Millennials. Is there a word that strikes more confusion or fear into the church? We're being told they're flaky, leaving en masse in a modern day exodus of sorts, and that organized religion can no longer reach them.
On the contrary, it's not that a living God can't relate to a younger, more skeptical generation, it's that we have yet to fully embrace the ways to reach them. Small groups—Christians engaged in genuine community—are the answer to keeping the church relevant to a generation seeking something more from the faith they inherited from their parents.
After studying millennials for years, I have found that this generation is craving four core things: authenticity, being known, truth, and purpose. Small groups are the tool in the modern-day church that can move Christianity from a casual Sunday morning experience to a real, vibrant relationship with God—and they're especially relevant for millennials.
Let's dig a little into the four values of millennials: authenticity, being known, truth, and purpose. The root of all four is significance. Past generations have used the lens of importance and urgency to determine the things they'll participate in, but the millennial generation puts much more weight into significance. With the proliferation of accessible information from the Internet boom, millennials realize, more than any previous generation, that the time they have here on Earth is limited.
That knowledge makes millennials excited and anxious to start making an impact with the gifts God has given them. They have no use for what they interpret as pointless gatherings, rituals void of meaning, or continuing on a paved path simply because others have traveled it before. To them, it's ultimately a waste of time on their path to significance. Our job as the church is to meet millennials where they are, create useful spaces for them to personalize the gospel for themselves, and encourage atmospheres where it's okay to bring up the big, serious questions that usually alienate a generation searching for personal truth. And small groups are the perfect place to do this. Let's look at the four key values of millennials and how small groups are perfectly suited to meet these needs:
Millennials Crave Authenticity
While previous generations were content with rituals, millennials now crave a church experience with authenticity. They have no interest in participating in anything that has an air of pretense. When they're deciding how to spend their time, they make sure it isn't spent on having to fake their own perfection or on shallow relationships where they can't be themselves—they get enough of that on social media.
Small groups should be the safest place for millennials to be their true selves and encounter others who are living a life of grace and acceptance as well. If they can't experience an atmosphere within the Christian church that encourages them to be honest about their struggles and trials, this generation will find it elsewhere. They want to know that other Christians have troubles, questions, and failures similar to their own, and that they aren't going to have to hide it in the name of acceptance. There's no place that is inherently more suited for authenticity than a small group atmosphere of confession, growth, and encountering Jesus. When millennials see others being vulnerable and real, digging deeper than the niceties required of a fleeting Sunday morning encounter, they'll be drawn to our message of acceptance and grace.