What a Millennial Parent Wants in a Church

What a Millennial Parent Wants in a Church

3 Essentials + 4 Really Nice-to-Have’s

Let me start by saying the title of this article bugs me, and I wrote it.

I’m a Christian Millennial parent. I’m not one of those Millennials who left the church only to return after having a child. I’ve been here and engaged the whole time.

But having a child did change my point of view more than I expected it would—and it ultimately sent us church-hunting.

millennial parents

I have a list of things I’m looking for in a church now, and the essentials aren’t really negotiable. I realize how much that sounds like something a “consumer Christian”—or maybe even an “entitled Millennial”— would say. But that’s really not the heart behind it.

Those wants, in a lot of ways, are actually needs… because my life is organized around another little human, and it will be for quite a while.

And beyond my wanting/needing these things, my Millennial friends who don’t follow Jesus are also having kids. They don’t have any qualms about being a “consumer.” They just want/need what they want/need.

And really, that’s important thing to note. As a Millennial parent, I am committed to being a part of a church that is outwardly focused.

If a church is stretching me to my limit as a parent on the points you’ll read below, it’s unlikely I will be comfortable inviting other parents who don’t yet follow Jesus.

 

The Essentials

Do you remember what it was like to have a tiny person whose needs and routines and mobility and capabilities changed from week to week?

What’s different is how Millennial parents react to the ever-changing landscape of parenthood.

We find options that help us cope and help us thrive. That’s one of our generation’s unique survival skills. We didn’t ask for it; it’s just the world we belong to. (Deciding to order groceries online and have them delivered to our house was one of the best investments my husband and I made as new parents.)

If you want Millennial parents to be engaged members of your community (and you should—Millennials parent 50% of all the children in the US today), you probably need to know these are the essential things they want in a church: Click To Tweet

If you want us to be engaged members of your community (and you should—Millennials parent 50% of all the children in the United States today), consider these things we look for in a church. And note, this is a practical list; I’m assuming sound theology and outward focus as the baseline.

1. Options for Engaging

That could look like…

Multiple identical services times.

My child’s nap and feeding schedules change like the wind. And any parent knows some mornings just don’t go as planned. If we missed our usual 9:15am service, and you have an 11:15am service just like it (Note: same service style as the one we typically attend), we’ll be there.

Online streaming.

In the really early months, online streaming kept us engaged in church as a family. My husband and I could participate while we were still completely sleep deprived, or when the baby was sick and didn’t need to be around more germs.

Podcast.

And on the days when we couldn’t even make the live stream, a good podcast meant we didn’t miss out. We could catch up later in the week and discuss over dinner.

2. Safe & Thoughtful Childcare

That must look like…

Age-appropriate spaces.

Whether you’re in a permanent or portable facility, you can make your children’s spaces bright and clean. I can’t over-emphasize the importance of lighting. A dim space makes me feel like my kid could slip out without your notice, or like you’re disguising a rarely mopped floor (and I’m not a germaphobe).

The best experiences we’ve come across have classes broken out by developmental stage rather than age. For instance, different classes for newborns, crawlers, early walkers, toddlers, and on and on. It takes an excellent volunteer strategy to make it work. I realize it’s difficult. But some churches are excelling, and those are the ones we’re gravitating towards.

The best experiences we’ve had have classes broken out by developmental stage rather than age. It takes an excellent volunteer strategy to make it work. Some churches are excelling, and those are the ones we’re gravitating towards. Click To Tweet

Visible security.

Two churches we went to had great child check-in systems and signage indicating only parents with children were authorized beyond a certain point. But arriving late once or twice and taking a quick look after the service had started, there were no people manning the halls at all. There wasn’t actually anyone to enforce the stated rules.

When our consulting team does the “secret shopper” part of a Ministry Health Assessment, they routinely find children’s hallways with unlocked doors to the outside, and open dark rooms off the main halls. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a problem, but churches are missing this all the time.

 


+ RESOURCES 


3. Facilities That Keep Parents in Mind

That should probably look like…

A practical Sunday morning child check-in experience.

One of our consultants has five kids. He visited one church where the children’s building was completely separate from the main auditorium. The kids rooms were also spread out. It would’ve taken him 45 minutes to check his kids in before service. Not ideal.

A comfortable room for nursing mothers.

These days, doctors recommend new moms breastfeed for one year. Every young mom I know is at least attempting to do that, which means a Millennial mom just starting a family could reasonably need access to a nursing room for the next several years, if she ends up having multiple kids.

One church we went to had a softly lit room in the children’s wing, with gliders, a changing table and a TV streaming the service. Another sent me to a dark, empty theater room where I kept feeling like someone was spying from the camera box window.

