10 Reasons Churches Don’t Reach Millennials

“If your church is serious about the Great Commission, it also needs to be serious about understanding this generation.”

Church leaders can get mad or frustrated about this, or they can consider changing things. Churches that value reaching the next generation emphasize the latter.

6. Transparency and authenticity are not high values.

Despite what I often hear, most millennials value transparency and authenticity. If your church portrays a “holier than thou” mentality and most of the sermons leave everyone feeling like terrible people, your church will be largely devoid of the next generation.

Why? Because the next generation knows something the church has largely denied for a long time: Church leaders are not in their position because they are absent of sin, temptations or failures. Millennials have seen too many scandals in the church and witnessed too many instances of moral failures among prominent Christian leaders.

Millennials are not looking for perfect people … Jesus already handled that. Millennials are looking for people to be real and honest about struggles and temptations.

7. Mentoring is not important.

This is a common misconception about millennials. While they do not like paternalistic leadership, they place a high value on learning from past generations. I have a good friend who lives in Jackson, Tennessee, and he occasionally drives to Nashville (two hours away) to sit at the feet of a man who has mentored him for years. He does this because his mentor has knowledge my good friend highly values.

He is not an exception. I have driven as far across Texas to spend a weekend with a family I love and respect. I had no other reason for going than to watch how they parent and allow this man give me nuggets of wisdom on following Jesus and loving others. Many might think this is ridiculous, but this is what makes millennials unique.

They value wisdom and insight. It is a valuable treasure, and they will travel long distances to acquire it.

Millennials aren’t standoffish toward those who have gone before them. They place a high value on learning. But they want to learn from sages, not dads. If your church is generationally divided and refuses to pour into the next generation, you can be sure your church will not attract millennials.

8. Culture is viewed as the enemy.

Millennials are tired of the church viewing the culture as the enemy. Separationist churches that create “safe places” for their members, moving away from all the “evil” in the city, are unlikely to attract the next generation. The next generation is trying to find ways to engage the culture for the glory of God.

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Millennials are increasingly optimistic about the surrounding culture because this is the model of Jesus. He loved all types of people, did ministry in the toughest parts of society and engaged the culture. They also know the church does not stand at the cultural center anymore.

In past generations, preachers could stand in pulpits and lecture about the evils of the culture because the church shaped the culture. Today, this is not true. The goal of Christian living isn’t to escape the evils of the culture and finish life unharmed. To reach people today, the church must be immersed in the community for the glory of God.

9. Community is not valued.

This might be the greatest value of millennials. Community is a non-negotiable part of their lives. And they aren’t looking for another group of people to watch the Cowboys play football with on Sunday. The next generation desires a Christ-centered community. They value a community that moves beyond the surface and asks the hard questions.

Community keeps millennials grounded and focused. Community challenges them to reach heights they never imagined alone. Jesus lived in community with 12 men for most of his earthly ministry. Jesus spent a lot of his time pouring into people. Community isn’t an optional part of a millennial’s life—it is essential.

Personally, I have seen the value of community on so many levels. Without authentic Christian community, I wouldn’t be in full-time ministry today. I wouldn’t have overcome serious sins and struggles. I wouldn’t have been challenged to live fully for God.

In a culture that is becoming increasingly independent and disconnected, millennials model something important for the church. There is power in numbers. As an African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go ALONE. If you want to go far, go TOGETHER.”

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Millennials want to go far and want their life to have meaning. In their minds this is not possible without deep, authentic, Christ-centered community.

10. The church is a source of division and not unity.

Nothing frustrates millennials more than a church that doesn’t value unity. Jesus’ final recorded prayer on earth, recorded in John 17, has been preached for years. What many churches miss is one of the central themes in that prayer: unity.

On four separate occasions, Jesus explicitly prays for unity. It was important to him. He brought together tax collectors and Zealots (just do some research if you want to know how difficult it would have been to bring these groups together). He brought people together. This is why places like coffee shops are grounds (like my pun?) for a lot of millennials. They want to be in environments where everyone feels welcomed and accepted.

Churches that value racial, generational and socioeconomic unity will attract millennials. Why? The gospel is most fully reflected when all of these groups are brought together, and most of them are just crazy enough to believe the power of the Spirit is sufficient to make it happen.

Some churches and leaders don’t see the value of changing to reach this generation, but once they realize this mentality is wrong, it will be too late. Millennials are a huge part of the population today (about 75 million strong), and if your church is serious about the Great Commission, your church also needs to be serious about understanding this generation.

Are there other qualities or values you think are important to millennials? Leave a comment below! Let’s continue the conversation.

Frank Powell is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California. He is also a husband, father and Jesus follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee. You can find more of his content at Blog.BaysideOnline.com.