Recent research has shown a growing decline in church attendance and religious affiliation among millennials and Generation Z in the United States. For many church leaders, this decline is troubling, and some are not sure how or what to do to bring young adults back to sitting in the pews.
If churches want to bring young Americans back to houses of worship, religious leaders will need to take the message outside of the four walls of a traditional church and go where millennials and Generation Z live: online and on social media.
Prior generational leaders like Pat Robertson and the late Billy Graham understood the power and influence of the media which is why Robertson founded “The Christian Broadcast Network,” and Rev. Graham aired his sermons on radio and television.
However, unlike past generations, young Americans are exposed to media messages constantly that offer them various worldviews and opinions on morality. They no longer need to attend a physical church to hear about spirituality anymore either. They can simply download a podcast or watch a debate about current topics on YouTube.
For this age group, it is much more convenient and natural to watch a video online than attend a church. This is why the church needs to do more to reach this age group online and through other media. However, if you want your content to be taken seriously by Generation Z, you better bring your A-game.
There is an endless digital sea of videos you can stream on YouTube or watch on Netflix. If you want your videos to stand out, you need to make it not only informative and thought-provoking but entertaining as well. When you have a generation that has grown up to waking up in the morning to their iPhones and spending all day with their device until they fall asleep with the phone at night in their bed, you must produce quality content that stands out from all the noise. They are smart and can spot poor quality and badly produced cheap content.
This is not to say there isn’t quality Christian content in the media now including Christian music, some films and YouTube videos from popular creators like John Crist; we just need more Christian content that is available for young adults on YouTube, Netflix, and social media.
Churches should consider creating a media fund to help financially support those within their membership and in their local communities that have the skills and talent to produce quality, informative and entertaining media content. Or, partner with those that have the resources to produce this content.
Millennials and Generation Z are not going to stop using the web and social media. The more exposed to Christian messages they are in their news feeds the better. If you reach them where they are and how they consume content, some of them might just find their closest Uber one Sunday morning to attend a worship service. The backdrop of an old church building or a contemporary one with lights and fog would make a great selfie for Instagram.
Chad Whittle holds a doctoral degree in mass communication and is the host of “A Whittle Bit of Commentary.” Subscribe today to his podcast on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Google Play. Read his weekly column at ChadWhittle.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.