If I read another article about Millennials and the Church, I am going to lose my mind. But I’m totally fine with writing one.
Rachel Held Evans wrote a piece a couple of weeks ago on the subject (two pieces, actually), and now it’s all anyone in the blogosphere can talk about. It’s sparked a lot of conversation between me, a Millenial, and my friends, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. We’ve been discussing how church is done, the pros and cons, what needs to change, what the priorities need to be, etc.
And here’s the large, looming problem with a church focusing all (or the vast majority) of their resources and energy on attracting Millennials: intentionally or not, everyone over 32 is given the message that they don’t matter.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
As a 30 year old believer, the last thing I need is a church full of peers. If that’s not the blind leading the blind, I don’t know what is. Sure, I love the fellowship with people my age. But I desperately need folks 10-50 years older than me to share their wisdom – wisdom my peers just don’t have because they haven’t lived any longer than I have.
That being said, I need a church that creates an environment where people who are 40+ are clearly valued and have opportunities to serve according to their giftings. After talking to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, the church that is narrowly focused on attracting Millenials isn’t such a place. Namely because all the “important” jobs are given to younger people.
When a church focuses on attracting Millennials, they usually want Millennials leading the music and Millennials giving the sermons… or at least baby-faced Gen Xers. Well, what’s left for the “old” people who feel music and preaching are their gifts?
When 40+ folks are given the message that they are not useful in attracting the target demographic, they feel purposeless. They feel unwanted and unable to serve in their own churches.
And then they leave.
Wisdom and experience walk out the front door and go look for a church that will value them. This is very bad news for us Millennials they leave behind… We’re left with no one to learn from. Our growth is stunted. And then you know what we do? We leave, too, in search of a multi-generational church body we can learn from.
Here’s the way I see it: church leaders, if you want to attract (and keep) Millennials like me, celebrate multiple generations. Showcase the benefits of friendship and discipleship across age groups. Promote the visibility of people of all ages so I know when I visit for the first time that your church values age differences.
As much as you focus on attracting me, focus on keeping those older than me. I need them.
Wise words, young ‘un! I’m grateful for the older people in my life who have shown we the way. Jesus said that the reward in this life for following him would include mothers and fathers a hundred fold. I have found that in the church of Jesus Christ of all ages saints.
Thanks. I agree and am grateful to count you as one of my 100 fathers 🙂 OK, five… I better get to connecting more with you “old” folks!
Wow!!!! You hit a home run , touch down , hole in one, winning goal , slam dunk with this blog. A church as well as life in general requires balance. Follow the $$$$
Not sure I agree with your “Follow the $$$$$” comment, but definitely agree churches need a balanced approach to people of all ages.
Kelly, I could not agree more. Something Christian Smith has pointed out is that we stick our toddlers in the nursery, then children’s church, then youth group, then college/singles class, etc. So when they leave for college, we weep that they’ve left the church, but in reality, they have never been IN church. I was thrilled when I was asked to teach in the evening service at a local Presbyterian church, because the attendance at that service was primarily the “silent generation.” One gentleman had actually been present at the attack on Pearl Harbor. To see this aged saints drawing my little children aside after the service to talk to them, get to know them, share their faith with them, was huge. Our children need to see faith lived out by every generation. I now have a weekly worship service at a local residence for Alzheimer’s and dementia. They don’t always remember me from week to week (one dear friend introduces himself to me each week, asks all about me, but we are good friends by the end of the service again), but they remember all the words to Amazing Grace and the Lord’s Prayer. My children (ages 4 to 12) aren’t afraid of them, greet them, talk to them, hug them. I can see each week how much good it does all of them.
Awesome! Thanks so much for reading.