Why Millennials Aren't Going to Your Church But Are at Mine.
1 year ago I had a vision for a church plant. To reach people no other church around us was reaching. I had no intention of pulling people away from established churches but rather finding those that the church was missing. After a successful church launch in Sep (less than 6 months ago). 2 months ago we decided it was time to launch a youth group. I've heard that millennials are leaving the church in droves. They have decided that religion just isn't for them. I have heard all the theories about how that society has ruined them or how this must be the end times when people turn away from sound teaching. With the reality of a mountain that we can't possible climb being sold to us we decided to launch our Youth Ministry anyway. What happened was startling.
On a Sunday morning we have a total average of about 108 people in our church launch. But Sunday night, youth ministry, we've hit as high as 45. Yeah, you read that right, about half what all of church has. I've heard if you average 10% that's normal. I'm here to tell you that normal needs to leave your vocabulary. Nothing about our faith is "normal". Nothing about our God is "normal". How is it possible for a small church with a small little stage, sub par sound system and lights, sub par church building (less than 2000 sq ft) and a almost non existent budget to build a youth so quickly? Clearly the kids are just there for the fun right? Nope! Our services break out into revival quite a bit, almost not getting past the worship some nights. altar call with youth still going on an hour after service ends. Did I mention all the 20 somethings in the church keep trying to be youth leaders just so they can come? We even have adults sneaking in the back. This is not bragging that God loves our church more then yours, it's to let you know that we stumbled onto something. If you can catch the vision your youth can explode too.
About 5 years ago God planted a seed in my heart for a next generation way of reaching youth, I mean really reaching them! Not just getting them in the door but actual heart transformation. Here's the good news! It doesn't involve the 5th level of spirituality you must ascend to, you will not have to call down fire from heaven to make this work (although that would be pretty cool). You don't need to increase your games, or food budget. No new lights. You don't need a superstar leadership team, even though I think we have that. You will not need to spend hours in the mirror perfecting your communication skills till Tony Robins and Greg Groeschel submit to your utter dominance. In fact, just the opposite, I want you to stop talking. Hold on, hold on, hear me out.
We live in a social media society. Complain and moan all you want, it's not going anywhere. Youth of today are now conditioned. If you post, I get to respond, I get to engage you. If I agree, I can say so. If I disagree, I get to argue it out. I get to be involved. Our youth are tired of lectures. They get lectured at school, lectured by parents, lectured on Sunday morning. News flash Youth pastors, your youth have tuned you out!
So what do we do differently? We still have praise and worship, maybe a little ice breaker game, and we still have a sermon. You can relax, you still get to share some wisdom. Just do it in less than 15 minutes. they can stomach that. We share just enough to get the conversation started. Enough to raise some hard questions. Then we break into small groups, I mean small, 5 or 6. 1 youth aged leader and 1 adult per group to help facilitate the group. Then the questions start and the youth do all the talking, defending their faith, encouraging their friends, solving the tough questions with leaders there to help guide them. I'm grateful I found a youth pastor that when I cast this vision saw it, ran with it and made it his own.
So what do the youth think? They beg their parents to come. They don't want to go to the big church down the street with the $100,000 lights, arcade, and all you can devour pizza and caramel macchiato bar. They don't care about "the stuff" if they don't have a voice. THEY WANT A VOICE! They want to know their opinions matter. They don't need to think they are right. They
just want a chance to say it and hear what someone else thinks and be able to make their own mind up. They want to do what God said. "come let us reason together", Isaiah 1:18.
I know this sounds like some crazy experiment, maybe heresy to some of you. This is not the way we have done church for the last 500 years since Martin Luther shook up the world. You may say. "This new culture is so backwards and they just need to learn to respect the church and the way the church does it."right? Well I don't know how to tell you this but this was the way Jesus and the early church did it. In acts, people just came together, broke bread and talked about their faith, they met in the markets and in homes, they talked and were there for each other. If someone had a need they all pulled together and met it. They were intentionally relational and everyone had a voice, a song, a word. Jesus didn't disciple the 12 with lectures. He did preach sermons but the growth of His core was done with relationships and He let them argue it and then taught. So there is a place for sermons, close one, you almost had no reason to go to seminary, I kid I kid.
So we tried Acts youth and what happened? REVIVAL happened! kids on fire for God. Kids unafraid to stop and pray for their peers. Kids in small groups leading their friends in praying to receive Christ. Kids learning to be evangelists and defenders of the faith. Learning how to explain what they believe. Not the high of "we just got back from youth camp and are all pumped up." Jesus said he sent them out 2 by 2. Why? Because Noah did it on the boat? No! to encourage one another. Someone walking through it with you encouraging you and you encouraging them. Jesus was on to something, we just picked up what he was throwing down. In fact, it's been so successful we starting doing this in place of Wednesday night bible study for the adults. First night was the highest adult turn out yet.
So how bout it? Maybe you can reach deep within you and see it's time to return to the bibles way. The original is now so retro cool. I'd rather have back in style bible then wear 80's clothes again. Lets win some American youth (young adults, old adults,), to Jesus and lets change the tide of empty church's for the future generations.
Pastor Ren Schuffman is the lead pastor at Freedom Fellowship Church in Mustang Oklahoma. Pastor Ren has been served as a music pastor, a youth pastor, and associate pastor during his 20 years in ministry. He's been an accomplished musician playing in christian rock bands and running his own successful business before surrendering to Gods next step of planting a church in his living room.
633 E Hwy 152 Mustang Ok 73064