There was really no comparison in terms of how comfortable I was going to church with a new baby. I realize this is a challenge in portable locations, but it’s one worth addressing. If you have a permanent facility, and you don’t have a great space for nursing moms, it doesn’t take a big investment to create a standout experience.

 

A Few Really Nice-to-Have’s

  • Coffee. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It creates a welcoming environment and helps sleep-deprived parents feel awake and engaged during the service.
  • Help finding community and serving opportunities. Parents of babies or younger children can feel isolated, and they may not have the energy (or time) to invest in attending a lot of classes, groups or events. How can you creatively offer them connection or ways to serve that work for their limited amount of time? I’d suggest starting that brainstorming session with the young parents you already have.
  • Serving opportunities for kids. Beyond our own desire to serve, we also want our kids to learn that value from a young age. But many churches leave serving only to adults or teenagers and don’t create easy on-ramps for 8, 9 and 10 year olds. Some examples we’ve seen include kid-led worship teams, opportunities to help restock the nursery, and opportunities for families to serve in some way all together.
  • Clearly marked family parking is really helpful. Especially if you have a big campus, make it clear how to park near the children’s wing so a new mom doesn’t have to lug a bucket seat halfway around the world and back. Encourage church members who don’t have kiddos to park in another area.
How can you creatively offer new parents ways to connect or ways to serve that work for their limited amount of time? Click To Tweet

One other note, we followed every church we’re checking out on Instagram weeks before we showed up for the first time. Seriously. It gives us a feel for who they are beyond the Sunday service. The images and videos give us so much more insight than the websites alone. If you’re not investing time and energy into Instagram, let me encourage you start. Millennials generally are more engaged on Instagram than Facebook or Twitter.

Lastly, this is my and my husband’s list. We did vet it with several other young parents, but it’s still our bias. And in no way am I suggesting we feel “entitled” to these things. I hope you’ll simply let this be a window into what young parents are hoping to find.

If you are trying to reach Millennial parents, I believe these are some surefire ways you can connect—and ensure that we feel confident inviting other parents to church, as well.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
By |2018-07-31T09:50:05+00:00July 30th, 2018|Leadership|15 Comments

About the Author:

mm
Tiffany is Director of Marketing & Communications at The Unstuck Group. She graduated from Clemson University, and before joining The Unstuck Team, worked in public relations with major national retail brands, nonprofits and churches on content creation, strategic planning, communication consulting, social media and media relations. She also founded and writes for WastingPerfume.com, a devotional blog for young women.

15 Comments

  1. Dr. Darryl Jenkins July 31, 2018 at 10:55 am - Reply

    Love the post. Quite insightful

    • mm
      Tiffany Deluccia July 31, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

      Thanks, Dr. Jenkins. I hope church leaders find it helpful.

  2. John Croteau July 31, 2018 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Great article!

    • mm
      Tiffany Deluccia July 31, 2018 at 3:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks, John!

  3. Jason August 14, 2018 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    You make some good points but at its core this is still an article asking, “how can the church serve me” and not, “how can I serve the body of Christ”. If you want a person walking the halls of the children’s wing during service, then sign up for it. If you want clear parking signs near the children’s wing, go buy some poster board and markers. If you want coffee? Go make some.
    I have three children, the youngest is 8 months old and has had some medical issues. I still volunteer for five different positions within the church, including nursery. Sure, I miss a few sermons every month, but church is not about the sermon. It is about serving others in a community of like-mind followers of Jesus Christ.
    I had a feeling when I saw the title of this article it was going to be what indeed I found it to be. This may be why the title bothers you. But I was holding out hope in something like this:
    What Millennial parents want in a church:
    1) Sound theology 2) A church actively engaged in each other’s lives. 3) A church with a strong missions minded people. 4) A people not ashamed of Jesus Christ 5) A group of followers that meet at each others homes, and not just on Sundays 6) A people at least as willing to serve as I am (how could I ask for more than that?) 7) A widely diverse church with people of all ages, from infant to elderly, and people of different financial situations, different backgrounds, etc. Oh and it would be nice if there were other children for my son to play with as he grows up.
    The last words of your fourth sentence – “church-hunting”; always strikes me sharply when I hear/read them. It might seem small and insignificant to others, and perhaps even “main stream” to still others, but it is very significant to me. CHURCH is not a building, it is not a preacher, it is not a gym or a list of activities, Church is the people, your family, the fellow followers of Christ that you have committed to your life, to walk with and prop up and lean on and pray with and experience life with. If you are not happy with the first set that God has placed you with (“assuming sound theology and outward focus as a baseline”), then what makes you think that you will be happy with the next set? While you are church-hopping looking for good daycare, you are probably not focused as much on more important Biblical issues. I say this knowing that there certainly are Biblical reason for leaving a church, but that is not what this article is about.
    Nothing in your article about church hunting, or leaving a church, or the list of demands, whatever the point of the article is – none of them are even close to Biblical and that fact alone SHOULD bother you. It is not a particularly edifying piece. It appears more like just you getting out some frustrations, but the problem is that now several people will read this and some will likely think, “yea, to heck with my church, they are not doing for me”. Tread carefully my dear sister in Christ. The internet is a blank canvas to paint on what you will, but with given access to the entire world for decades – and likely longer.

