BY STEVE DUNN
I am the leader of Bridgebuilders Ministries. Its primary mission is “to help churches reach their unchurched neighbors.” Churches have found increasingly that they are no longer part of the prevailing culture. That culture is more secularized in its outlook and spiritual (not particularly) Christian in its quest for meaning. Thus, churches find that reaching that unchurched culture is a cross-cultural experience.
Nowhere does that appear more true than in churches’ relationships with the generation known as the “Millennials.” Millennials refers to the millennial generation, a term used by sociologists and demographic researchers to describe a segment of the population born between 1980 and 2000 (approximately). Also referred to in the media as “Generation Y,” millennials are the children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation. In my visits to churches I often hear the lament that the young people are not there. In most churches the teens outnumber what are called the Millenials.
Recent research commissioned by the American Bible Society and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and conducted by the Barna Group give churches hope in connecting with this generation. It has to do with the Bible and the view that practicing Millennials (those who attend worship regularly and identify themselves as Christians,) These Millennials still hold a high view of scripture. Although their unchurched peers do not share the same view, it does suggest that the hope of reaching them is to keep the Bible clearly at the core of your efforts to communicate with the Millennials. The key will be to find ways to honestly communicate the message of scripture and to connect its content to the daily lives of Millennials.
There are three observations I would offer here:
1. Understand the power and usefulness of technology in making scripture accessible. Among Millennials you are as likely to find Bibles on cell phones as in their hands when they come to church. Look for ways to make the Bible and your message about it accessible to this group.
2. These are not “children of the Enlightenment”–that “reason is king” group (mostly people born before 1980 like their parents and grandparents) who have bought into the supremacy of reason and the necessity of rational arguments to “prove” the truth of the Bible. These are the generations consumed with arguments against evolution, subjecting the Bible’s veracity to the historic critics, who have tried to make the Bible a science book and have selectively downplayed the radical, countercultural nature of the Gospel. Millennials are looking for meaning and significance in their lives. They embrace the “story” of Jesus as their entry point to the Word and Faith. They are more likely to connect with Henry Blackaby’s observation that “Truth is a Person.”
3. They are also looking for community. Make sure that the community you seek to connect them to (your church) is biblical in its foundations and not some cultural version of the Faith.
What do you think?
By the way–Barna’s research says that 28% Millennials attended worship this past week.
For more on this go to BARNA.