On Friday, I answered this question in a blog post: “Why Are Millennials Less Religious Than Previous Generations?” According to a Pew Research Center interview with a New York University sociology professor (and numerous studies), the clearest reason Millennials are less likely to be religious than their parents or grandparents is because they lack trust in institutions. This is no secret. I’ve written about Millennial trust issues related to the church a number of times. Perhaps the clearest step local churches can take is to invest time and energy into the community life of the church, and make every effort to make the church feel more like a family than an institution.
That sounds simple, but is it? Maybe, or maybe not, depending on the culture of your local church. Regardless, here are three simple things your local church can do to feel more like a loving family and less like a stuffy institution.
1. Do non-churchy things together.
Do life together with your church. If the only time you get together with your church family is in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings or in your boring Sunday school classroom, your church family is probably going to feel less like a family and more like a social club or class at school.
Go bowling together. Eat meals together. Go on vacation together. Have Christmas parties and birthday parties, bridal showers and baby showers.
Talk about your love for football, or hip-hop, or cooking shows, or video games. Play board games. Go to the park. If you and some church friends are far away from family, spend the holidays together.
Do non-churchy things with people in your church, and it will start to feel less like a club or school and more like a family.
2. Spend time in each others’ homes.
This point goes hand-in-glove with the point above. Doing non-churchy things with church friends will often drive you to each others’ homes. Obviously, if you want to have a meal together or schedule a board game night, or something like that, you can be sure to do that in your homes and not in the church.
But, at the same time, consider hosting your community group at a home and not on location at the church. Every church situation is different. If your church is a commuter church to which people come from far away in different directions, it may make the most sense to meet at the church for small group. But, if it’s not too much trouble, gathering in peoples’ homes can feel more comfortable, especially for new people to the group.
3. Care for each other.
Perhaps you’ve just had a baby and you need someone to help make and deliver meals. Maybe you just had a major surgery and need some help getting to work for a couple of weeks. Maybe your house flooded, and you need someone to store some of your stuff for a month or so as you fix up your basement.
Whatever it is, however big or small, the people who make up the local church need to bear the burdens of one another. We must do this not only because Scripture says to do so (Gal 6:2) but because, in doing so, we reflect the love of Jesus and attract outsiders to the loving, sacrificial body of Christ.
Families sacrifice for one another in order to bear the burden of others and love well.
Pastors, church leaders and any others who may be reading this blog: If you fret about reaching young people, and your church isn’t doing any of the three things above, perhaps your church looks more like a social club than a family.
This article originally appeared here.