    • mm
      Tiffany Deluccia August 21, 2018 at 9:56 am - Reply

      Jason, thank you for reading and for adding your point of view to the discussion. I agree with most of your assessment of what a Christian Millennial parent should want in a church. This article, however, was intended to highlight the idea that we need to make it simple for Millennial parents who are not currently Christians to connect with a body of believers. Most people attend church for the first time because they were invited by a friend. Christian Millennial parents won’t invite unchurched friends to a place that expects those friends to value the things you have numbered above the immediate felt needs they have as parents. The unchurched don’t hold those values yet. We need to give them a chance.

    • Chad Hunt September 5, 2018 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      Jason, you have made some valid observations. However, to echo some of Tiffany’s reply, reaching people who aren’t Christians should be the primary focus of the local church. Per the blog, we are reminded to create environments, opportunities and yes, even options that will appeal to the unchurched (younger) generation. I believe Jesus mirrored this in many ways. For example, if he were talking to farmers, he would use a conversation about mustard seed (which made sense to famers) to drive home a kingdom truth. It was language that made sense.

      Jesus told Peter, “You’re going to fish for people from now on!” When I think of fishing, I think of three things: 1) bait 2) where to fish and 3) a good hook. In the church world, the “bait” would be those things that attract unchurched people (in this case, millennial parents); the place to fish (should) be the unchurched; and the hook, is of course, the gospel.

      Out of the three things mentioned, the place to fish (unchurched) and the hook (the gospel) never changes. The gospel is the only thing that can change lives. However, the bait will always change. I know as a kid, the worship genre is MUCH different than it is now. It made sense then, but times have changed, therefore the church must change; not by compromising the gospel or the integrity of scripture, but by being as “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.” The apostle Paul said it best, “To the pharisee, I become the pharisee, to him who’s without law, I became as him that is without law, but not breaking the law of Christ. I become all things to all men, that some might be saved.

      I think that’s the heart of the blog…do what it takes to help young millennial parents find and follow Jesus.

      Just my two cents!

      • Jason September 9, 2018 at 10:03 pm - Reply

        Both Tiffany and Chad. I agree with much of what you both say, and thank you Tiffany for clarifying. Thank you Chad for your input also. I agree that Paul was “all things to all people”, and that therein is a model for us to follow. I guess my biggest concern is the application of that model.
        The model that I have known, and correct me if I am wrong, is that we are to be out in the world teaching about Christ and if a soul accepts, then bring them to church. The model here seems to be, bring the unbeliever to church and hope that they convert because of the conveniences we offer. Now I know that is not exactly what you are suggesting. Obviously, if you have invited an unbeliever to church and they were willing to come, there must be some interest in what will be discussed. However, that might also depend on the “bait” used. In a previous church that I attended, a member said to a non-believer, “our small group plays volleyball on Friday nights, come join us”. Perhaps the member hoped that the person would come to the Lord through that, but the person had no desire in the first place. He was just looking for other people to do an activity with. On the surface it seems like a good idea, but over the years I have seen that the wrong bait produces little fruit.
        I believe that both the “bait and the hook” should be the Gospel. The same Paul that wrote, “I am all things to all people” also wrote 1 Corinthians 5, which culminates at 5:12-13 specifically using the word “church”. Should not the church be different than the world?
        “Baiting” using methods other than the Gospel is nothing new. A few hundred years ago the Catholic church built grand cathedrals adorned with paintings from Michelangelo, etc. Remember Ecclesiastes, that there is “nothing new under the sun”.

        So there is this idea of a “church” being a body of believers that meet together, and another idea of “church” being a place for all to come and learn about the Message – whether they are current believers or not. I don’t know of any church that would say to an unbeliever that came to their service, “be gone sinner!” And rightfully so. That is not my point. The point is what are we using to attract them – what is at the core of our “bait”. I have seen churches that have coffee shops, gift shops, have full concert bands, big football stadium-sized jumbotrons, and a cannon that shoots balled up t-shirts into the crowd. No, your article does not approach this level, but it shares the same focus.

