Millennials and the Churches They Attend

75% of Millennials affiliate with a particular faith tradition.  Depending on the study, Millennials regularly attend church (meaning several times per month) at a 25%-35% rate.  

Last week, I wrote a post called “Will Millennials Come to MY Church?”  The quick answer is: Today – Probably not.  In the future – Maybe.  If today your congregation does not currently have a critical mass of 20-somethings attending, then you will have a difficult time attracting 20-somethings.  You will have to expend a lot of resources: finances, volunteers, staff, energy, and change inertia in your congregation to attract and keep these 20-something Millennials.  In the future, as the Millennials turn 30 and have children, you MIGHT begin attracting them as they will be looking for programs for their children.  

So what churches do today’s 20-something Millennials attend?  They attend congregations that are congruent with their style and culture.  Here are three local-to-me (around Denver, CO) examples:

1) Flat-Irons Church – This is a mega-church and now multi-site church, and one of the fastest growing in the nation.  Worship style looks like a rock-concert.  The pastor usually wears a t-shirt while preaching.  Flat-Irons is the epitome of “cool” and lots of Millennials attend, participate, and love it.  Many believe it is a church experience tailored to their likes, needs, and wants and that it also inspires them to change their lives and the world.  As far as theology and social values, Flat-Irons represents a right-of-center system of beliefs and values.  Considering so much of the recent press, these beliefs and values seem out-of-sync with what is being reported about the Millennials.  One must recognize that 1) a large minority of Millennials do hold to such right-of-center beliefs and values and 2) some Millennials will participate in the experience, style, and energy even if some of the beliefs and values are out-of-sync with them.  

2) Bloom Church – this house-church networks with weekly emergent-like gatherings was started by Gungor and is now led by Lead Pastor Andrew Arndt.  Emergent-like is my own label for them – not sure how they would categorize themselves.  The vast majority of Bloom’s participants are Millennials and Gen-Xers.  The style is urban yet intimate.  Theology and social values are in the middle and moderate.  Where Flat-Irons is trying to deliver a product of cool and relevant that attracts Millennials and Xers, Bloom just is.  Bloom provides an experience that reflects the personality and style of those who participate – mostly Millennials and Xers.  

3) House For All Sinners and Saints – emergent, alternative, liturgical (but not necessarily your grandmother’s prim-and-proper liturgy), and progressive/liberal in values and theology – these are words I would use to describe this church community.  The vast majority of participants at House for All Sinners and Saints are 22-42 and single.  

All three of these communities have a few things in common:

1) Experience.  Each one offers a different experience but each experience is congruent with a large segment of Millennial culture.  None of the three are their “parents” church and certainly not their “grandparents” church.  Yet all three are finding ways to repackage and reimagine their “parents” theology and values – Flat Irons with their conservative theology, Bloom with their focus on small community through house churches, and House for All Sinners and Saints with their focus on liturgy.  

2) Community of Peers.  Each one not only has a critical mass of Millennials and Xers but the majority of the congregation is composed of Millennials and Xers.  

3) They are New.  None of these places existed 30 years ago.  Each understand they are a church for today rather than yesterday.  They adapt and change quickly.  Even Flat-Irons with 13,000 in attendance each week has shown the ability to turn on a dime when needed.  And Bloom and Church for All Sinners and Saints can adapt overnight.  They all can make decisions quickly without a lot of authority structures getting in their way.  

4) They are Lean.  Each of these congregations operate on lean budgets, especially House For All and Bloom.  Even Flat-Irons operates very lean for their size.  In this way, they embody the entrepreneurial reality of cutting edge creative-tech culture and organizations.