5 Ways Churches Can Better Prepare for The Next Generation
One universal truth in life is that change is difficult. It’s something we’ve all felt. Even when we experience positive change it requires us to learn new associations and patterns, which takes time and energy. This is also true when planning how to adapt and prepare churches for the next generation of members and leaders.
In a 2018 article, the Barna Group wrote that the next generation is the “most diverse generation we’ve observed in American history.” What’s more, Gen Z is often referred to as “digital natives.” And The Center for Generational Kinetics revealed in a 2018 study that 55 percent of Gen Z spend five hours a day on their phones. They’re also “… more eager to get rich than the past three generations…” according to the Wall Street Journal.
So what does this mean? How should churches use this information? How should the Church plan to share their message going into the future? In short, it means that your church must be ready to reach a diverse, tech-savvy, and career-oriented generation.
Not sure how? Consider these five ways you can reach the next generation:
1. Find ways to stay adaptable
It’s easy to talk about adapting, but real adaptation is difficult. Regardless, flexibility is key to helping your ministry thrive in the modern age. While it might be challenging for church leaders to keep up with congregants’ existing needs while looking for ways to connect with younger generations, that doesn’t mean anyone needs to throw up a white flag. Explore ways your church can stay connected with what’s on the horizon. By staying current, your church will be able to quickly connect with young people and better share your message with them.
Start by identifying individuals in the church who enjoy staying up-to-date on cultural shifts and tech trends. Next, invite them to assist with adopting new technology, and ask them to help keep church leaders informed of the current culture. Having these individuals in place will help make the experience smoother for all.
Additionally, since the shift towards technology is becoming the new norm, some questions you can ask moving forward are:
- Would it be beneficial to blend in-person sermons with eLearning?
- Have you considered creating a custom church app for donations?
- Could you revamp the way you approach group communication to reach a tech-savvy generation?
Examine each way your church currently connects with people, so you can start identifying how to shift or expand your church’s current practices to reach the next generation. By staying flexible and adaptable, you can reach the next generation with your church’s message of hope.
2. Determine how to respond to changing contexts
As the world becomes increasingly fast-paced and hyper-connected, social contexts can change quickly. You want to be sure that your church is ready to respond accordingly so that time and energy are spent where it’s most needed.
Create outreach teams that focus on international, national, and local needs. Task the teams with staying informed of social changes and identifying opportunities for the church to share and serve. Plan philanthropic efforts that minister to people based on current needs. Be ready to adapt those efforts as circumstances change.
Additionally, you want to make sure that your church messaging fits the social contexts.
To do this, recruit and train volunteers to oversee your church’s communication. They can make sure that your church creates meaningful and appropriate messaging, both internally and externally. But don’t stop there.
As a ministry leadership team, schedule regular reviews of your church website’s messaging, social media messaging, and any other internal and external messaging so that your church’s communication is meaningful and intentional. Commit to ensuring your church’s communication is sending the message you intend to convey so people can know who you are and what you stand for as a church. Building a sense of community is important to those in the next generation, so bring your people together around your message.
3. Create multiple ways to connect
The church of the past connected with members in person and by direct mail. Next, phone chains and emails were added. Today, with social media, mobile apps, and other digital channels available as well, there are plenty of traditional and new ways you can connect with multiple generations. As a result, the churches of today and tomorrow need to stay adept at discovering the right means of connecting with congregants.
Start by identifying ways to bring your church members together beyond regular, scheduled services. New ways you can connect include creating a custom church app for sharing prayer requests, announcements, and other important information. It’s also increasingly important for churches to engage people on social media since this is where many church members share their lives. What’s more, consider sharing services or special messages via Youtube or other online video channels so your message can reach more people.
When considering how to stay diverse, remember that young people often have less traditional schedules as they move through higher education and enter the workforce. To stay relevant and effective in how you connect with people, brainstorm ways to involve young people in the church that work with their schedules. For example, you can create small groups that are scheduled at non-traditional times and address their unique life challenges.
If you create multiple ways to connect with people, your message will be more likely to reach a wider audience. The next generation will be able to engage with the church when they have the flexibility to connect in ways that fit their lives and communication habits.
4. Create paths for all contributors
When thinking about the future, it’s easy to focus on the movers and shakers, thought leaders, and visionaries. But have you thought about others who serve in ministry and creating a path of service for them? While leaders are important, it’s easy to overlook those who serve in less obvious spaces, such as facility care or budgeting. Like the roots of any tree, remember that volunteers of all types are needed to keep the church healthy and functioning.
When planning how to prepare your church for the next generation, ask questions like:
- Does the church have apprenticeship programs for teachers?
- Do you have programs to involve youth in ongoing skills-building such as landscaping, communications, and hospitality?
- What recruitment programs are in place to inform church members about paths to service?
Examine your church culture to determine if all the emphasis for service is placed on the few leaders or if every form of service is celebrated. Make sure that the next generation of volunteers won’t feel second-rate if they take on a behind-the-scenes role. Find ways to cultivate volunteers in all areas of ministry through recruitment, training, and mentorship and be sure to consistently recognize the gifts of time and talent that everyone contributes.
By creating clear paths of service for all types of ministry, you’ll support successful ministries in the next generation of the church. And with strong ministries, your message will reach more people.
5. Develop creative problem solvers
With an increasingly complex world full of information, opinions, and distractions, it’s important that the church develop creative problem solvers capable and ready to take on unexpected challenges.
But how can you develop this in your church?
Start by giving a voice to the next generation. Invite young church members to the table to be a part of ongoing conversations. By allowing young people to join in and share their thoughts and ideas, you’ll develop the thinkers of tomorrow. Ask questions and create spaces for safe and effective conversations to take place.
But don’t stop there.
Be sure to create a structure for these internal conversations to continue into the future so that your message is heard both today and tomorrow. Start by choosing the right group communication tool to manage communication in a way that is accessible for all. Then, foster an ongoing conversation by doing things like posting discussion questions, asking for feedback in polls, and scheduling regular meetings.
Start planning for tomorrow today
Planning for an unknown future isn’t always easy, but it’s essential to ensuring the church continues to thrive. By identifying key ways to prepare for the next generation, the church of today will set the wheels in motion for an engaged, growing church of tomorrow.