Rachel Held Evans Talks About How The Church Can Reach Millennials

Recent research from Barna Group and Cornerstone Knowledge Network has found that in reality, 67% of millienials say a quiet church is more ideal than a loud one; 67% say classic is more ideal than trendy; 77% would chose a sanctuary over an auditorium. As Dr. Clint Jenkin explained in the research, “Most millennials don’t look for a church facility that caters to the whims of pop culture. They want a community that calls them to deeper meaning.”

Essentially, by pandering to trends they think millennials want, many churches isolate them further.

Research: 67% of millennials say a quiet church is more ideal than a loud one; 67% say classic is more ideal than trendy; 77% would chose a sanctuary over an auditorium.

Recently blogger Rachel Held Evans was interviewed about this subject and her new book, Searching For Sunday, Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church. Here are some highlights of what she shared:

“The truth is, sometimes those (church marketing) efforts will backfire, because we millennials have been advertised to our entire lives, and we can tell when somebody is just trying to sell us something. So I go through this whole thing about the way our generation thinks is a little bit different, and how we feel about certain social issues is changing.

Our stages in life are different. We tend to spend more time being single. So if you marginalize single people in your church, you’re going to have a hard time connecting with them. Nine times out of 10 somebody in the back of the room raises their hand and says, ‘So what you’re saying is, we need to bring in a cooler worship band?’ And I proceed to bang my head against the podium, because time and time again there’s this assumption that what will bring millennials back to church is if we add a fog machine, put a coffee shop in the lobby, have a pastor who wears skinny jeans that they’ll just come flooding back.

I think that this tends to underestimate millennials. They think that we’re more shallow than we are. The truth is, sometimes those efforts will backfire, because we millennials have been advertised to our entire lives, and we can tell when somebody is just trying to sell us something. I think church is the last place I want to go to be sold another product. It’s the last place I want to go to just be entertained.

That’s one reason actually I think that I have found myself in this Episcopal church, which is like super old-school worship style. They’re not trying to be cool there. They’re just doing what they’ve been doing for the last centuries.

I don’t think that the key to reaching millennials is to try and make Christianity look cooler, or make the church look cooler. I think it’s to keep the church weird. The church is weird. The sacraments are kind of weird. But there’s so much power, and as much relevance in them just as they are. So I think what I try to do in this book, and what I’ve been trying to do with my work lately, is rearticulate the significance of the traditional teachings and sacraments of the church in a modern context.

I think when you look at the people who Jesus surrounded Himself with, that’s what our churches are supposed to look like. They’re supposed to be filled with super uncool people.

So to me, it’s less about the style, because you can certainly be a living, breathing, active, powerful church that reaches millennials and still have that very contemporary worship style. So I think that works for a lot of people, which is fine. But I think as soon as it crosses over into sort of this consumerism—like church is a show that we go to and either approve of or disapprove of and then leave—as soon as it becomes this show that we put on to try and keep people there instead of go out and make disciples and serve the community, that’s where I see it getting a little problematic.

When it’s all about image or style—and you’ve got the celebrities, you have the cool crowd, the not cool crowd, and it’s all about who’s with who and who looks good—as soon it becomes a product, that’s when it starts to get a little scary and to not feel like church to me.

So when the church looks like that—when it looks less like a country club and more like a recovery group—that, to me, signals that it’s a healthy church.”

To find out more, check out Rachel here.

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