Churches, we need to talk. This might be a hard to hear, but it’s necessary for you to understand. The technology you use (and how you use it) has an immediate effect on your influence with Millennials. If someone needs to feel like they’re stepping back into the fifties (or even the nineties) to worship with you, it reflects negatively on your relevance.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about using tech for tech’s sake. You’re not going to start becoming more significant by throwing some abstract technology into the service. But you’re not doing yourself any favors by avoiding technology because you associate it with chasing an empty form of relevance.
Think about it this way: Would you continue to go to a cash-only grocery store? It wouldn’t make any sense—would it? Our culture no longer relies on cash exchanges for goods and services. A cash-only store might have solid reasons for eschewing credit and debit purchases, but are they more important than meeting customers where they’re at?
What messages are you sending?
Your church is more than a set of creeds or a gathering of individuals. You need to ask if your methods are communicating the same things your ministries are saying. It’s easy to discover that you’re saying one thing and doing something entirely different. The truth is that when you aren’t using reasonable tech solutions at church, young adults receive very specific messages:
“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 people to adapt to your quirks, it’s not entirely true. They’re here for you. What you’re really communicating is that they need to change in order to maintain the relationship.
There’s a problem if you want a young adult to financially support the life of the church, but you’re the only organization still requiring them to pay with a check. It speaks volumes about the nature of the relationship.
“You need to go back in time”
The gospel message is timeless and the kingdom of God is everlasting, but 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 quaint way to occasionally connect with the traditions of the church, but let’s not pretend that it’s the biblically prescribed method of worship.
“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 resources, but they 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, they feel like everything they give is only helping you play catch up, instead of making true advances forward.
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 their giving.
“If the words are wrong during worship or everyone didn’t get the message about the potluck afterward, it’s no biggie. We’re just winging it.”
Changing your message
I’ve stepped in churches where I have felt 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, too. But when your church gets it, and Millennials feel like you’re in step with their life, your message is loud and clear:
“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.
“We care enough to use the right tools”
When I see a church using the right tools, I feel like they’re telling me about how they value time and resources. Millennials feel this way, too. When they know that a church is using software tools to help them plan and communicate better, they know you’re not wasting time. 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.
If you’re looking for more tips for meeting Millennials where they are, download a free copy of our book How to Engage Millennials.