There’s been lots of talk lately about Millennials and their roles in helping nonprofits (including on this very blog). It seems people are a bit confused as to how to connect with them ... and by them, I mean us. As a 24-year-old Millennial, I often get asked how others can bond with my age group. These organizations are desperate to understand exactly what makes a Millennial tick.
Churches are no exception.
Many twenty-somethings fall out of the habit of attending church on a regular basis. But, the newest group of Millennials is taking it to a whole new level. The Barna Group, a national research organization, found that 59% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 drop out of church after regularly attending as a teenager. While reconnecting with this demographic may seem impossible, it's not!
There are a few approaches every church -- and frankly, any marketer, business owner, or organization -- can take to connect (or reconnect) with Millennials.
Embrace the way Millennials want to communicate.
Lately, when reading about Millennials, I’ve commonly seen the phrase "understanding the communication preferences of Millennials." In order to really understand how Millennials communicate, you have to start by understanding the way we communicate isn’t a preference.
The iPhone came out in 2008 -- I was 18 years old and a senior in high school. Even before then, though, cellphones were already widely popular, and I don’t even remember a time before computers.
This technology, passed on by the generation before mine, is innate to how I communicate. By understanding that one concept, you have the opportunity to connect with Millennials in a whole new way.
Instead of seeing the Millennials in your church as young people who choose to communicate differently from you as a way to be rebellious, you’ll see them as another group of potential members of your congregation that want to interact with your church, but in non-traditional ways.
Offer programs specifically for Millennials.
Let’s face it: Every generation is different from the next. Your parents’ generation had a tough time connecting with you when you were 20, too. This isn’t a new phenomenon.
This feeling is extended to the churches I work with. Especially while at church, we all -- Millennials included -- want to feel needed, accepted, understood, and successful.
So, consider asking Millennials to join in on focus groups, building projects, worship teams, or community outreach. Show the young people in your church how much you respect them by valuing their opinions and ideas.
Stay current -- adopt new technology.
A great way to show Millennials that you value them is by investing in new technology, like iPads in your church or an interactive website or online community where this younger generation can share stories and learn from each other.
This can be driven through social media channels, like Facebook or Twitter. It's also optimal to use your blog often to connect and give the Millennials in your church a place to keep up with information. Remember that the church has been addressing new ways of communicating for centuries, and it’s okay if you communicate differently!
One of my favorite things about going to church is seeing hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of people of different ages and life stages in one place. The last thing you want to do is neglect one of those groups of people.
An ideal way to connect to Millennials in your congregation is to give them the option of receiving information in a different way. Instead of making all the important information only available in your Sunday bulletin, show Millennials, and other tech-savvy people in your church, that you value how they consume information by putting it on a responsive website or church app that can be accessed on mobile devices.
It's okay to start small!
If you feel like you aren’t there yet, that’s okay! The first step is to just start getting content out there. Here are some easy steps you can take to start building those online relationships:
If you have an event, pick a specific hashtag Millennials can use to engage online, like #sundaypray.
To get your blog off the ground, start by finding a good story to tell from your next special event and share it on your blog.
If your website isn’t as modern as it could be but you don’t feel ready for a website redesign, start by working on getting your information organized and up-to-date. This will help keep your audience engaged and keep your website relevant to new members.
If you’re a church leader who is overwhelmed by the feeling that you are falling behind when it comes to connecting with Millennials, know this: It's not too late. Churches are on the cusp of great opportunity.
Technology is constantly changing, and it can feel difficult to keep up when your audience consists of such a wide variety of ages. But connecting with Millennials through new communication techniques today means that you are setting the stage for a connected congregation in your church’s future.
After all, Millennials won’t be Millennials forever.
What are some of the tactics you use to engage younger demographics and get them more involved with your religious or community institution?
Originally published Jan 16, 2014 4:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017