You can’t reach the next generation of young adults without being a church for young adults.
That’s right. The 1990s called, and they want their Sunday services back.
I just counted them up. Last year the team at The Unstuck Group conducted “secret shopper” experiences at 65 different churches across the country. That’s part of the ministry health assessment we include in our Unstuck process.
Based on that experience, we’re learning a lot about what’s working…and not working…when it comes to designing weekend services with the next generation in mind. I’ve mentioned this before. You can’t reach the next generation of young adults without being a church for young adults. In other words, everything you do must be designed with the next generation in mind.u003cstrongu003eYou can’t reach the next generation of young adults without being a church for young adultsu003c/strongu003e. Click To Tweet
That includes the way you teach. The music you play. The environments you create. The way that you communicate. The topics you address. The stories you tell. The next steps you offer. The events on your calendar. And whatever else you’re doing as a church.
Or, let me state it another way. You can’t be a church with a separate service for young adults and expect to reach young adults. You can’t just have a Sunday School class for young adults and expect to reach young adults. You can’t just hire a pastor of young adults and expect to reach young adults. Instead, you have to become a church for young adults.u003cstrongu003eYou can’t be a church with a separate service for young adults and expect to reach young adults.u003c/strongu003e Click To Tweet
And that brings me back to our secret shopper experiences. Our team has noticed some “OK, Boomer” moments in the services they’ve experienced. Just to confirm what they were telling me, I circled back with my young adult children to get their perspective as well.
With that in mind, here are:
10 Signs Your Weekend Services Aren’t Designed for the Next Generation
1. You tell people to open up their Bibles and turn to a certain chapter and verse.
The next generation carries their Bibles with them all the time…on their phone app. “Turn on your Bibles” would be more appropriate.
2. You are concerned about the volume of the music, the amount of haze or the movement of lights during the music.
Yes, you will absolutely find a young adult that prefers softer music, no haze and no moving lights, but they probably have learned those preferences from their churchy parents. Churches that are reaching the next generation in large numbers are concerned not only for the specific music that they use but the worship experience that they are creating.u003cstrongu003eChurches that are reaching the next generation in large numbers are concerned not only for the specific music that they use but the worship experience that they are creating.u003c/strongu003e Click To Tweet
3. You pass the offering plate.
…unless you have a way for people to Venmo that offering plate. You’re highly unlikely to find the next generation carrying cash or their checkbook. Scratch that. They don’t even own a checkbook.You’re highly unlikely to find the next generation carrying cash or a checkbook. Unless you have a way for people to Venmo that offering plate, it's not going to serve the purpose it has in the past. Click To Tweet
4. You ask new guests to complete a connection card.
That’s antiquated. Young adults use messaging apps to communicate. WhatsApp? Exactly.
5. Your message illustrations draw on movie, celebrity or other cultural references from the last decade or earlier.
Yes, you need to study God’s word, but you also need to study today’s culture if you want to teach truth and help the next generation apply it to their lives. No more Lord of the Rings clips please.
6. You still have a CD ministry for people who don’t know how to stream messages on their phones or computers.
Don’t laugh. I saw one during a church visit within the last couple of months.
7. You give people bulletins or other handouts as they’re entering your service.
First of all, the next generation views that as environmentally insensitive. (And so do I, for that matter.) Beyond that, the next generation expects anything of importance to be communicated online—everywhere they might possibly go to look for it. If it’s important, it should be on your website, on all of your social media accounts, and on your app. If it’s important, it’s findable in under 30 seconds.u003cstrongu003e If it's important, it should be on your website, on all of your social media accounts, and on your app. If it's important, it's findable in under 30 seconds.u003c/strongu003e Click To Tweet
8. You still promote new membership classes during your services.
The next generation is not a member of anything. It’s a foreign concept to them. They’ll subscribe to Netflix, but membership in an institution? Not a chance.
9. You aren’t creating Instagrammable moments.
In other words, you need to create environments and moments that are so captivating that young adults want to let their friends and followers know about it.
10. Your technology is outdated.
I’ve been in way too many church auditoriums where the audio and video quality was poor. Most young adults have better technology in their living rooms or in the palm of their hands than many churches have in their auditoriums.
Here’s a bonus—
You planned the services and the teaching without giving any young adults a voice in the process. How can you expect to connect with the next generation if you don’t include them in the planning of your worship and teaching experiences?u003cstrongu003eHow can you expect to connect with the next generation if you don’t include them in the planning of your worship and teaching experiences?u003c/strongu003e Click To Tweet
There were several great churches that risked a lot a few decades ago to help us move from traditional to contemporary weekend services. The problem is that many churches haven’t moved since.
Are you expecting to reach the next generation in weekend services that meet your preferences but aren’t at all connecting with young adults?