. Remember their children are working on the computer in the first grade. If you have problem, maybe you can get a second grader to come and fix the problem.
The most important aspect of reaching the Millennials, or any generation for that matter, is to be a prayer warrior. The church as a whole and individual should commit to praying for God to reveal His will in reaching all people with the Gospel of Christ Jesus. The Millennials want their family to know and accept Christ as their Spiritual guide and Savior. When someone ask you to pray for their family member – stop right then and there and pray for them. Prayer should not be an after thought. It should be the only thought. Every ministry and minister should be saturated with our prayers. Put these families on your daily prayer list and begin now to seek God on behalf of each of these moms and dads who are trying to do the best they can to introduce and include their family in a family of faith. The Word of God tells us that we are “to put on each piece of armor and buckle it with prayer” and that is what I would say about reaching the Millennial generation. Pray Pray Pray and then Pray some more.
The bottom line is this, if you want the church to reach these young Millennial families, then you are going to have to make some changes (oh that is a dirty word for the older generation). But that is exactly what their parents did 40 years ago to get them involved in serving the LORD in His church. “Behold, old things have passed away, all things have become new” is more than just speaking about our coming to faith in Christ Jesus. Please remember, the message never changes and we should never water down the Word of God. We are to lift Him up and He will draw all people (including Millennials) to Him. But unless we make the necessary adjustments we will never reach this seeking generation. So there is hope for every church. That is because Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her that He may present her to His Heavenly Father as a bride, adorned in the beauty and glory of God. We are the problem that our churches are not reaching this generation. I am reminded that God is the architect of our generations and If He didn’t think they could be reached and work together He would have never created ages. God knows how to do this and we are to trust and follow His plan. It is not His will that any should perish.