My son and future daughter-in-law are 24 years old. They are a good example as to why church attendance among young adults has been steadily declining for decades. With less than 30% of adults under 30 regularly attending services, many churches are struggling to connect with younger generations. What exactly are young people looking for when it comes to church? Based on my conversations and looking at surveys and interviews with millennials and Gen Zers, here are some of their top desires:
Young people crave real and vulnerable relationships, both with peers and intergenerationally. They want a church where they can share life together, support each other, and build lasting bonds. Programs and events are not enough – they desire genuine community. Small groups, mentorship opportunities, and social gatherings all help foster meaningful community.
Sermons, worship sets, and programs should connect with the real issues young adults face today. Tackling topics like social justice, mental health, financial stress, and career challenges shows the church is aware of the pressures facing younger generations and cares about speaking into those areas. Relevant teaching applies the Bible and its principles to the current cultural moment. Using modern technology adds to the experience.
Opportunities to Serve
Young people want to contribute their skills, passions, and ideas to make a difference. Churches should provide regular local outreach initiatives, mission trips, and ways to address real needs. Hands-on service allows young adults to use their talents meaningfully. Intergenerational service activities are also powerful, uniting different age groups together for a common cause.
Younger generations value transparency and humility in leadership. Leaders who are honest about their shortcomings, open to input, and foster collaborative community (rather than top-down authority) earn more trust and respect. Younger leaders should also have a seat at the table, using their gifts and perspectives to help guide the church’s future direction.
Meaningful Worship Experiences
For worship gatherings, most young adults prefer an authentic, intimate feel over highly-produced services. Chapel settings, small groups, and interactive prayer experiences often resonate more than big shows. Elements like art, social justice, and mental health may be incorporated. The worship style should align with the cultural makeup of the congregation. The key is prioritizing spiritual intimacy and depth over entertainment.
Today’s young people desire genuine community, culturally relevant teaching, and opportunities to make an impact, authentic and humble leadership, and meaningful worship gatherings in an intimate setting. While no church will perfectly embody all these ideals, prioritizing this kind of vibrant and holistic community is key to reaching younger generations.
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