In the past several years the Church attracted generations of families based upon the fact that it was what those generation’s forefathers had done before them, so they just stuck with it. There was always a common bond that tied families to the church. Those bonds included: the community in which they lived, the similarities in economic status, jobs of a similar type, a common race, familial relations, and several other types of criteria that people used to identify with each other. While these things are not bad in unifying a group of individuals within a church body, they can be some-what isolating. Paul made it clear in Ephesians 4:1-6 that our unity within the church body isn’t to be based upon our personal similarities but rather the fact that there is only one God and His one work of salvation. That is the common bond that we should all share with other believers to unite us together. Unfortunately that has not been the case and we have allowed our insignificant differences to separate us from one another.
One of the major issues facing the local church is a lack of young families and they are more culturally diverse than any other generation before them. While this group of young families may seem minor right now (they don’t have high paying jobs, they don’t contribute as much to the overall giving to the church, and they may seem disinterested in the traditional church attendance) in the next ten to fifteen years they are going to be a force like no other before them.
Many at this point, would ask the question, “If they are going to be a tremendous force in the next ten to fifteen years, why should we begin concerning ourselves with them now?” In the simplest answer possible, if we do not begin to evolve our methods of how ministry takes place we will lose this next generation family.
Lifeway Research completed a study on individuals who were born between 1980 and 1991, these individuals are the new “young family.” Amid tremendous amounts of other information one specific thing caught my attention. Out of 1200 people surveyed within this age range only 31 percent strongly agree with John 14:6. They (Lifeway) also discovered that there is a mass number of young adults that are leaving the church because they do not find it relevant to their lives.
Here are a few things that we as church leaders can begin to do in an effort to slow this decline and develop this group into the next generation of Kingdom Builders.
1. Develop New Forms
- When it comes to the overall direction of the church there are two main points that are discussed most often: form and function. The essential function of the church has to encompass at a minimum two things. The first is that the church exists to glorify God. The second function that the church is called to fulfill the Great Commission. These two things take place in a variety of ways, which is what we call “form”. We always must carry out the “function” of the church and that can never be lost but the “form” in which that is accomplished can be extremely diverse.
2. Develop New Ways to Live Life Together
- Sunday school has been the traditional method used by most churches in the past century to create a sense of community within the body of a church. Most churches use the “Sunday School Hour” to categorize groups of people (usually based upon age) in an effort to surround them with people that may be facing the same or similar life conditions. While there is nothing wrong with this approach I believe that it is important that more interaction take place outside of the four walls of the church building. Millennial families are looking for people that they can live their life with not just a group that they meet with once a week for an hour. It is essential for the church to encourage leaders to take people into their homes and spend time with them on a regular basis. Not just in a one on one setting but also in a group gathering. We can learn more people in a two hour period outside of the church than a whole year of Sundays.
3. Develop Outreach that Impacts Lives
- One of the marks of this millennial family is that they have a deep desire to make an impact on the world around them. They have a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves and affect their world in a positive way. While international mission trips to Jerusalem, Peru, Pakistan, Europe, and Africa are great, millennial families can only have limited involvement with such events without abandoning their children or their spouses. The young family wants to be useful at impacting their community in which they are living. Creating a church culture of community involvement and taking care of the areas in which the church resides is a sure fire way to motivate this younger generation family to invest their time and resources.
4. Develop a Community, not just a church
- This point goes hand in hand with the previous ones because as a church we should encourage our members to not only function well within the four walls but also outside of the building of the church. We should develop a mentality of community as a church body. As we live life together and do ministry together we (the church) should be ministering to the needs of one another. This has a great impact on this new type of family because they see people involved and making a difference in the lives of people around them.
5. Develop Opportunities for Individuals to Grow
- Another major draw for the young family is knowing that the church they are coming to serve and spend their time and energy in will give them opportunities to grow into other areas and provide them with additional training that will assist them in that process. When the millennial family feels as if they have reached the peak of where they can go within a local body of believers they are more likely to become disinterested and unengaged.
6. Develop Disciples who Disciple
- Most millennial families want to know what it is that God has called them to do as spouses and as parents. We need to not just tell them, “This is what the Bible says…”, but we also need to provide them with the opportunities to develop, learn, and implement those skills. Families that have these desires want to, in turn; share what they have learned with others who may not be as far along in the process as they are. They want to make an impact and teach the next group of families that are coming up behind them. The young families behind them desire the same thing because the last thing that most millennial families want is someone, outside of their blood relation, that is twenty years older than them telling them how they did it twenty-five years ago.
7. Develop an Appreciation for Technology
- As a church we should develop an appreciation for the technological advances that the internet has to offer. Our young millennial families are kept abreast about the latest events because of their technological involvement. Skype, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Foursquare, Blogger, etc are all forms in which this generation keeps in constant contact with the world around them. While there are many possible pitfalls in this social networking web there is also a great deal of benefits. Keeping leaders and the church in front of these young families through social media is an essential tool for reaching out and keeping the activities of the church in the forefront of the busy lives of the millennial family.