Aspen Learning Summit: Reaching the Elusive Millennial Generation
When Aspen Group, as a founding partner of the Cornerstone Knowledge Network (CKN), embarked on the Making Space for Millennials (MSFM) research project with Barna Group, we knew this would be a study with a long tail. Since releasing the MSFM report in 2014, Aspen has been exploring findings that surfaced from this national survey in various blog posts, conferences, and live events.
To further our learning, we recently hosted the Aspen Learning Summit, a small gathering of church design and construction professionals from Aspen Group, AVL specialists, communication experts, and several church leaders and Millennials, all of whom have a keen interest in understanding how to reach and engage with Millennials at church.
Rex Miller, author, futurist, and principal of the think-tank, mindSHIFT, and Roxanne Stone, vice president of publishing for Barna Group, presented thought-provoking and unique perspectives on the cultural trends surrounding Millennials. Rex facilitated a variety of small group exercises, which each table worked through and then reported on to the entire group. Their teaching prompted stimulating, out-of-the-box conversations on how to better equip churches for reaching the elusive Millennial generation.
Here are a few of the takeaways attendees expressed, based on the ideas Rex and Roxanne shared:
Millennials Live in a "Digital Babylon"
We aren't living in a monotheistic and God-centered Jerusalem anymore. The church needs to be both a sanctuary and a sending place in the midst of a secular, pluralistic society. Just like Daniel, Christians need to find respite and rejuvenation at church to launch them into a dark and hurting world.
Millennials are a Different Culture, Not Just a Different Generation
"We need to think of Millennials as if they are French, not just younger versions of us," Miller said in his presentation. Looking at Millennials through the lens of a different culture instead of just seeing them as carbon copies of other generations is a much more effective way of trying to interpret and understand them.
Millennials Are Inspired by Celebrities
Understanding who Millennials look up to, or more importantly, what character traits inspire them, is a key to understanding what’s most important to Millennials. When previewing a list of the top Millennial influencers, traits such as passionate, transparent, open-minded, flexible, community-oriented, and entrepreneurial describe many of the attributes Millennials admire in these people. "There is so much that the church can learn from these character traits,” says Leah Norton from Fishhook. “As churches, we need to apply these inspirational character traits to how we are leading and connecting with Millennials."
Millennials Move Around
Millennials are accustomed to moving frequently—from where they live, work, and go to church. Knowing this, the church can be proactive about how they are reaching and engaging a generation that has unprecedented access and opportunities and is more transient than ever.
Millenials Favor a Do-It-Yourself Spirituality
Millennials create perspectives and ideas in a modular way, meaning they piece together information to create whole life. This is true of their faith as well. Why go to church if you can stream a mega-church sermon, or listen to a praise CD, or do an online Bible study on an iPad? Blake Leitch of the Fields Church commented, "We need to meet them where they are instead of trying to figure out why they aren't coming to church."
Rex and Roxanne introduced participants at Aspen’s Learning Summit to these and other key ideas. Stay tuned as we share more information from this event on our Millennials Resources page.