A few months ago, a local church pastor from a fairly large church in Dallas, TX asked to grab coffee with me. His main desire was to ask me one question. “How do I get more college students and young adults (i.e. Millennials) to attend and stay at my church?” I love this question! I want more pastors to think this way.

I am a Millennial. Young adults born after 1980 are categorized as “Millennials”. They are very different from Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers. One major difference is that Millennials believe that they can make a difference in the world. Most Millennials do not believe that the local church is the best place to see this kind of change take place. Therefore, Millennials are frustrated with the church and eventually stop attending. (I feel this way too…)

Photo Courtesy of InterVarsity 2100 Productions (c)

Photo Courtesy of InterVarsity 2100 Productions (c)

Here are the main thoughts that came out of my conversation with this church pastor. I asked this pastor to create the following 4 opportunities:

1. Create room for safe, stimulating conversation.

Millennials are leaving a robust, rigorous, academic environment and re-entering into a church culture that is typically the opposite. Create room for like-minded, post-college students to interact about tough questions, popular culture, and personal life ambitions.

I suggest not retooling your cliché “young adult” or “singles” small group, but consider making a next-generation “think tank”. Invite Millennials together and address questions that the church is facing. Have these post-college students wrestle through the ideas and make real-life application for the church and for their personal lives. In a way, they are your new guiding coalition as you invoke change at your church.

2. Create low-risk, high-impact leadership opportunities.

The ideas generated from the “think tank” discussions may become the new leadership opportunities that you can offer back to the group! Provide the needed springboard for their new ideas! Open up leadership opportunities all over the church for them. For example, ask Millennials to do some of the following:

  1. invent new methods to greet/connect people at church via social media and technology
  2. create cutting edge media teasers for the next sermon series
  3. perform spoken word, dance, or musical numbers to add value to weekly services
  4. develop strategies for reaching de-churched Millennials living near the church
  5. foster in-roads with the unreached LGBT community in the city
  6. brainstorm and present topics to the teaching pastors that will cater to this generation
  7. provide valuable connections to pop-culture that could breathe life into your boring church
  8. initiate partnerships with social justice advocates around the city

Even if the outcome is not perfect, the church will not suffer because of the engineered low-risk. If the end result is stellar, then the church will experience new-found momentum! Either way, you get Millennials involved in church, and they get to make an impact!

3. Create development plans for Millennial gifts and talents.

Unlike Generation X-ers, Millennials love to be mentored by older people around them. It is exciting for Millennials to know that someone has a development plan that is customized for their personal growth! In fact, you should not be afraid to map out the next 2-4 years for Millennials. Consider the following:

  1. Pair up your best Millennials with your leadership team.
  2. Challenge them to meet bi-weekly for coaching sessions.
  3. Cast BIG vision for Millennials as they take on their new roles.
  4. List detailed next steps and outcomes for the Millennials.
  5. Offer lots of praise as they discover and develop their gifts.
  6. Point out areas of growth and encourage them to maximize their strengths!
  7. Have FUN while you are developing them!

You will be surprised how many Millennials will stick around for the long-haul simply because they have a road map for their development. If they are developing skills, adding value, and/or feeling acknowledged, then you will see them thrive, stay, and invite their friends.

4. Create strong partnership with para-church ministries on campus.

I bet that your most gifted Millennial leaders are coming from a local para-church campus ministry like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. You should do what the aforementioned local pastor did with me! Get CONNECTED to what is happening on your local university campus.

You could literally set up a pipeline from the college campus right into your church and it will be filled with young, intelligent, enthusiastic leaders that are on mission for Jesus. Though many of these young adults will have powerful corporate jobs lined up, they will find true meaning in what they do at your church. I cannot think of a more strategic partnership for your church!

Find out the name of the campus minister near you and invite them to lunch. Who knows what could happen next!? I believe that you and I will see lasting renewal in our cities if we attract more Millennials to the church! Let’s continue to invite, incorporate, and empower Millennials to become world changers. Try creating these four opportunities and let me know how it goes!

What are other ways you can involve Millennials at your church? I’d love to hear what you want to add to this list. Please comment below.