We travel – a lot. Which is the traveling part of being a traveling worship minister. Part of what is great about our job is that we get to visit so many different denominations and non-denominational kinds of churches all over the country. On our journey we are often asked, “how do we reach the 20 year olds?” and so we have taken notice of the places we have been that are succeeding in this area and thought we should share what we’ve found in order of their importance.
#1 by far is passion.
This generation of 20 year olds or the ‘Millennial’s’ are nothing if not passionate – like no other group before and certainly not like the group following they are almost to the point of being overly passionate. They want to live for something greater than themselves and respond to passionate leaders of any age who convey will all that they are on the outside what they believe on the inside. Messages at these churches are not being shortened – they tend to be long. Of all the churches we have seen I believe this to be the key ingredient – we have seen others that do all the rest but without passion it doesn’t seem to work.
#2 Passionate expression in worship.
Everything in their worship is geared to express their love for God. For this group how well the sound and intensity of the music matches how they feel about God is even slightly more important that what the words say. If you can remember or noticed when they were growing up, this is the emo generation (emo short for emotional music) that is famous for songs with a lot of lyrics that talk/whine about their feelings. It is also important that the music is played passionately which is usually louder.
#3 Preach and sing a gospel that demands results and gets it.
The passionate messages and songs are not theories but there is an expectation that what we are doing here works and I’m going to prove it to you right here and now otherwise we are wasting our time. There are no social expectations to attend church for this generation so if there are not results they will simply not be there just because they ‘should’.
#4 The music is actually contemporary.
The music is still mostly rock with synth keyboards but also has growing splashes of acoustic sessions (acoustic guitar, cajon, and cello) or remix style dubstep (electronic music that you should probably know something about) that reflect the eclectic and wide spectrum of musical genres that this generation enjoys. This is the iTunes playlist generation who doesn’t ‘buy’ a whole album – just the songs they like and puts them all together. Unlike many contemporary services that are only contemporary by comparison (50 year olds playing songs that are 20-30 years old) to their other service (80 year olds playing songs that are 100 years old) these songs are 0-5 years old and are probably not on the radio.
#5 They dress their best.
Contrary to popular opinion Jesus never wore a suit and tie – but he did wear His best. So nice was His outfit that four romans soldiers decided to gamble for it instead of tearing it apart. Whether or not you can understand it, they wear their best v-neck, skinny jeans, flatbill, sperries or combat boots that they have. If you were to ask them to dress their best – that is what they would wear – even to meet the president. Nice for people in their 30 -40’s would be to wear a button up shirt and a nice pair of pants with something embroidered on the back pockets and 50 – 60 year olds would wear a suit or suit jacket. Asking a 20 year old to wear a suit is like asking you to wear a flatbill hat (that is a hat where the brim is not bent).
#6 Consistent change.
Change is the expectation for this generation. The order of the service, the appearance of the stage, the style of music, the instruments used, the artwork, and sometimes even the location of the service is changed regularly on purpose. While some older generations are uncomfortable with change this generation is uncomfortable without change.
#7 Designs are clean and simple.
The days of crazy light shows are numbered if not already obsolete. This generation prefers simple sets made from repurposed materials (old barn wood, lamps from Goodwill, etc.) with lighting that is static (non-moving) that they spend less than $100 on every 4-6 weeks. The style usually puts a new twist on vintage or uses bold neon colors and shapes (1980’s style). What does that mean? Visit any Starbucks or local organic coffee shop in your town and that’s the idea.
One of the easiest ways to reach any generation is to have that generation visibly involved and making decisions – which maybe a paradoxical situation if you have already lost your 20 year olds. Ask them what they would do and as long as it doesn’t violate your Biblical beliefs then give it a shot. Reaching 20 year olds doesn’t mean you leave everyone else behind but most older people want to feel young and if things are done with excellence they are glad to be a part.
Steve and his wife, Shawn, travel full time to serve the body of Christ in the area of worship. They lead worship, compose and record, provide personalized on-site training for teams and churches, and teach on the subject of worship in English and Spanish.
www.steveandshawn.com – English
www.steveandshawn.com/es – Español