I'll be honest. This article post from Columbia Theological Seminary was not what I expected. I saw the headline when I was going through my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago and couldn't resist clicking it. I'm not too sure what I expected, but I hear people say all they time they want a young pastor who can attract young families. As a young pastor myself, I was intrigued.
I thought Jan Edmiston's why reasons were spot on. But what hit the spot for me, what when she wrote about how a church can be the kind of church that young families would want to be apart. Jan writes:
What I Looked for in a Church
When I was in college and AJ and I were engaged, we started looking for a church to carry us through our time in Kentucky. We knew we wanted a United Methodist church, a church with worship that we enjoyed, but most importantly, a church with people we connected with.
Our first visit to a church was always to Sunday worship. We would scope out the website before attending to be sure we knew what we were walking into. Then we would pick the service that we thought we would like the most. If we like the service, then the next we would try a group or class. If we didn't feel there was a good group option, we would keep moving.
When we tried our church of choice (NUMC), we made the decision because of the people. Our first Sunday in worship, the Sunday School teacher talked talking to us and invited us to group that Sunday. We went and fell in love with the people. We knew this group of young adults were people we could grow to love and be supported by.
As we got to know the middle adults and older adults, we found love and support for our family as we got married and had Abigail. It was a great place to start a family, especially when we had no family locally.
Getting Over the Hump
I think the hard thing in a church is getting over the young adult hump. As a millennial, I look for other millennials when I am church shopping. I want to know I'm not the only one. If your church doesn't have a lot of millennials, then you've got to find a way to get some in the doors to start. Once you do, it'll get easier. Here are some suggestions I have to do that:
- Find some things you can do to offer support to millennials in your community. Consider providing a room once a week for moms to come together for play dates so that they can spend time together. Getting comfortable in your church is the first step. If they are looking for a church home, they will think of you and consider bringing a friend with them to make things more comfortable.
- Be sure you have good nursery options on Sunday, but that service is also child-friendly. Millennial families are about 50/50 when it comes to wanting nursery. Some spend all of their time with their children, so they relish the idea of having an hour or two of peace on a Sunday morning. Others work full time and would love to do something as an entire family. Be careful how you talk about the nursery. Use language like, "We have a nursery available if you would like it, but feel free to keep your children with you in worship as well." This also means you need an infant cry area in your lobby in case it's needed.
- Realize that you may already have a handful of dedicated millennial in your church. Millennials have a different definition of dedication than past church generations. Family and friends are significant to them, so church attendance is going to be 2 Sundays a month at best. Check your attendance rosters. You may already have a few millennial families that regularly come that you haven't realized are regular. If so, reach out to them to help them get more involved in the church. Help them feel they are important members and you want them present.
- Be Patient. Millennials are skeptical of the institutionalized church. They may come once and wait six weeks before arriving again. They may not give you a name or any contact information when they come. When they are ready to commit at some level to your church, they will let you know.
The Good News
So, I always have to take a moment to defend my generation, because we get a lot of flack in the church world these days. But we can be great church members. We love to volunteer and give financially to things that are dear to our hearts. Research shows that we give to many secular causes as well as the church, which is why many of us don't give as much right away. Our giving is spread out. Don't forget, many of us are still paying off our school debt too.
When we commit to a community, we all in as well. So when you see that we are regularly attending, start plugging us in. It will pay off to get us building relationships with others. We take our social relationships seriously. Remember, we're the future of the church.
You can read Jan Edmiston's original article here.