Church attendance has been on a gradual slide for years. So how can churches attract Millennials and Generation Zs through their 21st Century doors? How can online advertising tap into the faith of young people today?
1. Be ‘real’
Young people want to feel like they belong. They want their pastors and preachers to live among them and pray alongside them. Think about how Millennials are flocking to the ‘people’s pope’ – Pope Francis. Why? Because he demonstrates his simple humanity whenever he engages with people. Young people see Pope Francis as honest, open and accessible, even if his church has not always been perfect. Remember that younger generations carry their mobiles and tablets everywhere they go. Step out and reach out for their hands using digital messages to draw them back to you.
2. Be ‘now’
Teenagers and young adults want to feel that their churches are relevant to the 21st Century. Make sure that you combine the old with the new in fresh and creative ways. It’s no good reading age-old biblical stories full of ‘art’ and ‘thou’ if your congregation can’t relate to the language of the Elizabethans. Try framing some of your messages in a contemporary context. You can even throw in the odd emoji!
3. Explore like Generation Z
Generation Z have been born into a new global, social and technological age. They are highly connected with each other and have a sophisticated understanding of how to access information. They care deeply about their own ideas and beliefs. They want to explore and reason in a way that feels accepting and safe. Don’t be afraid to let them.
4. Care like the Millennials
Young Millennials are warriors. They fight for a better climate, for a greener ecology, for freedom from prejudice and fear. The God that speaks to them is a God of love and compassion. The messages of Jesus appeal to them because of the way he confronted injustice and championed the underdog. Lead with the teachings of compassion and love and the Millennials will come to you.
5. Get social, get online!
Sitting in the pews isn’t the only way that young people can experience their God. Run promotions across their mobile phones, iPads and tablets. Online worship may be solitary, but it is also a gateway into the wider faith community. Reaching out through Facebook and Twitter, shining the light on Instagram, gently saying ‘here we are’ could make all the difference. Give it a try!
Life is moving at such a rapid pace it is easy for young people to feel that faith is getting left behind. But spirituality is part of the human experience. So, above all, be courageous enough to embrace the contemporary. Communicate with your young congregation in their own, often digital, language. That’s when they will start to listen.