Earlier this year, the Barna Group studied the impact of
this digital age on the faith experience of Millennials,
those from 18 to 29 years old. Last month, Barna published the results of its research. The bottom line is that digital technology pervades every aspect of Millennial
life, including the area of faith. According to the study, one-third of Millennials search
online to check out a church, temple or synagogue. This number increases to 56%
for practicing Millennials. This tells me that churches should pay special
attention to their website. It’s not enough for them to have a site just to say
they have one. By the way, that’s actually the impression I get from some
church websites I have seen on the internet. The truth is that a church’s
website, based on Barna’s research, is likely to play a significant role in a teen’s
and young adult’s first impression of a local assembly. “Just Google it.” Ever heard that? Sure you have. We all
have. Many teens and young adults bring mobile devices with them to church. Not
all of these gadgets are being used for texting and engaging with social media.
Millennials also use mobile devices in church to place the ability to
fact-check at their fingertips. They are not all passively listening to what's being taught from the pulpit. According to the results of the study, 14% of
Millennials say they search to verify something a faith leader has said. The number
increases to 38% for practicing Millennials. Technology is also changing the way Millennials give financially.
The traditional tithing envelope available in church is not the preferred
method of giving for a growing number of today’s teens and young adults. They
prefer to make digital donations. According to the study, one in 10 Millennials
say they donate to a faith organization online at least once a month. The rate
increases to 39% for practicing Christian Millennials.
Barna’s findings underscore what many of us who attend church
regularly already knew. That is, that a growing number of teens and young adults
are no longer walking in the doors of our local churches.
Even if we could fix all the things in our churches that Millennials
say are a turn off to them—which we can’t—we would not totally reverse the current
trend. We are living in a mobile and digital society, and that has forever
changed the faith experience, especially among Millennials. Local churches must
embrace this reality, if they want to reach Millennials in an increasingly digital