A Fresh Approach to Engaging Millennials in Church

Fairly new to the mainstream church—and very attractive to the Millennial generation—is the concept of missional communities. Distinct from a community or small group, a missional community is (according to an article in The Gospel Coalition) “a community of Christians, on mission with God, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, who demonstrate the gospel tangibly and declare the gospel creatively to a pocket of people.”

Here’s an example: Trinity Grace Church in New York City has developed a thriving missional community process. Each of their missional communities consist of about 20–50 people, all living in the same neighborhood, who gather to connect with the heart and mission of the church. According to Trinity Grace: “Missional communities are organized around a shared mission to a neighborhood or industry. They cultivate partnerships with schools, organizations that provide social services, business leaders, activists, community organizers, and anyone else who loves his city and wants to make it a better place to live; they then leverage those partnerships to implement strategic projects aimed at redeeming and renewing that neighborhood.”

Why Missional Communities Appeal to Millennials

For a variety of reasons, from the way they’re organized to the issues they address, missional communities meet the needs and desires this generation holds close. Here are five reasons why I believe this type of organization is particularly compelling to churches wanting to engage Millennials more actively:

1. They are focused on a specific vision

Millennials want to get behind a cause and serve the greater good. Because missional communities are focused on a clearly defined missional vision, meetings go beyond being merely social gatherings. Their point is to accomplish specific goals that will benefit the surrounding community—which offers an important additional benefit to churches, which is that missional communities can appeal to nonbelievers who want to work toward the same goal. They can join in on God’s work and get to know him along the way.

2. They feel like family

Millennials seek opportunities to engage in meaningful work with people they love. A desire to travel and experience the world has meant that many find themselves far from friends and family; others are looking to experience the connectedness and support of a family for the first time. Missional communities are large enough to make a substantial impact (and for new members to join without feeling spotlighted or singled out) but not so large as to be impersonal. In the words of Daniel Im, Church Multiplication Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources, that missional communities are “small enough to care, but big enough to dare.”

3. They can be really convenient

Millennials are all about convenience and ease of use, and this includes friends and church groups. Often focused on neighborhoods or specific parts of town, missional communities offer a way for people who live, work, or play close by to do life together. Meetings in the neighborhood are fun and easy to attend.

4. They offer opportunities for close connection with the community

Millennials want to make an impact in their own communities. Many enjoy having a community and a place to do ministry simultaneously. Missional communities allow Millennials to be of service at home, helping their neighbors in practical ways and by speaking truth into their lives.

5. They are a gateway to greater involvement

When Millennials set their mind to something, their passion is undefeatable. Churches that invite Millennials to engage in and help shape the church will find them to be enthusiastic participants. They’ll want to serve in other capacities as well, becoming door greeters, parking lot attendants, or daycare volunteers. By creating a culture of serving and missional living, missional communities make a huge impact in the community while also helping to shape the view of the church to the outside world.

6. They are not hierarchical

Missional communities don’t adhere to formal structures outlined by the church; their structure evolves organically. Lay leadership is integral to missional communities, which allows for additional involvement by members. Millennials thrive in less structured groups, allowing their passion and creativity of expression to be the driving forces.

Missional communities are, in many ways, optimal environments for engaging Millennials to maximize their experience with and commitment to a greater good. The heart behind these communities and churches often beats in sync with the heartbeat of Millennials.




William Vanderbloemen
William Vanderbloemen

William Vanderbloemen is the CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group, the premier executive search firm for churches and ministries, and the author of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works. William combines 15 years of pastoral experience and the best practices of corporate search to help Christian leaders build great teams.

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Showing 6 comments
  • thomas choy

    a great article

  • Todd

    The whole point of missional communities is to make disciples. That’s “the mission” (Matt. 28:18-20). I didn’t see anything about that in this article sadly. Everything else in this article is great, but you can’t leave out the most important part 🙂

  • Marc Gauvreau

    Absolutely agree with Todd, the word ‘missional’ has suffered the same fate as the words ‘discipleship’ and ‘spiritual formation’ and ‘kingdom.’ It’s the proverbial evangelical save face bandwagon that everyone has jumped on over the past 10 years. It’s evangelically hip and trendy to say your missional. But honest biblical etymology calls us to intellectual honesty! Discipleship is the means in which we experience genuine transformation because we are now living in the already but not yet reality of the Kingdom of God. If we are not making disciples (which the Greek imperative distinctly makes clear to us in Matt. 28:19) then we’ve missed it. For goodness sakes people, have we already forgotten the writings of Dallas Willard, Al Hirsch and Scott McKnight? What will become our next buzz word?

    • Mark

      It sounds like a great program, on the surface, but what about the realities of the faith. I can’t help but think about how we as the “Church” in America have gotten so caught up in becoming relevant that we have lost our way. The early church didn’t change in order to draw the masses, no, they became teachers of Christ to the masses (disciple makers). These early believers lived out a real faith that they were willing to die for. Yes, it is great to reach out to our community and make an impact in the lives of the people that live there. That is a part of what it means to be a Christian but what we have lost sight of is the most important part, the life changing gospel of Jesus. It would be great to have several Millennials excited about their community but at the end of the day, if they and their community leave this life without knowing God then all is lost. However, if you change one life at a time in that community, with the life changing gospel, then you have truly changed it for time and eternity. I’m not saying we cannot have these great programs but let us put are focus where it belongs, on life change. Preach the gospel, live the gospel and see God change our communities and nation one soul at a time. Let us worry less about numbers and more on discipleship, let God worry about the numbers.

  • Andy Robinson

    Although, the word “discipleship” is not used, the concept of discipleship permeates throughout the article. Millennials understand more than anyone that discipleship is NOT the means in which we experience heart transformation. Discipleship, in and of itself, IS the heart transformation. In other words, It’s not the means to an end. Discipleship is the end result. When a person becomes a disciple two things happen: 1. a heart is immediately transformed (justification), and 2. he/she starts the continual process of life transformation to become like Christ (sanctification). For millennials, this transformation happens best when: a.) it’s focused on a particular vision (or mission) that tangibly affects both an entire community and the all the individuals involved (including non-believers); b.) it’s in the context of a genuine familial experience operating hand in hand with the people they love most: their church family; c.) it’s in an organic setting which flows into the natural rhythm of their ordinary lives; d.) it allows them to creatively utilize their unique God given gifts by taking ownership in how they serve; e.) it’s not handed down and micromanaged by spiritual dictators who feel that the professionals are more in tune to Holy Spirit than everyone else. (This is coming from the mouth of a professional clergyman). So, yes, the “point” of missional communities is to make disciples, but thats only part of it. The “whole point” of missional communities is to make holistic disciples, together with the rest of the community, while also being on God’s redemptive mission.

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