        The Gospel does not need help. It does not need human assistance, nor modern conveniences, Eph 3:3. The Good News simply needs to be communicated clearly to the lost. Millennial parents do not face any more severe struggles than what previous generations have faced, again “nothing new under the sun”. They might feel like they do; new technology, etc. A prior generation thought that they were the exception: bomb shelters and threats of nuclear war. And prior to that: childhood tuberculosis, measles and small pox, no electricity, no refrigeration, and canning your own food – all while raising children.

        No churched Millennial parent should feel like they cannot invite an unchuched parent to church because of the lack of conveniences. The only hesitation should be, “is my church teaching the truth”. If they will not come because of the inconvenience, they were never interested in the Gospel and the work in them is not complete.

        If a non-believer is going to be bothered by the inconvenience of child care, imagine how they will feel when their sins are revealed. The Word of God is not convenient. It cuts “like a double edged sword”, and shines light into dark places. They will be “offended” by the Gospel, as we all are in our sin nature.

        When someone “gets it” about Christ, when they feel the need for a savior, when they are at the brink of true repentance – nothing will stop them from coming. GOD DOES THAT WORK, NOT HUMANS.

        Thank you both for your kind and graceful replies. Although they have not swayed me, I think you are both very mindful of this issue.

  4. Mike J August 20, 2018 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the insights….. I really liked the idea about changing from age to development classes. How would you suggest this happen in a church of less than 80, that is mostly made u of younger families? Adn what are some of the best sign-in procedures you have experienced? We are looking to re-tool ours.

    • mm
      Tiffany Deluccia August 21, 2018 at 9:58 am - Reply

      Hi Mike, thanks for your note! I’m going to ask a member of our consulting team who serves a lot of churches that size to weigh in with some thoughts.

  5. Suzanne September 4, 2018 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Sadly the requirements for different classes etc leave little room for small church to offer what is requested. Those churches also can’t afford the streaming and podcast license.

    • Chad Hunt September 5, 2018 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Hi Suzanne! I can empathize with your pain and frustration of small church. My dad started a church in a tobacco barn. Our average attendance was 33 people and, like you, could not afford a lot of extras, even for kids.

      Fast forward a few years, and our little church of 33 built two new building and averaged over 500 people each weekend (in a town of 2,000 people). I became the lead pastor when we hit the 150 mark. It was a long, hard and sometimes even bloody, road. Here’s what I learned in all of that. You have to be faithful with what you have. If you do, Jesus will honor that. He reminds us that whoever is faithful with little, will be given the opportunity to be faithful with much more. It’s a stewardship principle.

      I am reminded of the story in 1 Kings 17:8-15 God sends Elijah to a widow and son, so they may feed him. Unfortunately, a famine is in the land the the mom and child are starving themselves. Elisha asked her to bring him a drink of water and to make him a cake (first) and then take care of herself and her son. She replies,

      “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering sticks for a fire, to prepare this for my son and I so that we may eat it and die [of starvation]” (1 Kings 17:12).

      If you know the story, Elijah promises her that if she’ll do as he asked, she’ll be taken care of. She did and she and her son lived and were provided for throughout the famine. Here’s the big idea. Elijah asked her to do something for the Lord (it was he who instructed Elijah to go there). Instantly she gave attention to what she “didn’t” have instead of what she did have. I have made that mistake so many times 🙁

      The enemy is clever. He is good at getting leaders in smaller churches to focus on what they don’t have, instead of what they do have. I have to believe that God knew you would be serving in this church. He isn’t surprised or stressed about your current facility issue. My encouragement to you is simply this. Be faithful with what you have. Use it to the fullest of your ability to reach people for Jesus. Plan well, work hard and pray even harder. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Do what you can with what you have.

      I have worked with hundreds of churches that feel the same frustration as you do. But here’s the best news of all. Jesus is on your side. He wants your church to succeed, whatever that means and whatever that looks like. I will be praying for you.

  6. Chris Austin September 6, 2018 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    I hear how do you respond to small rural churches that can’t meet some of these expectations? Even though our rural millennial parents desire them and may pass over our church to go to a church that can? Thoughts?

    • Jesse Tink September 14, 2018 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Hey Chris –

      I can empathize with you. We are a multisite church in Iowa – with a few of those churches in communities of 3,000. Couple of questions for you: are the millennial parents in your community passing your church up for another church in your community? Or a church in a larger city?

      I’d love to connect you with some of our pastors who face that same challenge every day.

  7. […] What a Millennial Parent Wants in a Church ← Church growth requires doing something new […]

Leave A Comment