Two Truths and A Lie about Millennials and Music

Two Truths and A Lie about Millennials and Music

By DESI MENDOZA via Unsplash ccHere 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!'”

Another said,

“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.”

Another said,

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.

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By | 2017-02-09T13:52:32+00:00 May 19th, 2015|Strategy|6 Comments

About the Author:

Amy is a Ministry Consultant with The Unstuck Group. She served as the Executive Director of Weekend Services for over 12 years at Eagle Brook Church in the Twin Cities, helping the church grow from 3,000 to over 20,000. Today she works with churches of all sizes, providing a fresh perspective and concrete strategies to strengthen their processes, staff health and weekend experience.


  1. Mark Lenz May 21, 2015 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    Excellent thoughts, Amy.

  2. Stephen May 21, 2015 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    Are you referencing millennials who are currently disconnected from the faith entirely with little to no church experience over the course of their lives? Or millennials who are churched and are currently “church shopping” (as the blog post states) or returning after stepping away for the late teenage/early 20’s (i.e. college) years?

  3. Amy Anderson May 23, 2015 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Stephen – Great question. For the purposes of this article, I spoke with millennials who are attending/have attended church within the past 5 years. What spurred the research and the article on was the comment, “I can’t invite my friends to my church. It’s too overwhelming.” We know that most people come to church because they are invited by someone else, so this comment told me that until their church “gets it right” church going millennials won’t invite their friends.

  4. Joel Mikell June 6, 2015 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    Great insight, Amy! Thanks for the research.

  5. Chuck Harrison June 11, 2015 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Good article, but the thing about millennials is that they aren’t all of one mind. For every article I read about millennials not liking overproduced (attractional) worship, I can point to a church of over 10,000 made up mostly of millennials. As a matter of fact, the fastest growing and largest church in my area has an average age of 28, and they are everything this article says millennials don’t like. This is true in almost every major metropolitan area in the country.

    So yes, this generations wants authenticity, but not all of them want unplugged, unplanned, and unbig. I know every area is different. But I can’t point to one church in our area that is growing and thriving with 20 somethings that follows the model that so may people say they want. However, I can point to several that are plugged, planned and big that are doing a great job reaching that generation.

    Bill Hybels said it a long time ago, “It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.” We will need multiple models of church to reach this diverse young generation.

  6. Joe Cole September 26, 2016 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    I treasure the info on your web sites. Thank you!.

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