Engaging the Next Generation

Reigniting Interest in the Local Church

September 11, 2023

In an era of rapid societal changes and shifting values, many local churches are facing the challenge of engaging the next generation. 

With declining attendance and waning interest, it is crucial for churches to adapt and find innovative ways to connect with younger individuals. This article explores strategies and approaches that can help reignite the interest of the next generation in the local church, fostering a sense of belonging, purpose, and spiritual growth that promotes imagination and creativity. If we want to see the next generation engaged back into the local church, we have to change things up. We have to evaluate our systems, or programming, and our curriculums. We have to look at our organization as a whole and architect ways to foster resiliency in era of change. Here are a few thoughts…

1. Embrace Authenticity

To engage the next generation, churches must prioritize authenticity. 

Younger individuals value transparency and genuine connections. Encourage open dialogue, create safe spaces for questions and doubts, and foster an environment where individuals can express their true selves without fear of judgment. By embracing authenticity, churches can build trust and establish meaningful relationships with the next generation. 

Why is this important? I have a sense and a theory that the next generation embraces authenticity because they want to have people that they can trust. In a society that gives unsolicited advice or content, the next generation needs to know that they can trust the system, the human, or the advice before they give you the time of day. 

Trust is the quality we as humans are searching for. And if we are authentic to our core, trust is the natural byproduct of authenticity. I think (as a millennial and being under senior level leaders in ministry for more than 10 years) we are sometimes afraid of being fully authentic, because we are living in a place of vulnerability. 

I have often heard that intimacy is letting people see “into me” and sometimes with that comes pain, hurt, betrayal, and difficulties. 

What if we could build organizations, churches, and systems that let the next generation see “into us” to work the muscle of authenticity within our development processes. Maybe, just maybe, we would see the next generation come back to our churches because we pushed back fear and lived in a posture of believing the best. 

2. Embrace Technology

Incorporating technology is essential to engage the tech-savvy younger generation. 

Utilize social media platforms, create engaging websites, and develop mobile apps to provide easy access to information, events, and resources. Livestream services and create interactive online communities to reach those who may not be able to attend in person. 

Embracing technology can bridge the gap and make the church more accessible and relevant to the next generation. Why is this important to note? Secular platforms like TikTok, Instagram, SnapChat, twitter, etc. have invited the next generation to create. 

Humans were built for creativity. It’s the longing of every human heart and mind. We sometimes think that coloring, creating art, drawing, or any form of art is done when you’re a child. 

When we are in the second half of our lives, we delight in our kids creating art or our grandkids. 

I truly believe that we as humans, no matter our age, are wired to create. To build. To speak. To dance. To paint. But, sometimes we feel as if we do not have what it takes to push back into our love for creativity. 

The next generation was born into a world that is constantly creating, constantly imagining and constantly redefining narratives, systems, or organizations. If we truly want to see the next generation integrated back into the local church, we have to give them the same permission to create within the church as secular platforms do today for the next generation. 

The question is not if social media needs to be integrated within the church, the question we have to wonder and pause to think about is if the church has lost its edge of creativity and how creativity is expressed because of technology.

 I believe, if we want to see the next generation integrated within the church, we have to be people that let them co-create within the church. If we were built by a Creator who has and is creating, then the church has to be a place where we let the next generation create with us instead of for us. 

3. Foster Community and Connection

Creating a sense of community is vital in engaging the next generation. 

Younger individuals seek connection and belonging, so it is crucial to provide opportunities for them to build relationships within the church. Belonging is truly essential if we want the next generation re-engaged within the church. Humans were built for survival. We were built to find a place we all belong. The next generation is searching too and fro for a community where they and their peers can belong. 

We cannot create churches just for one person, instead we need to create for their community as well. Belonging is a desire of the next generation, and they want it for their friends as well. 

The next generation is searching for Spiritual Mothers and Spiritual Fathers.  If we want to see the next generation engaged back into the local church, we have to create belonging and encourage intergenerational mentorship programs where older members can guide and support younger individuals in their spiritual journey. 

By fostering a strong sense of community, the local church can become a place where the next generation feels valued, connected, and finds a place to belong. I truly believe that segregation is what the next generation finds disheartening when it comes to the local church. If God is a God of unity, we have to be people that are about that as well. 

Community has to be paired with belonging and unity. We have to ask the question, How do we build a community that is less about power and position and more about opportunity, equality, and empowerment? We need the older generation AND the next generation working together to build a church where together, people find a place to belong and intimately connect. 

Engaging the next generation back into the local church requires intentional efforts to create an environment that resonates with their values, interests, and needs.

Engaging the next generation back into the local church requires intentional efforts to create an environment that resonates with their values, interests, and needs. By embracing authenticity, utilizing technology and fostering the right kind of community, the local church can reignite the interest and involvement of the next generation. 

With a renewed focus on engaging the younger individuals, the local church can become a vibrant and thriving community that continues to impact lives for generations to come.

Aaron Barnett

Aaron Barnett

Aaron Barnett is the director of strategy and partnerships at Generation Distinct where, together with his wife Hannah, he equips the next generation to discover the wrong they were born to make right and experience who Jesus really is. They use the topics of purpose, passion and justice to bring the next generation into conversations about Jesus, the gospel, and the Great Commission. Aaron is also a content specialist for Exponential and a director for Generation Next through Leadership Network. Aaron is deeply passionate about the local church and has spent years in youth ministry and now invests into churches around the country as a traveling speaker and leader. Aaron has a passion to unleash the unique calling in each person, helping both individuals and organizations go from where they are to where they could be.
View Author

Related Articles