I often talk to pastors who are concerned because of the lack of young people they have in their churches. Some of these pastors have invested significant amounts of energy and financial resources into reaching young people. They have been able to get them to come to various activities and events, but seldom can get them to come to worship services. Though there are a variety of reasons for why that may be the case, I think the main reason is that most Sunday morning services simply do not communicate to the next generation in ways they can understand. Worship services are often designed in ways that communicate well to middle-aged and senior adults, but just do not capture the attention of younger adults.
If churches want to see more young adults in their worship services, they must begin to communicate in a way that the next generation can understand. Music is one aspect of that communication process. Younger adults tend to prefer instruments with more bass and percussion in the mix. They also tend to prefer the music to be more up-tempo. Because they are looking for ways to build a relationship with God instead of just learning knowledge about God, they prefer songs that can be sung to God, not just about God. Though changing the music that a church uses can be a difficult process, if we want to reach the next generation, this issue must be addressed.
A second aspect of the worship service that needs to be addressed is the visual aspect. The next generation is a very visual generation. Their entire lives they have watched TV, played video games, surfed the Internet and have become used to lots of graphics. This means that churches must learn to utilize power point for sermon notes, video announcements, and other types of visuals if they hope to communicate to the next generation. Just as a learning new music can be a challenge, so is using technology. But the reality is that the use of video technology is essential if churches want to reach young people.
We do not have to like these new innovations ourselves, but we do have to accept that this is just the way the next generation communicates. If we fail to communicate to them using these mediums, we will be met first with blank stares from the next generation and then with empty seats. The souls of our children and grandchildren are at stake. It is time to let go of our own agendas and redesign our worship services so they communicate the timeless truth of the Gospel in ways the next generation can understand.