“Millennials want to see the gospel at work. They long to see Christians vibrantly, authentically, and sacrificially living out their faith in service to others. But this good trait is potentially dangerous. Many well-intentioned young people flee theologically faithful churches.”
The generation we call “millennials” (individuals born between 1980 and 2000) has been the subject of countless Christian articles and books in the recent years. How do we reach them? What are they looking for in church? Why do so many, even those raised in Christian homes, seem disillusioned and frustrated with the local church?
I should add that, at 33 years of age, I’m technically a millennial. As a college pastor and now as leader of a campus ministry at Princeton University, I also minister to many millennials. Here are a few of my own (admittedly anecdotal) observations about ministry to millennials.
1. They really do care about content more than style.
My peers and the young adults I lead are much less concerned with the music style, fashion sense, and perceived “coolness” of any particular local church than we might think. They are far more concerned with the content of the preaching and the seriousness and warmth of the worship and community.
Many genuine believers in the millennial generation have started to move from the “church consumer” mentality to a willingness to go deep with a God-centered (if non-hip) community of believers. (Thom Rainer, for example, makes a narrower yet similar point in his article, “What Worship Style Attracts Millennials?”) Content, now more than ever for young Christian adults, really does trump style.
2. They are activists in good yet potentially dangerous ways.
Larry Osborne calls this characteristic of the millennial generation the “Bono Factor.” In other words, millennials are always asking of any given church, ministry, or individual Christian: “What are you doing to help somebody else?”
Millennials want to see the gospel at work. They long to see Christians vibrantly, authentically, and sacrificially living out their faith in service to others. But this good trait is potentially dangerous. Many well-intentioned young people flee theologically faithful churches they perceive as stale and inward-focused only to join churches that focus less on preaching the Bible and more on serving the community.