By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
We live in a post-Christian nation. Gone are the days when families drove to church in their Sunday best and went to Wednesday night Bible study. While this might have been a priority at one time in our history, it is no more. In an age when Millennials and Gen Z kids are leaving the church in droves, it is more important than ever to engage them in your local ministry. But the ministries and programs that used to work one time no longer do. So how does your church engage Millennials and the Gen Z generation and make them feel like they are a part of the Body of Christ?
Here are five ways to engage Millennials and Gen Z in the church:
1. Get Them Involved
One of the core values of Gen Z and Millennials is they want to be a part of something bigger. They want to make a difference in the world. They want to change the world for the better. There is no better place for them to get their feet wet in this arena than within the local church body. Have your local youth pastor or senior pastor meet with the Millennials and Gen Z generation. Find out where they feel they fit. If they don't know what their spiritual gifts are, give them a spiritual gifts inventory and ask them to take it. Explain to them that these are not the only gifts they can possess, but understanding their gifts will give them a good idea of where they might fit best. Work with them and find out places in your local church model where they can serve and feel like they're making a difference.
2. Put Them in Small Groups
Gen Z and Millennials love intimacy. They want to be known by others, and they want to know others more intimately. The Sunday church model only allows for superficial conversation at best. While it is true some Millennials and Gen Z kids may express emotions or pray for private prayer requests in the church sanctuary, they will establish trust and intimacy best by being part of a small group. However, Gen Z and Millennials want people to be just as committed as they are. They will get easily frustrated if people do not commit to the small group as they do. It is important to set the bar high when it comes to small group expectations. Have everyone sign a covenant at the beginning of the group meeting. Make sure everyone is aware of the expectations. Encourage people to only miss attending due to illness or emergency. Help them prioritize small groups as the number one place where they can establish trust and intimacy and be used effectively for the Kingdom.
The small group model is also where Millennials and Gen Z can best use their spiritual gifts. Figure out what their spiritual gifts are and allow them to use them within the small group model. This may mean facilitating the discussion or leading a small group meeting, reading from the Bible, hosting the meeting, or praying for others. This might also be where people can find healing. Millennials and Gen Z want to know they are part of God's Kingdom. This also includes gifts like healing and prophecy. But these gifts may not fit best in the Sunday church model that is already set up. Have someone lead the group with a heart to train leaders and train them so that small groups can be replicated. When small groups multiply, every person gets to be a part of people's lives, use their spiritual gifts, and be used within the Body of Christ.
3. Engage in Missions
Another way Millennials and Gen Z can feel like they're making a difference in the world is through missions work. Offer opportunities for your church to do missions work, both within their local neighborhoods, their community, and also overseas. Missions work does not have to be abroad, but teach them that their missions work begins the minute they walk out their front door. As they engage with others within their community, they spread the gospel message. Millennials and Gen Z value relationships. Help them to know every relationship they have in their lives is important. As they engage with others within those relationships, they will find it easier to engage in conversations that help them spread the gospel message.
4. Start a Prayer Team
Whether a prayer team is involved on Sunday morning, in a small group, or by taking prayer requests throughout the week, prayer is an important ingredient in any church’s healthy function. Allow Millennials and Gen Z to pray. Teach them how to listen for God's voice throughout the week. If they are part of a prayer team, they can learn to listen and discern God's voice. The church should always be equipped with at least five to six people who can minister to people whether they go up to the altar or whether they sit in their seats. Matthew 9:37-38 says, “Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”
The pastor cannot do everything, and it is essential to engage others in the work. You can take it one step further and allow Millennials and Gen Z to share about how they hear and discern God's voice. This is an important skill for anyone who wants to have a more intimate relationship with God and be used effectively for the Kingdom. As people discern and obey God's voice, God will trust them with more ways to hear from him. The more people who do this well, the more your church will experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
5. Pray for Them
Not only is it vital for you to pray for them regularly, but it is also important to let them know you are praying for them regularly. Let them know they are on your mind, and you are praying for them, and their specific requests will make them feel like they belong. Another core value of Millennials and Gen Z is they want to know they belong. When they believe they belong to a body of believers, they are more likely to stay engaged. Share requests with them of things you'd like them to pray for and ask them specifically what you can pray for them. Just a simple interaction will let them know they are an important part of the local church body and not overlooked.
6. Get to Know Them
It is important to pray for them, but it is also important to get to know them. Millennials and Gen Z are often looked down upon by older generations because they don't share the same work ethic or values. It is difficult for older generations to relate to younger generations. If you are a different generation than Millennials or Gen Z, research to find out what is important to them. Engage them in conversation regarding those values. See how quickly they engage with you and appreciate the conversation simply because you took the time to care.
Relationships are intentional, and interacting with Millennials and Gen Z is no different. As with any generation, each one holds its own set of core values by which they live their lives. By understanding and helping them get engaged in their local church body, you're not only increasing the chances that they will stay in your congregation, but you will also enrich your life by having interactions with people of a different generation. You will not only grow as a person by understanding someone who values things differently than you but also together engages the Body of Christ so that we all may be equipped to do the work of the Kingdom.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.