The Millennial Pandemic

Doing a church plant, like when starting anything new, you should do a lot of research.  Demographics, financing, talking with other people in the area doing what you’re doing.  It all needs to be done.  In doing this, it’s become clear that Nampa is a college town.

I’ve lived in this valley my whole life and never thought of Nampa in this way.  Boise State is in Boise, therefore the local college town was Boise.  But Nampa has Northwest Nazarene University, College of Western Idaho, and a few minor players.  This means, and the demographics show it, that Nampa has a lot of millennials.  There are so many articles out there about millennials leaving the church, wanting this kind of church, or that kind of church.  No one seems to know what is actually going to reach this group of people.

The two main theories out there are that millennials either want a relationship based church or the want deep doctrine.  I’ve done a bit of work with this group.  I led a college group for a couple years that was successful in appealing to that crowd (yeah, numbers – love ’em, hate ’em, they’re there).  What did we do that was so different?  Well, it’s taken me a couple years to realize it.  We offered both solid relationships and in depth doctrine.

Yes, this can be done.  We held our group 30 minutes after the main service of the church was out.  Big deal, right?  Well, we were no where near any of the local colleges.  In fact, there were so few college age people in the church they debated even having our group.  We offered lunch, pizza naturally, while we talked and hung out with each other.  After about 20 minuets of eating and hanging out we sat, prayed for each other, and started studying.

Not a big deal, nothing to fuss over, we just opened the Bible, studied, and discussed.  Except it was one of the only ministries in this particular church that was doing just that.  Almost everything else was discussing a topic:  how to save your marriage, financial freedom, be a leader, love your classmates…  We were one of the only things there that was offering an in depth Bible study; and it boomed.  Went from 3 people to over 30 in a matter of weeks.  It boomed so much so that the Sr. Pastor came by and pulled me aside to find out what we were doing.

After we left to help at a church plant, we were replaced and the group died in less than a year.  It was sad.  I found out that the new leader did what that church normally did…topics, not biblical study.  The pizza was there, the relationships were there, but it died.

What I’ve found with this group…and fyi, I’m in this group, is that relationships are enough to bring them, but not enough to keep them.  Blanket statement…not true for all, but the majority in my area at least.  These people are used to having information at their fingertips, and being smart is cool.  Acting like an idiot is also cool, unless you are one.  These people are starving for information and for human contact.

In our culture, church and belief in God is considered lame.  Christians in this age group need a place they can feel comfortable being a Christian.  But they are so information oriented that the same place must teach and teach well.  Most of the millennial Christians, like myself, come from churches that don’t teach their doctrine so much as they teach how to save your marriage.  They know there is more to the faith, to God, to why Jesus came here than that.  They hunger for it…and pizza.  Face it, we all watched Ninja Turtles growing up.

In this area, if you’re looking to make an impact in this demographic – build an intelligent relationship.  Being “real” to this group isn’t just saying “I’m a sinner,” it’s having a reason for your faith and being able to defend it.  Merely proclaiming salvation isn’t enough for this group, they want to know more.

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