It’s no secret that over the last few decades, we've seen some amazing advances in technology, and those advances deeply affected our culture and relationship—particularly for younger generations.
Technology is causing generational divisions to occur at a rapid pace. Our team at Vanderbloemen Search Group helps churches all over the country with their church staffing needs, so we get a bird’s eye view of how technological trends are impacting the local church.
I’m not just talking about the fact that we put worship lyrics up on a screen now instead of a transparency projector; it’s much more significant that that. Let’s take a look and see what some of these advances are, and how they are affecting the church as a whole.
1. Ministry programs
What draws people to church? It’s not just about the message—it’s also about the
community. You can, at any time, easily listen to a Tim Keller sermon on your smartphone while sitting on your couch or driving to work. So why would you still go to church if you can hear the sermon on-demand, anytime and anywhere?
Church has always been about community and fellowship, but it’s more important now than ever before. Younger generations are craving real community because they are lacking it in the midst of their many social media networks and even in the rapidly growing trend of online dating.
Churches need to create a higher level of intentional community and relationship building opportunities that tackle real issues and provide authentic community. Ministries must cater to changing demographics and seek to understand how they communicate with each other. A singles ministry now should look very different from one created 15 years ago, as the demographic a singles ministry caters towards looks very different.
As a church leader, you must ask yourself on a regular basis: "Are our ministry opportunities providing intentional community for our congregation, especially to the our millennialsand generation z attendees?"
How are younger generations giving to the church? Cash in an offering plate? Rarely. Check book? Nope.
No one under 35 carries a checkbook. Website-based online giving? Maybe, but that’s not at the top of your mind unless you’re at church. Our culture now allows anyone to buy anything or give money at the touch of a button on our phones. There needs to be a mobile giving access point for the church as well. Making giving as easy as possible and in the moment is crucial, especially for millennials.
If I can text or electronically transfer my tithe or offering at the same time people are passing around the offering plates, I’m way more likely to do it then rather than remembering to do it on my computer later that day. My parents, however, still write me a check and have me buy things on eBay for them, because they don’t trust PayPal or other digital platforms.
There is a large generational shift in how people are giving to the church, and growing churches understand the necessity to provide relevant giving opportunities to both generations.
3. Generationally-inclusive and interactive worship experience
One of the things I love most about my church here in Houston, TX is that we actively engage all generations in our worship experience. The worship music is varied from hymns to brand new worship songs, so everyone is comfortable worshipping together. The kids have an area in the sanctuary where they can hang out and play quietly during the service, as an alternative to going to one of the dedicated kids’ spaces.
From time to time, we have interactive questions during the service where we can text in a response or an answer to a poll question that is reflected in real time on the screens. It’s really fun, inclusive, and gets everyone involved and invested in the message that day. It’s also something you can’t get from listening to the podcast. It creates a sense of community within the worship experience. This is an important point for reaching millennials, who want to be involved and have a voice in the conversation.
4. Relationships with church and leaders
We live in a time where we expect information and people to be accessible to us at all times. In the past, you went to church every Sunday, saw your pastor speak there, and perhaps you chatted with him after the service. If you wanted to speak with him, you set up an appointment with the church assistant.
Now, younger generations do not have (or want) the same boundaries in their communication with their leaders. Today, you can “see” or contact your church or pastor on their website, on Twitter, on Facebook, through email or text, etc. Recently, my pastor, Chris, talked about his struggles answering all his emails.
He said it’s literally impossible for him to read every email, tweet, text, and facebook message that he receives every day and still be a halfway decent father and husband. Pastors have always had trouble with work/life boundaries and burnout, but now it’s on such a larger scale. Setting up proper boundaries and expectations of communication within a church is an even bigger issue that technology sparked in recent years, and it should be a point of conversation at every healthy church staff.
Technology is dramatically changing the way churches attract, retain, and interact with their congregations. Gone are the days of bulletins with service times and class schedules—there’s an app for that.
Technology is forcing churches to go beyond great content. Great music and amazing sermons aren’t necessarily enough to get people of all generations off of their couches anymore. Moving forward in the future of the church, Carey Nieuwhof predicts that “experience will trump content”, and that experience is being shaped and formed around technology.
Churches must become intentional about creating community, offering mobile giving opportunities, striving for generationally inclusive worship, and setting proper communication boundaries if they are to minister effectively to all generations.
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