Millennials, Gen Y, The Me Me Me Generation, The Peter Pan Generation, Avocado Toast Generation—the people born between 1980 and 1996 go by many names. This younger generation is quickly taking over and becoming one of the largest and most powerful generations of all time. But here’s the problem: many millennials have left the church, or just aren’t interested in religion anymore.
In 2022, only 21% of Millennials report weekly church attendance. As millennials move into adulthood, the Church has a new opportunity to reach this group of young people and impact their lives. We’ll go through 5 ways to attract millennials to church and transform them into active church members.
1. Embrace Change
No one can adapt to changes better than millennials. Change is hard for most, but it’s second nature for the first generation that grew up in the Internet age. For millennials, change is not a bad word. They had to become adaptable and learn to go with the flow because the world around them was in flux.
So how can your church embrace change to attract millennials?
This tech-savvy generation is always up on the trends, be it the newest iPhone, social media, or computer code. But, when they look at their church experience—outdated or disconnected—it doesn’t fit every other aspect of their connected lives. So they disconnect.
They get modern, fast-paced, and customized experiences in every other part of their life. Why should their experiences with your parish be different? Incorporate technology to create innovative, immersive, engaging, and customized online experiences for millennials and the rest of your congregation.
Millennials are on their phones almost all day, averaging 7.5 hours online daily. And when people are on their phones, they spend 90 percent of their time on mobile apps. Seize these mobile moments to attract millennials and ultimately further the gospel. With ParishStaq, Pushpay’s Catholic church management software, you can engage all parishioners on one platform that syncs mobile apps, giving, and Catholic church management software.
Share The Why Behind Traditions
Millennials and tradition are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you should share them with millennials!
But be prepared. Millennial members will want to know and understand the ‘why’ behind the Church’s traditions and why it’s better if it isn’t changed. “Just because” or “because it’s always been done this way” aren’t the answers. Show them the meaning and purpose behind your traditions.
Sacraments are a rich part of Catholic tradition, and they serve as visible signs of God’s goodness and grace. Learn more about sacramental preparation and how to track each young adult’s progress throughout their spiritual journey.
2. Create A Community
We know the Church is one of the best places to belong, but “the church” isn’t just a building. It’s people. Millennials may come for the free coffee after Mass, but they’ll stay for the community.
A parish of many generations, backgrounds, and ethnicities is a gift! There is a collection of wisdom and experience from the variety of people gathered together.
It’s not always easy to be perfectly united. And it won’t be perfect because we’re all fallen, sinful people. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:1-3 that the church body must work diligently to keep the spirit of peace that holds the church together.
Unity needs us to work to love and understand each other.
It requires people to set aside their wants and focus on God.
It means members think less of themselves and more of the gospel.
It means churches must live the gospel and not just sing, talk, and read about it.
Pursuing unity within your parish will create an atmosphere of peace, love, and hope, attracting millennials to your church.
Often described negatively—selfish, lazy, and indecisive— it’s not hard to believe that millennials feel judged. When the people within the church judge millennials—the cold stares or whispers of gossip—it distracts from the message of love and salvation coming from the pulpit.
Matthew 7:1–3 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged…. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Any judgment in your congregation needs to be stopped. If you want to attract millennials, your ministry needs to embrace people where they are and show them the love of Jesus Christ. Then, once you’ve developed a relationship, you can disciple them and encourage deeper spiritual growth as they assimilate into church life.
A study published by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) revealed that there are more young adult Catholics regularly participating in faith-related groups outside of the parish than going to Mass at their parish. These are typically a group of friends who meet to pray, socialize, read and discuss scripture, and share their faith. Older generations holding too much influence in the parish, and the lack of roles available for women were the top reasons that these young adults said they separated themselves from parish life. But they still value their faith!
Millennials want to connect beyond Sunday Mass. So to attract millennials to your parish, offer them something more—a relationship. They’re looking for mentors who are invested in their lives and future. They’re looking for friendships that go deeper than a follower on Instagram. They want real people who actually care. You can be that solution by facilitating small groups or intentionally connecting them with older members as mentors.
3. Focus on Authenticity
Millennials, more than any other generation, care about authenticity. 90 percent of millennials say authenticity is important in determining which organizations they like and support.
