Jun 14, 2018

Why Millennial Parents Are Exiting the Church

If you're trying to reach young families with children, then the demographic you're trying to connect with are the Millennials.

Look closely at the average church and you won't find an abundance of Millennials.  The nursery is quiet due to lack of parents bringing their children.  The preschool area, that should be full, has a shrinking attendance.

Look around during worship and you'll see a lot more gray hair than you do young couples.

Why is this?  Obviously, it's because more and more Millennials are leaving the church.  Which leads to the bigger question.  Why are Millennial parents exiting the church?

Studies show that church attendance among 22-to-35-year-olds is the lowest in recent history.  Look at these sobering stats:
  • Only 2 in 10 people under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59% of Millennials raised in the church have dropped out.
  • 35% of Millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church.
Why is this happening?  Let's address some of the big reasons Millennials are leaving the church.

We aren't including them in planning the future of the church.  Millennials want the opportunity to speak into the direction, strategies and vision of the church.  They highly value this and refuse to be a part of a church that ignores their input.

If we are going to see Millennial parents become part of and help lead the future church, then we must give them a voice in planning that future.

Practical steps to take:
  • Give them a seat at your church's leadership table.
  • Host focus groups for Millennial parents.  Listen to their feedback and ideas.  
  • Have special events and classes that are geared for young couples.
We're talking it, but not walking it.  We talk about changing the world, but we don't get involved in things that can change the world.  Millennial parents want to change the world.  They are drawn to churches that are focused on changing the world.  They also want their kids involved in this.  A cool mission statement that talks about changing the world, but does very little about it, turns Millennials off.

Practical steps to take:
  • Provide Millennials with opportunities to make a difference. 
  • Provide Millennials with opportunities to serve and make a difference with their child. 
  • Show Millennials how their involvement is making a difference.
We're not getting outside the 4 walls.  If we want Millennial parents to come inside the 4 walls, then we must first give them opportunities to get outside the walls.  Occcasionly taking up an offering for kids in a needy country is not enough.  They want to go visit the child and help him /her in person.

Practical steps to take:
  • Get small groups involved in serving together outside the 4 walls.
  • Help supplement and sponsor young Millennials to go on mission trips.
  • Share stories of young adults who went on a mission trip and the fruit that's resulted from it.
    Church politics.  If you look behind the curtain, you will see most churches have politics going on.  Power struggles over decisions.  Arguing over petty things like the color of the carpet.  Starting "new churches" due to church splits.  A few families, that have been at the church for generations, controlling the church and turning it into a country club where only people like them are accepted.

    Millennials can see right through the curtain.  They see the politics, power struggles and lack of unity, and they want no part of it.

    Practical steps to take:
    • Create a culture of unity that is based on the church's vision.
    • The less red tape, the better.  Realize you don't need a committee for getting permission to buy some more toilet paper for the bathrooms.  Empower the staff team to be able to make decisions while balancing it with accountability.
    • Make decisions not based on the preference of the few, but on what's best for the future of the church.
    Show them the money.  Millennials want to know where the money they are giving is going.  They don't trust institutions in general and that includes churches.  They are turned off when they hear about a pastor building a multi-million dollar house or driving a Rolls Royce, while kids in other countries are dying of starvation.  They are also not big on building grand facilities that are used for an hour a week on Sunday morning.

    Practical steps to take:
    • Be totally transparent about where funds are being spent. 
    • Show how the money is being used to help others with a special emphasis on helping the poor and needy.
    • Church staff salaries should be in line with what the average family in the congregation makes.  In other words, they should live comfortably, but not exorbitantly. 
      Move from the yelling head to a conversation.  Millennials are not interested in having someone stand behind a pulpit and yell at them.  They can sit home and watch the best preachers on the planet on demand. Instead, they long for stimulating conversation in a community of people who are facing the same challenges and struggles.

      Practical steps to take:
      • Move from rows of chairs to round tables as much as possible.  This naturally causes more conversations to happen.
      • Make sure classes for both parents and children incorporate open-ended questions that can spark deeper conversations. 
      • Equip small group leaders to be excellent facilitators rather than lecturers.

      Lack of community.  Millennials long to be in community and they want their children to be in community as well.

      Practical steps to take:
      • Create small groups that address the felt needs of Millennials.

      • Have small groups for their children.  Whether it's a traditional classroom setting or a small group time after large group time, get their kids in a group where they can be known, cared for and prayed for by a caring small group leader.

      • Set up serving opportunities where small groups can serve together.
      Provide them with a safe place to discuss controversial issues.  Our culture is engulfed in issues like gay marriage, transgender, abortion, etc.  Millennials need a safe place where they can talk through these issues.

      Practical steps to take:
      • Create environments where Millennials can ask questions about these issues. 
      • Provide mentors for Millennials who can bring wisdom and guidance to the table.
      • Remember tolerance is a big value of Millennials. Talk with them, but don't argue with them, about controversial issues.  Relationship is how you will influence them.
      It's time churches face the fact that, for the most part, we're not keeping Millennials and their children engaged in our churches.  Unless we make changes, there is going to be lots of empty seats in our churches where Millennials should be sitting.   Unless we adjust what we're doing, our nursery, preschool and elementary ministries at our churches will continue to plateau and even shrink. Wake up!  Look around!  We have to reach the Millennial parents in our communities or we will face extinction.

      I want to encourage you to talk through the points listed above with your team.  Have some honest, no-holds-barred conversations about this.  Be willing to let go of the past and change what is not working.  It can be done.  I was at a church a few weeks ago that was brimming with Millennial parents and their children.  It can still be done, if you're willing to adjust as needed.

      The hope for the world is the church.  And the hope for the church is to pass along our faith to the generations following us.

      Your turn. The floor is yours.  Are you seeing fewer Millennials and their children in your church? Share your thoughts and insights in the comment section below.

      1 comments:

      This is so true. I'm a 27 year old pastor's kid. My husband is 30. If God allows, we're planning to start a family in the next few years We're right at the center ok f Millenial-hood. I love God's church. I begged my parents to let me help and be apart of their ministries. I was a devoted volunteer and teacher, but I went to a church that did not care about my age group. They wanted us to come, and they could give great speeches about outreach and teaching young families. But they never took the opportunities. I put in more hours at that church than some of the staff members did. But choir performances were more important than making room on the pews for new parents. Missions projects were important but only the ones initiated by the missions committee. No one, young or old, was willing to help, was willing to give up some time, was willing to make changes to be open to everyone. My husband and I haven't been fo that church in 6 months. I don't hate church. I want to be a part of a church family. I believe in God's plan for His church.s But I dont want to be another workhorse in a church that's all about people's egos and preferences. This post really speaks to me because it's all of the things we've been looking for in a new church. But proving that you are this type of a family takes time and authenticity. One big outreach event alone is not going to get me hooked. It makes me sad that this is a problem for churches nationwide and not just in my one little community.

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