Written by Bill Whitt
January 16, 2024

A New Generation Becomes the Core

Here are a few ideas for how to make the most of the generational shift happening in our churches right now.

As we mentioned in last week’s newsletter, our 2024 Survival Guide, a new generation is taking the reins in our churches. The shift is happening whether we’re ready or not — so we might as well be ready!

  • Millennials (those born between 1979 and 1997) are the new core of the American church. Pre-pandemic, 21 percent reported attending church weekly. Post-pandemic, that figure is 39 percent — the highest of any generation, according to Barna.
  • Further, Gen Z (1998-2012) are not kids anymore, with the oldest turning 26 this year! They also have a lot to offer the church as well… if we’ll let them.

Below are a few ideas for how to make the most of the generational shift happening in our churches right now.

Six Fresh Ideas About Millennials and Gen Z
Idea 1: Openness to Spirituality
  • Surveys show Millennials and members of Gen Z are interested in spirituality. They list “curiosity” much more than “anger” when discussing their attitude toward spiritual matters.
  • Don’t be afraid of religious conversations with them. We should be bold in offering the Bible’s answers to the deepest questions they have.
Idea 2: Commitment to Their Values
  • These generations have a strong sense of right and wrong. They believe the church should fight injustice and stand up for the powerless members of society.
  • When choosing a church home, they will want to see that the congregation is putting its money where its mouth is. If you don’t practice what you preach, don’t expect Millennials or Gen Z to get excited about joining you.
Idea 3: Authenticity Over Polish
  • Millennials and Gen Z are tired of the show. Attractional church is losing its attractiveness to them.
  • More than a finely polished production, these younger generations long for authenticity and genuine relationships. Because they live in a superficial world, churches that offer true, deep community will draw them in.
Idea 4:  A Different Style of Leadership
  • Command-and-control leadership is dead in the water. Younger generations want to be inspired, and they want to follow collaborative, caring leaders.
  • A paycheck is no longer a good motivator, as Millennials and Gen Z want more than money — they want meaning. They will work hard on goals they believe will make a difference in the world, but they will not hesitate to leave ministry jobs or volunteer positions that do not provide this sense of meaning.
Idea 5: Digital Natives
  • For the most part, most members of Gen Z have never known a life without technology being integrated at a foundational level. They expect a certain level of technological proficiency at church.
  • If you’re not currently technologically proficient, that may sound like bad news, but here is the good news: Members of Gen Z are eager to get involved and offer their expertise if you just ask!
Idea 6: Ready To Lead!
  • Many church leaders have trouble designing ministries for younger generations. They ask how they can do better. Could it be that this is the wrong question? Why not give the younger generations a seat at the table to design their own ministries?
  • It is time to consider turning over the keys to generations that are very capable of leading — although perhaps in a different style. They have some critiques of the Church that are correct, and rather than shoving their feedback into a corner, why not empower them to fix what is broken?

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