Churches, we need to talk. The technology you use (and how you use it) has an immediate impact on your standing among millennials. If someone feels like they’re stepping back in time to worship with you, it can make your ministry come across as irrelevant, no matter how sound your teachings are or tight-knit your church community is.
But don’t get me wrong. Prioritizing theology, engagement, and community outreach are essential for building a thriving church. At the same time, ignoring technology completely or deprioritizing it is hurting your church, and turning away the very millennials you’re working so hard to engage with.
They’re using high tech personal devices and spending hours each day staring at a screen. They even meet people online, work on laptops, and do their finances from their phones—that’s the nature of the digital age. If your church doesn’t respond in kind with excellent technology that meets millennials where they’re at, you may be communicating a very discouraging message to the same people you’re trying to reach.
1. “You need to change in order to make this relationship work”
You might intend to communicate to people, “We’re here for you,” but if the responsibility is on them to navigate through poor tech or a glitchy website to reach you, that’s a problem. What you’re really saying is that people need to change in order to maintain a relationship with your church. Asking a young adult to financially support the life of the church is one thing, but you can’t limit donation options to cash and check. They’re simply not going to give.
2. “You need to go back in time”
The gospel message is timeless and the kingdom of God is everlasting. At the same time, millennials want a faith that intersects with their everyday life. There was a time when hymnals made the most sense for corporate worship, but that’s just not the case anymore. PowerPoint changed the game, and church presentation software is making it even easier to worship corporately.
Pulling out the hymnals might be a quaint way to occasionally connect with the traditions of the church, but it’s not the biblically prescribed method of worship and shouldn’t be a mainstay of every weekend service.
3. “It’s on you to make us catch up”
Millennials want to go to a church where they can contribute. They want to give of their time and their talents, but they also want to feel like what they do is going to make a difference. When a church ignores technology, young adults begin to question that church’s conviction to reach the culture.
If the church they’re attending is already running at a deficit in the way it handles cultural changes, the millennials in the room will feel like everything they do is only helping you play catch up instead of making true advances forward.
4. “We’re unprofessional”
Does it matter if a church is “professional?” It does to Generation Y. Sometimes, when I walk into a church, I get the distinct feeling that it’s a big cozy family where everyone loves each other, but they’re not too concerned about what kind of impression they are giving. They may be communicating: “If the words are wrong during worship or everyone didn’t get the message about the potluck afterward, it’s no biggie. We’re all good.” What millennials hear is: “Details sometimes fall through the cracks but we’re okay with that.” That can make young people nervous about getting plugged in and at the risk of falling through the cracks as well.
Changing Your Message
I’ve visited churches where I felt like they were wasting their money on technology that served no real purpose. It was there to impress people, and that can be a real turn off. But when your church understands the role tech plays in reaching and engaging young people, millennials feel like you’re in step with their life making your message is loud and clear:
5. “You don’t have to be in church-mode”
Your congregation’s faith should be part of their life in the modern world. When you use current technology in church, young attendees don’t have to shift into a different mindset when they walk into their house of worship. When their church is in step with their life, their life and faith are more integrated.
6. “We care enough to use the right tools”
When I see a church using the right tools, I feel like they’re telling me that they value stewarding time and resources well, and millennials feel this way, too. When they know your church is using software tools to help them plan and communicate better, they know you’re not wasting time or coasting through critical cultural and technological shifts.
You’re concerned about getting it right.
Making Room for Millennials
How you incorporate today’s technology has a direct relationship with how you engage millennials. It isn’t that you’re catering to them by using technology—it’s that you’re telling them that the world in which they live isn’t mutually exclusive from the one you inhabit. And when it comes to leaving a positive impression, this can make all the difference.
After all is said and done, introducing great tech at your church is all about reaching people where they are, discipling them, and keeping them engaged and thriving in their faith. Tech is only one small part of that process. To discover the other secrets to encouraging healthy engagement at your church, download the free ebook, The Definitive Guide To Successful Church Engagement, today.