There is so much attention and focus upon how the Church is losing the Millennials and Generation Y (or, the 'Likes', as they have been called). If, in fact, the Church is really losing the Millennials. Anecdotally, I happen to attend an Evangelical church that is NOT losing this segment of society. In fact, there is a growing attraction of Millennials and Y's in many Churches in the U.S.
There are many strategies for an awakening and re-entry of young people to the Church: biblical preaching and teaching, contextualization, discipleship, small group relationship, the presence of God, a move of the Spirit. But, I also believe we could create a new relationship stream to help close the back door of the Church through a strategic Social Media plan.
The changing language is hard to keep up with. Research over the past 6-8 years has turned out articles, books, and blogs on the subject of the Nomads, the Exiles, the Prodigals, the un-Churched, the de-Churched, the 'Nones', and the 'Dones', and much more terminology that is being used to define this generational loss. Blame has been placed on the aging Church, the political Church, the judgmental Church, and even the Emerging Church. But, I want to deal with one avenue that may be part of the 'exodus'.
Social Media: An Exit Avenue For Millennials and Y's?
I believe we could begin to close the back door of the Church through a strategic Social Media plan. Google Social Media and the Church and you will find that almost all of the article references are about how the Church is behind and missing an opportunity to communicate to this generation. You will find references on how to use Social Media more effectively. Assuming that Social Media is one of the avenues that has contributed to the issue of Millennials and Y's leaving the church, here is a positive spin on what the Church can do about it. Below are some of the most recent data about social media in the teen world today.
If I collected $1 every time I heard another person say, 'Social Media is distracting our generation', I would be a millionaire. Trust me, I know that there are many things distracting a generation today. But, this blog is not about narcissism in the entertainment business that portrays the perfect image, the bullying that is destroying the confidence of Junior Highers, about the danger of addiction to drugs/alcohol, or even the epidemic of Human Trafficking. This blog is really not even about the boredom in the Church that may be contributing to the exodus of Millennials from the Church.
Looking at this graph, it's pretty clear that this generation of teens is connected. That is no surprise. And this is a battle we are not going to win. Supply and demand my friends. So, what do we do with this? How do we capture a generation that is mesmerized by an online life that is anything but realistic? Could the Church shut the backdoor by embracing Social Media in a greater way? Could an intentional plan involving Social Media be strategic in attracting 'a new congregation'?
The Teen Decade we are in (2013-2019) must see a fundamental change in how we relate to each other. Why? We have raised a generation of young adults and teens who think that connectivity is actually the internet and not a relationship.
Analog Versus Digital
We have raised a generation of teens who think that cyber-relationships (Digital) are more convenient than face to face relationships (Analog) are important. When did that happen? The lost accountability and honesty of analog relationships has created young people who live in a faux world of self-deception and digital relationships. A real-time personality that lives one way, and, an online personality that lives another. What I have found is that once you sit down with them, you realize that some of your best conversations will result with a young adult or a teen. You just gotta get the phone out of their hand or pull them away from their laptop. Easier said than done.
But, if the Church is going to become relevant to the Millennials and the Y's, we have to make some fundamental changes. And be willing to move toward them. Here is a practical list of things to do to redeem this cultural phenomenon known as Social Media:
7 ways the Church can improve our connectivity with this generation:
1. Create Social Media accounts for the Church
2. Use Social Media platforms being used by age groups most often (see graph above)
3. Appoint someone in leadership to troll or to search Social Media conversations
4. Come up with a strategy on Social Media for all of your sermon series
5. See liturgy and internal planning as important as Social Media outreach strategies
6. Place your phone on silent all the time so that you are not distracted relationally
7. Appoint a Social Media Team of young adults/teens to speak into this process
The Churches that have embraced Social Media intentionally could vouch for the results. A Social Media strategy will help you start the trek back to deeper relationships with the Millennials and the Y's. We must be as relevant in our use of the scriptures as we are in our presence in culture. Maybe one of the cheapest ways to change the image of the Church is to create great Social Media footprints in your city. This could be an avenue for entrance into the Church.