When PEW Research Center released the results of their Religious Landscape Study, the report found that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years. WHOA.
But even more interesting, the study found that the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among Millennials. If you’re a church, non profit, or faith-based organization, we know what you’re thinking: how do we reach them?
Here are four things we know about Millennials (and four ways to reach them!):
1. They care about social justice.
Whether it’s providing clean water, feeding the hungry or putting a stop to human trafficking, Millennials care about social justice. They want their voices (and opinions) to be heard. Instead of taking a “this is right” and a “this is how we’ve always done things” approach, allow for open dialogue or conversation about important issues, topics and current events. Be willing to listen to them and understand their point of view and concerns. They’ll appreciate your openness and willingness to listen.
Millennials also buy into causes, not companies. If you’re a church or non profit organization, appeal to their sense of social justice. Think about the way you are telling your stories. Is this a cause that they can buy into and stand behind?
2. Their sense of right and wrong is guided by common sense.
According to the PEW Research study, 46 percent of younger Millennials (ages 18-24) and 48 percent of Older Millennials (ages 25-33) said they look to common sense for guidance on right and wrong. On the contrary, only 23 percent of Younger Millennials and 26 percent of Older Millennials look to religion on guidance for what is right and wrong.
From the time they were in elementary school to the day they graduated college, Millennials have been taught to make decisions based on analyzing evidence and facts. It’s no surprise that their moral compass is dependent upon rationale. With this in mind, churches and non profit organizations should be prepared to provide a stake to their claims. Whether it’s in your annual donor report, your sermons or the services you offer, provide evidence and support to help guide Millennials down the decision-making path.
While you can’t change the way Millennials make decisions, you can change (and be a part of!) the way those decisions are influenced.
3. They are less connected with church than older generations.
According to the study, 34 percent of Younger Millennials and 37 percent of Older Millennials said that they seldom attend religious services. We know you’ve noticed this!
We often hear church leadership say that they are struggling to reach young people or get them into church. Instead of trying to get Millennials into church or to attend a service, go where there go! Be where they are and meet them at them door.
Are they brunching (it’s likely)? Are they in the gym? The coffee shop? GO! Jesus wasn’t afraid to get outside the walls of the church to meet beautifully flawed, messy and imperfect human beings right where they were. And we shouldn’t be either. When Millennials see that you are willing to get outside your comfort zone to get inside theirs, they will be more likely to trust and engage with you!
4. They don’t have a strong sense of spiritual wellness or peace.
According to the study, Millennials feel a sense of spiritual wellness or peace less frequently than any other demographic. Perhaps it’s because we live in a Pinterest-perfect world with daily pressures to be the best at, well, everything!
In the midst of this pressure-filled and chaotic world, your church or organization can be a place of solitude for the Millennials out there looking for peace and contentment. Be a resource and a safe haven for them to come as they are.
Are they struggling with the pressures of social media? Being a modest woman in a society that says less (clothing) is more? Being a man of God instead of the man the world says we should be? Tackle these tough topics and challenges they are facing in your sermons, in your programs or on your digital platforms. Again, meet Millennials where they are and let them know that you understand and are here to walk alongside them—not to judge them.
If this seems overwhelming, don’t fret! You’re not alone! Media companies, big brands and corporate businesses are all spending millions of dollars each year trying to figure Millennials out. By making small changes like open dialogue around current events or issues, appealing to rationale, showing up where they are and providing solitude among chaos, you can reach the Millennial generation.