Some leaders try to figure out what attracts younger people to a church…but it’s another thing to actually provide belonging for them. Let’s look at that from a little different perspective. Just getting two people from two different generations to sit in the same room at the same time does not mean they are connecting in meaningful and sustainable ways. There is much more to ministry with people. We all know that. We just need to embrace it at the most practical levels. I do a lot of consulting and much of that is with churches or denominations that are trying to figure out how to “reach” younger generations. Some people say “millennials,” some say “college students,” and I’ve recently had a leader tell me they were trying to reach Gen-X. Regardless of terminology, there seems to be a heart to include younger people. It’s encouraging to see people of “older” generations not satisfied with few younger people being around them. But, I would say…if we view younger generations (whatever term we use to describe them) as a “target” to reach or hit…we will surely miss. In church-world I often hear phrases like “we are targeting…” and I get questions worded this way where someone is asking me about the “target audience” we are trying to reach in our church. But, dare I say, this dehumanizes people and reduces them to a stat that fits a desired metric that justifies our position.
We are talking about human beings, not a demographic to be reached.
Now, I certainly understand the idea of “demographics” and generational distinctions (I’ve written a bunch about generational distinctions.) and using these terms does not necessarily mean we care more about our quantitative metrics than we do relationship. However, I am always concerned about the heart for people being lost in how we talk about and evaluate and program how we go about things in the Church today. I will follow this up with another post sooner rather than later, but for now let me just say this: if we want to help younger people gain a sense of belonging in the Church, we have to take the time to treat them as a human being. And that starts with how we describe them.