Inspire Millennials and Gen Z with… Good Software?

Throughout the history of the Church, using social trends and technological advancements has been a strategy to reach new people with the gospel. The youngest generations of every age are always more interested than the older people are in what’s new, so it makes sense to improve the technology your church uses if your goal is to attract younger generations in the digital age.

Changes Through the Ages

The apostles of the early church were intentional in their approach to their contemporary audiences. Paul, though he preached the same Jesus to everyone, tells us that he went out of his way to appeal to Jews and Gentiles in different ways. Depending on his audience, he would speak to their context and understanding to teach them about Christ. When surveying pagan altars in Athens, he noticed one inscribed to “an unknown god” and used it as an illustration to proclaim God to them, too.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law… I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

A few hundred years after Paul, Augustine - an expert public speaker and teacher - utilized his knowledge of rhetorical devices to become a convincing preacher. He also used his education and experience with philosophy to develop lasting theological principles that appealed to intellectuals who previously hadn’t found the gospel engaging in a way that made sense to them. 

A thousand years after Augustine, Johannes Gutenberg developed the movable-type printing press that spread throughout the world. The first book that he mass-produced was a Bible, making God’s word personally accessible to vast numbers of readers. 

Countless artists through the ages have used the mastery of their mediums to depict Biblical stories. Radio, television, CDs, DVDs and the internet have all been used as a means to spread the gospel more widely. In the 80s and 90s many churches found that they were able to attract Gen-Xers by investing in better video and sound equipment to improve the production value of Sunday services. By the aughts most had at least a basic church website.

Millennials Lead Change

As a generation, Millennials (currently aged 27 to 42) are famous for shaking things up. In every aspect of life, all over the globe, they do almost everything differently than previous generations have done. Unfortunately, many Millennials simply walked away from churches that seemed irrelevant in their youth and so far, many haven’t come back. 

Millennials are community-minded folk and like to feel they have a voice within the communities they participate in. In the past, older adults have tended to be somewhat dismissive of the wave of change Millennials brought with them. In an increasingly connected, globalized, and secular world, this generation easily found new and accepting communities outside of the church. 

It makes sense. Millennials are the first generation who grew up with the internet present from childhood. (At 43 years old, some lump me in with Gen X, while other measurements count me a Millennial by 2 months. I was 13 years old when I first learned about the internet in a highschool class, and 16 when Google was born. Now I do most of my work online using cloud-based applications and social media.) Millennials and the generations following them grew up in a vastly different world than their parents and grandparents did. And yet, this old guard occupy senior leadership positions and are responsible for creating church environments where young people will feel at home.

Technology can be an aid to the church in speaking to issues that Millennials feel passionately about, such as social justice and environmentalism. Millennials crave authenticity and are sensitive to hypocrisy. Millennials value transparency, are less concerned with loyalty, and are more attracted to churches and communities where they feel an alignment of values. As such, in order to draw the Millennials that are spiritually aligned with your church, it is important to have an authentic and engaging online presence that accurately reflects your community. 

Gen Z Make Connections

In the age of streaming, recent research from Google reports that Gen Z (currently aged 11-26 and the first generation to be raised connected to the internet from infancy) report YouTube as the primary platform that they use to engage online. Furthermore, they identify the content on YouTube not only as a means to relax and decompress, but their preferred format for learning new things, and the way they feel more connected to other generations. That is a crucial piece of information for senior church leaders to come to grips with. Embracing and investing resources in the creation of short-form video (for engagement) and longer videos (for teaching) present a significant opportunity for older generations of Christians to reach today’s youth. 

It’s the Future, Already!

It’s not just a question of the content your church is putting online. When it comes to giving, for example, many church leaders grew up in the age where paying tithes by cheque was the norm. These days, you probably still have donors who faithfully write a cheque every month, but if you think about it, a cheque is a technology and its use is in steep decline. Text-to-give, on the other hand, is a technology that is experiencing a quick rise in popularity. 

Some of us who are middle-aged or older may never have tried texting a donation before, even though it’s an incredibly efficient and effective way to give.But for someone in Gen Z, who may never write a cheque in their lives, text-to-give seems basic. If your church doesn’t already have an giving platform that accepts online donations or donations by text, maybe it’s time to ask, why not? Make it easy for the younger generations to contribute. They want to - according to Canada Helps’ 2022 Giving Report, younger Canadians are more likely to trust charities than older generations are. And both Millennials and Gen Z are highly responsive to opportunities to volunteer and donate to causes that come to their attention to social media. 

For similar reasons, using church management software that streamlines communication for volunteers and small groups will make it easier for these younger generations to connect with the church community. 

If we want to inspire and engage Millennials and Gen Z in church life we’ve got to adapt quickly to a world that is changing more rapidly than ever. Sometimes older people wish that the young would put down their phones and engage in the “real” world. And there is wisdom in the idea of unplugging for a while, to be sure. But if we try to see the world through the eyes of those born after the mid-90s, we come to see that a hyper-connected world filled with technology is the real world now. 

Luckily, Millennials are ageing which means they have the maturity to be welcomed into leadership. They are excellent adapters, and of all the generations they have the most knowledge about how technology works today (Gen Z uses but doesn’t know how it works). One way to engage the Millennials who are already involved in your church is to involve them in improving your church’s digital landscape. This, in turn, will attract more Millennials and Gen Z to your community. 

Categories: Giving, Outreach, Planning