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Declining Worship Attendance and The Role of Youth Ministry in Reversing the Trend

Category - Religion
by Lisa Eifert on September 30th, 2016

The eyes of the world are on the Millennials, and with good reason: There are more than 75 million of them, after all! This massive generation of people born between 1981 and 1997 recently overtook the Baby Boomers to claim the title of the country’s largest living generation. And as they continue to come of age, they promise to shape the future of the world. They also promise to shape the future of the church. But are you prepared to engage them in the most productive way? Here’s what all church leaders need to know about contemporary youth ministries.

Understanding Millennials

In declaring 2015 to be the “year of the Millennial customer,” Forbes highlighted five key traits shared by the members of this mega-generation. In short, they’re highly attuned to technology; uniquely social; inclined toward collaboration and cooperation; embrace all things “experiential;” and are passionate about values.

Many of these attributes would seem to go hand-in-hand with church attendance, and yet Millennials are increasingly opting out of church—so much so that one CNN report declared them to be “leaving church in droves.”

Rethinking Youth Ministry

So what’s going wrong, then? Many churches are completely missing the mark when it comes to communicating with them through their youth ministries.

Research tells us that a strong youth ministry is vital to keeping younger parishioners active within the church. However retaining and re-engaging Millennials and their successors, Generation Z, mandates a different approach from those used with past generations. In other words, churches must accept that the old ways are no longer adequate and instead seek out new ways of targeting the vulnerable youth demographic. This can mean everything from offering up more opportunities to collaborate with each other to soliciting their input during planning. (Research also shows us that Millennials prize validation.)

When it comes to today’s younger generations, however, perhaps no other word is as relevant as one: technology. As the first generation to grow up completely within the digital age, Millennials can’t conceive of a world in which technology doesn’t play a leading role. Factor in their collective penchant for all things mobile, and the imperative for church leaders becomes evident: Incorporating technology into your youth ministry strategies may mean the difference between a dynamic congregation and stagnation.

Key Youth Ministry Strategies

Luckily, there are a few simple steps church leaders can take to nurture their youth ministries. From using multiple messaging channels to meet each individual’s needs to consistently delivering succinct and valuable messages, these strategies don’t just help churches connect more efficiently with Millennials, but also more effectively.