Millennials are looking for a safe place to be open, honest, and even vulnerable. You can provide that by:
- Being present
- Mourning with those who mourn
- Rejoicing with those who rejoice
- Truly listening to the person who is talking to you
- Joining others in their mess of life because we’re all a bit messy
Integrity, honesty, and authenticity cost nothing financially. So if you’re worrying you aren’t attracting millennials because of your budget, think again. Some authenticity and honesty from your church and leaders can go a long way in reaching younger generations.
4. Communicate Intentionally
One of the major themes of the millennial generation is stories. They’ve been marketed to their whole lives, so to grab their attention, you need captivating stories and intentionality in communication. Use your words to weave interesting narratives, and communicate with millennials. After all, they are the leaders of tomorrow.
Speak Their Language
Have you heard someone call something “groovy” lately? Probably not, unless it had some irony sprinkled in. The way you speak to millennials needs to feel like their language. Yes, technically we’re all speaking English, but each generation has their own nuances and phrases. Millennials have a language and a style of their own, and replicating that will make it easier for them to hear your message.
Once you’ve figured out the words that will resonate with Millennials, there’s another kind of language you’ll need to figure out: channels.The digital world we’re in is overwhelmingly big, but each generation finds their own little corner or channel. So as you communicate with millennials you’ll want to engage them on the channels and platforms where they use— podcasts, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, for starters.
Share Your Story
How do you create connections between people? Tell a good story, of course.
Millennials, especially, are drawn in by stories. They’re searching for something bigger than themselves to be a part of. They’re looking for a purpose. Your story could be what they want to join.
Each parish has a unique story to tell about their history or the work they choose to do in the community. Whatever your story is, tell it. Tell it loud, proud, and often. When you tell your story, you’re inviting people to be a part of that story and let them have a stake in writing the next chapter.
Relevant & Relatable Teachings
Beyond your story, you have another story to tell: the Bible. When preparing homilies, remember that Millennials (and everyone) need relevant and relatable messages. We’re not saying you should preach a watered-down, surface-level version of the Bible. To attract millennials and younger generations, teachings need to cover topics like financial literacy, social justice, relationships, mental health, and stress, as well as the Gospel.
Millennials were raised in the age of the Internet and are ready to whip out their phone to Google answers to their questions. So for homilies, they want the facts at lightning speed. They want to know why these verses matter and how it affects them. Help them dig deeper into the text or explain a controversial verse. Just don’t regurgitate already well-known information.
5. Involve + Engage Millennials
Millennials are more likely than any other generation to participate in activities that give back to their communities. 84% of millennial employees gave to charity, and 70% donated more than an hour to a charitable cause. They care deeply about giving back and making a difference. Bring millennials into your church by empowering them to make a difference.
Involve Them In Community Outreach
Millennials are anything but selfish. They are actually extremely generous with their time and resources when it comes to helping others. This generation cares highly about causes that matter and is more intentional in how they spend their time and money. Ultimately, they want to be part of a parish that gives back to its community.
How is your parish giving back? How are you serving your community?
With an outreach ministry team, a special volunteer-driven event, or a partnership with a local nonprofit, your parish can show millennials you care about your community.
Get Input On Church Activities
When Millennials set their mind to something, their passion is undefeatable. If you want to attract millennials to your church, offer them opportunities to help shape the Church, You’ll most likely find they’re enthusiastic participants. They’ll also want to serve in other capacities, becoming door greeters, parking lot attendants, or daycare volunteers.
Millennials are searching for purpose. Your parish can be an avenue for that missional connection. Involve them in your activities, and you’ll see them connect more with your community and shape the future of the Church as a whole.
Start Reaching Millennials Today
Millennials are looking for hope and they crave truth. Your parish has the opportunity to reach this generation with the love and hope they desperately need. As you build your ministry to intentionally engage Millennials, we’re here to help. From online giving for parishes and dioceses, to church management software, custom apps and more, Pushpay is dedicated to providing the tools that parishes like yours need to stay enthusiastic, motivated, and passionate about accomplishing the Church’s good work.
Reach out to one of our Pushpay experts today, and let’s explore how we can work together to attract and engage the next generation of the Catholic Church.