If I have said this once, I have said this a MILLION time to pastors and churches. Millennials tend to not be connected to your church because of your worship services! Not Safe for Church explains that the model of “Worship Plus Two” from the 1990s isn’t working any more. No longer can you expect your members to commit to worship plus two other opportunities like Sunday school, choir, small groups outreach ministries, etc. No one takes the time for that anymore! This model relied on the assumption that worship is the primary entry point for new people. Keep in mind the shift that has taken place in our society today. More and more millennials did NOT grow up in the church. For this and many other reasons, the unchurched and de-churched population are skeptical of congregations. (pg. 60)
When worship numbers begin to decrease and less young people are engaged in corporate worship, churches begin to blame all sorts of things: style, music, preacher, time, etc. But really we need to consider the model and its assumptions to make an adjustment.
So what is worship? “For many communities of faith worship is defined inwardly and not outwardly.” (pg. 63) Martin Luther’s definition of worship is “that nothing else be done in it than that our Lord Himself talk to us through His holy word and that we, in turn, talk to Him in prayer and song of praise.” (pg. 62). Many times when we define worship we describe what we DO, the actions: singing, praying, and preaching. Even though we don’t all agree on the same definition of worship, we can find common ground in saying worship is dependent on a relationship with God and is the work of the Holy Spirit and the gathered people. (pg. 63) What hit me most, and makes totally sense, is what the authors bring up next. If we believe that worship first requires a relationship with God, then what are we doing asking nonbelievers to first come to worship with us?! This is a genius question! In fact, it answers the question of why millennials are drawn to service opportunities first, before they will ever step foot in a worship service. Reading that was an “Aha” moment for me!
So if it’s not worship, what are the entry points for young people into your congregation? This generation loves to engage in service/mission and social activism ministries. These ministries offer excellent ways for young people to engage in multigenerational opportunities as well. Small Group Ministries can be another entry point. These groups can offer a great way to build relationships with others while doing life together. Offering Small Groups in nontraditional times and places, provides nonthreatening entry places for young people. Preschools, VBS and other Children’s Programs can be entry points for young families as well. However, they need to be engaging and build relationships.
I think we definitely need to shift the way we plan and think about worship. If we can move young people from the entry points of our congregations to worship, and they have never participated in worship before, then what changes could be made to make worship more accommodating? Sermons MUST, MUST, MUST give examples that relate to ALL ages. Pastors who include examples of high school, college or singles in their sermons are sending the message, “I care about young people.” Communion Stewards, ushers, tech team, praise band, choir, all need to have young people represented. If they see others their age engaged in worship (this can also include children and teens) then they will naturally think they matter to the congregation. It’s an easy shift. Why can’t we make it?
I LOVE this quote from page 69, “New disciples will not be made en masse if congregations stand by and passively expect people to walk through the front doors of the church on Sunday morning.” Create entry points beyond Sunday morning, then we may see younger disciples being made!