Around this time of year, the mainstream media and Internet meme-machines like to remind us how old we are by telling us all of the things this year’s high school graduates won’t remember because, well, they weren’t even born yet.
That list is usually all pop culture, technology and political references. But what about church? I bet we can make a good list.
In church leadership, we have a looooong memory. And for some reason, we expect the new wine to clothe itself with old wineskins to learn and accept every moment of our history as part of their own personal story.For some reason, we expect the new wine to clothe itself with old wineskins to learn and accept every moment of our history as part of their own personal story. Click To Tweet
This spring’s high school graduates were born in the year 2000. Here are some churchy things for which they have little to no context for…
- “Shout to the Lord”
That was 1994, folks.
- When Worship Bands Were Edgy
Carey Nieuwhof wrote about this very well in his article “The Impending Death of Cool Church.”
- Billy Graham Crusades
His last was in 2005. They were five years old.
- Televangelists Committing Fraud and Conspiracy
More on why that should influence how your church talks about money in Tony Morgan’s article “It’s Not the ‘80s Anymore.”
- Giving Cash at Church
The Unstuck Group’s intern this semester specifically mentioned “offering plates of all varieties… the strangest ones I’ve seen were velvet bags with wooden handles. Very retro.” Tony also said his church doesn’t take an offering in services anymore. And there are no “giving boxes” either.
- Why “See You at the Pole” Is a Thing
Prayer at school is not a part of their collective consciousness.
- “I Can Only Imagine”
Aka Contemporary Christian Music as an influential genre.
- Overhead Transparencies for Song Lyrics / Reading Songs from a Hymnal
They have no idea why older people in your church don’t like projectors and screens.
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye
But, that doesn’t mean they are dating—at least not in real life. (Ask a few teenage girls when was the last time a boy actually asked them out. You’ll get some eye-rolling.)
- Multisite as a New Thing
In late 2005, there were already more than 1,500 multisite churches in the United States.
- The Charismatic Movement / The Word “Charismatic” Used in Spiritual Context
Whether you’re for it or against it, they don’t understand why.
- WWJD Bracelets
Ah, the ‘90s.
- Drama Teams
Aka video clips without the magic of editing.
- Church Directories
If you still have one of these, let me guess the average age of the people listed.
- Wearing Your Sunday Best
See #2. It’s been mostly acceptable to wear jeans to work, and church, since before they were born.
- CD Recordings of the Sermon
Where would they even play a CD? If it’s not digital, they aren’t listening to it.
- Tent Revival Meetings
Similarly to Billy Graham Crusades, without the historical context, these make no strategic sense. Why would you set up a tent beside your building and have service every night? An 18-year-old probably won’t even bother to ask why. They’ll just chalk it up to weird religious stuff.
- What You Mean by “Traditional” or “Contemporary” Services Style
“Contemporary” isn’t a thing. The 1990s started almost 30 years ago. If you’re trying to reach Gen Z and Millennials, and you think you have a “contemporary” service that will reach them, there’s a good chance you’re trying to connect with them using a style that emerged before they were born. The literal definition of contemporary is “belonging to or occurring in the present.” Oh, that we would own that definition. The Holy Spirit belongs to and occurs in the present, just as much as he did when the past was the present. As for “traditional” services, I can’t say it any better than Amy Anderson, The Unstuck Group’s Director of Consulting, recently did: If you have a service you’re calling “traditional,” it’s probably not reaching new people for Christ.
Bonus, Unchurchy List
These things make all of the real lists, but churches still ignore these facts. This year’s high school graduates don’t remember…
- Life Before Mobile
The iPhone came out when they were 7 years old. We can’t close our eyes and pretend like we can still connect with them without a native mobile strategy.
- Having to Call Anywhere for Information
You need a digital destination for any action you want them to take.
- Life Before Everyone Shared Their Whole Lives on Social Media
They were 4 years old when MySpace was a hit, and the social media landscape exploded as they grew up. If you’re just tacking on Facebook to your real evangelism and discipleship strategy, you’re going to miss them.
- Not Being Able to Google It
Specifically when it comes to preaching, if you make claims about Jesus, God, the Bible, etc. that they don’t understand, they’re going to Google it. Be prepared for that.
- Not Being Able to Connect with You
They expect to be able to follow you on Instagram or Twitter. They expect to be able to figure you out a bit by how you present yourself online, not just what you say on the platform.
- Life Before Mobile
I challenge you to invite some high school grads to join you and your staff for a conversation about what you’re doing that they don’t understand. Let’s not be so hyper-focused on reaching Millennials that we wake up one day realizing we’ve already lost Gen Z.