Here at The Unstuck Group, almost every church we work with has questions about reaching millennials. The research, and our personal experience, suggests music in the church is important to them, but do most churches really know what millennials are after? We took time this week to ask some young adults for their thoughts on this topic.
Here are two truths and a lie about millennials and music, in their own words:
Truth: It’s got to be authentic.
One of the most important things to millennials is the need for authenticity. This is never more evident than it is in worship. They want real, messy, imperfect worship teams that model a genuine love and need for God. They need a leader who can establish a connection with them that is genuine and whose faith is believable. They need a team whose hearts are prepared to lead worship, not a team whose minds are set on perfect execution…and perfect outfits.
They choose passion with imperfection over polished excellence. One millennial we spoke with said,
“Some churches try too hard. It’s like being around that person who’s always trying really hard to be cool and fit in. You just want to tell them, ‘Be who you are!'”
“My husband and I were ‘church shopping’ last year after our church went through a split. We visited so many churches with quality music but zero evident passion. We wanted to be invited into the presence of God, not just stand in a room with strangers singing wordy, well-practiced songs. The church we landed at had quality and authenticity. The leader was more genuinely concerned with leading people to Jesus than perfection. It was a major reason why we came back after the first week, and then again, and ultimately a major reason we stayed.”
Truth: Don’t overproduce it.
While many worship centers need to be equipped with sound, lighting and video so that worship teams/pastors can be seen and heard, almost every millennial we spoke with gave examples of how their churches had crossed a line in at least one of these areas – becoming more of a form of entertainment than an invitation to worship and connect with God.
The biggest violator was lighting (bright lights in the face, moving lights), followed by extreme volumes. While these things are accepted and enjoyed at worship concerts, they were not okay in worship services. One millennial said,
“It’s hard to connect (with God) with so much going on.”
“I can’t invite my friends to church. It’s too overwhelming.”
Lie: To connect with millennials it needs to be organic (unplanned), acoustic (unplugged), and intimate (unbig).
Millennials still enjoy excellent, planned and well-executed music. They still love a full sound where they can sing and not stand out. They still love a leader who has been thoughtful about what he or she is going to say. They still love a high-energy experience and they still love a crowd.
But they still love it quiet. And they still love it a little raw. They want some risk, challenge and vulnerability in the experience. And they still need a little personal space. And, really, don’t we all?
One millennial summed it up this way,
“I want real and relatable. I want permission to praise my Maker and be challenged to engage. I want leaders who aren’t afraid of being seen as “weird” to newcomers, rather embrace this important piece of our faith and take a couple minutes to explain WHY we lift our hands and sing together.”
When it comes to millennials and music, the key is to lead it and design it in a way that points people to God, not to people. If you use that filter, you may reach more millennials, and a few others, too.