Millennials and Church Attendance
So why don't Millennials attend church?
According to Statistics for Mission, the total worshipping community of churches across the Church of England in 2015 was 1,142,000 people, of whom 20% were aged under 18, 50% were aged 18-69 and 30% were aged 70 or over. Nearly half the congregations in England have fewer than five members under 16 whilst the average age of congregations is 62.
So where are all the Millennials and why don't they attend church?
The word 'attend' could be a clue. Millennials don't want passivty.
'They don’t want to sit on the sidelines and observe. If they’re going to be part of a church, it must have value and meaning. People often used to attend church out of moral obligation, habit or family tradition. Millennials won’t have any of that. If it doesn’t provide meaning and value they won’t participate. They’ll go and find something that does'.
An American study, Making Space for Millennials , uncovers key findings that help reveal unique characteristics about the Millennial generation and offers practical suggestions to help churches connect with and engage today’s young adults.
- ‘Millennials have a dim view of church. They are highly sceptical of religion. Yet they are still thirsty for transcendence.
- If we portray God as a cosmic buddy, we lose them (they have enough friends).
- When we tell them that God will give them a better marriage and family, it’s white noise (they’re delaying marriage and kids or forgoing them altogether).
- When we tell them they’re special, we’re merely echoing what educators, coaches, and parents have told them their whole lives’
- They have been bombarded with advertising and are sceptical of its promises
- They seek authenticity – ‘gone are the days of light and fog machines in church services’
- They want to encounter real people and real experiences.
- Clear signage and easily accessible information is essential. Millennials don’t want to ask - they'll stay away if they can't work out how to navigate a church or find the way in.The logistics of a building shouldn’t be a barrier for people coming into church especially for the first time. The biggest need is to create a welcoming space that isn’t confusing.
Old church buildings feel ‘real’.
A modern church is designed to host activities, and these activities point the people to God. But strip away those activities, and you might as well be in a community college or a performing arts centre or, heaven help us, an airport terminal. Old church buildings were built to connect people to God,The altar, the stained glass windows, the soaring ceiling that pointed to the heavens—every element was designed to create a link between human and divine.”
Yet, 'Though many millennials aspire to a more traditional church experience, in a beautiful building steeped in history and religious symbolism, they are more at ease in a modern space that feels more familiar than mysterious.'
So how do you create great spaces on a shoestring budget that resonate with Millennials?
Concentrate on one or two areas and make those spaces feel special.
Instead of spreading funds equally throughout the building choose one or two key spaces in whcih to go the extra mile
Keep the structure simple
Focus on providing good quality finishes, furnishings and technology.
Don't ignore outside -Millennials say nature helps them connect with God and it helps provide an antidote to a need they voiced in the Making Space for Millennials research—the need for respite.
Make sure the entrance is tidy and clearly signed
Provide information on your website/twitter/facebook/whatsapp feed -Millennials expect to be able to assess a veune before stepping foot inside
Many church buildings try to be places of action, not rest, and spaces to “do” rather than “be.” That's finie but make sure there is space just to explore spiritual life on their own terms, free to decide for themselves when to stay on the edges of a church experience and when to get further involved.