Most churches I work with will at least say out loud that they want to reach the younger generations and other folks who don’t go to church at all. Having worked with a lot of churches, I have pretty good insight as to why my generation will not be walking through church doors this coming Christmas season. This isn’t just a traditional church problem- I’ve seen all kinds of churches shoot themselves in the foot, whether that foot was covered with TOMs or, I don’t know, orthopedic penny loafers.
Five common mistakes churches make while trying to reach millennials:
- Over promising & under delivering.
Perfect example is the multiple churches I’ve heard calling Christmas or Easter “The Superbowl of Church.” Um, no. No, it’s not. Because watching the actual Super Bowl is the Super Bowl for me. Let Christmas be Christmas- it’s pretty famous on its own. Don’t disappoint me or cheapen the day by likening it to a commercialized adrenaline-filled sports event. Under promising and over delivering will always be a better option. Surprise > Disappointment.
- Faking enthusiasm.
Millennials can see right through fake enthusiasm. So be honest about the meaning of Christmas. Tweets, sermons, and ads are so much more meaningful and motivate us to action when we can tell you’re giving us a sincere statement about why you feel the way you do. There’s no need to approach the subject matter like you’re selling tickets to monster truck jam (I hear they’re “STILL JUST TEN DOLLARS!!”). Speaking of which-
- Abusing exclamation points.
I learned in first grade that the presence of an exclamation point at the end of a sentence signifies that I should have read the preceding sentence in the voice of a mega cheerleader on crack. Yes, it’s weird that they taught us about crack in first grade, but I’ve been drug-free ever since. Be real with millennials. With your real voice, in person and in print. I pace myself by thinking of exclamation points as a cup of powdered sugar. If the meal of what you’re communicating doesn’t need all those super-sweet empty calories, just don’t put it in. If what you’re serving does call for some, do so sparingly.
- Only advertising the what.
I assume based on the way churches advertise that generations before mine only needed to know that a church service was available. So, churches spend tons of money to tell everyone that they are, in fact, still having meetings on Sunday morning. But my generation wants to know why you show up every Sunday morning. Sincerity will win us. Be vulnerable with us, you’ll see us be vulnerable right back.
- Having an unwritten ridiculously-formal dress code.
If nothing else is keeping us from coming, we just don’t know what to wear. I know it may be petty, but it’s true. Most millennials don’t have the need for a dozen suits or fancy dresses, so we don’t keep a stock of them in our closets. Does your church seem to have a top-notch attire policy? It’s time to adjust. Do most of your congregants dress pretty casually? Put that information out there so we know it’s ok to come dressed like we normally do.
Did I miss any? What would you add?