Have you mastered reaching the millennial generation in your church?

If so, you need to start a blog and podcast to help the rest of us!

If not, I have some encouragement for you — and for me as a church leader.

Here it is. The full proof way to reach the millennial generation:

Wait until they are married with kids.

Boom. That’s the secret. Seriously, though, I’m beginning to believe reaching the millennial generation is not about market segmentation and generational characteristics. It’s not about becoming something new and unique, designing services and experiences just for them. It’s not about propping up your new social justice programs and using Instragram. Reaching millennials might be a waiting game — like a starring contest. Just wait them out.

Of course, I say this somewhat sarcastically, but there is some truth behind the sarcasm. When I consider my own story, and as you look back at yours, maybe there isn’t as much to worry about after all.

I grew up in the church. I joking say I’ve been in church nearly every Sunday since I was negative nine months old. And not just Sunday, but Wednesday nights, weekend retreats, and I even participated in Monday night visitation once (once is all it took for me to abandon that strategy). Church was a way of life for me — until I college. At the ripe old age of 18, I left home for Berry College. Berry is a relatively small liberal arts university. Like almost every private college, it has Christian roots, but it was certainly not an overt Christian college. I wasn’t forced to take biblical studies or anything like that. I was free to live out my faith as I wanted, and I did.

During these four years, I didn’t attend ONE church service. Not a one. For 18 years I went to church nearly every week, and then I stopped cold.

Why? Why didn’t I attend church in college when I had grown up attending church for the 18 years leading to college?

It’s simple, really. I had no felt need for the church during college. I still believed in God. I still maintained a lifestyle in keeping with my faith. I still prayed — especially during that semester of Calculus. But I didn’t attend any church services. I’m not trying to reduce this issue too much, but the reality is people come to church when they feel church provides a solution to a life problem. People come to church when the church helps the people. If there is a felt need for God or the church, then people attend. But, if you aren’t in need, or you don’t realize you are in need… Sure, a select few will come out of obligation or guilt, but that pattern is being lost more and more with each generation, and for good reason. The majority of people who attend church do because it helps them. They have a felt need that the church can meet.

Side Note: If your church is not thriving, that’s something to consider. Is your church a place where life application trumps basic information?

This felt need attendance is why every generation is difficult to reach when they are in their twenties, but as they grow up, get married, and have children, they begin to reappear in churches across our country. For most, life is much more simple at 20 than 30. There is less responsibility, less tragedy, and less pressure, and therefore less felt need for God and church. It’s not a generational issue as much as an age, stage, and felt need issue.

I think every church should attempt to reach twenty-something’s. And I think every church should pay attention to the trends and overall attitudes of each generation. But the predominate factor driving church attendance is less generational and more season of life.

In the next post, I’ll talk about how to be a church that capitalized on the felt needs of twenty-something’s, but for now, I’d love to hear from you. Are the millennials that much different than the previous generations? Or is this more about season of life than generational difference? Let me know your opinion by leaving a comment below, and if you can, share this socially to get others in the conversation, too.

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