So this week I was planning on writing about the Baltimore riots one more time. To give you my opinion. But, thankfully, that blog post, almost completely written, somehow disappeared from my laptop without a trace even though I recall saving it at least 5 times during the writing process. I really do believe that God wanted that article to simply not be published. I mean, there are so many opinions on the Baltimore riots, God was probably saying, “Ok, how can I save this guy Fred from putting his foot in his mouth….again.”
The miracle of the disappearing blog.
UPDATE: I found the blog post. I just seemed to reappear. But it is now dated and I will not be publishing it.
So this week will be a little more cutting edge. I want to share a parallel of what the church is desiring to do today and what restaurants are doing, ahead of the church.
Proverbs 18:15 – An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
I’ve worked in the restaurant and retail industry all of my life. I may have studied audio production in college (those were the only classes I actually liked) but when I got out of school, I had the opportunity to either make $6.25/hour pulling cables for the local TV station or I could make $35,000/year being an assistant manager at Taco Bell.
I chose Taco Bell.
By the age of 25 I was running a single restaurant. By 27 I had 3 restaurants and built my first one from the ground up. By 30 I was managing 15 restaurants. By the age of 31 I had 45 restaurants and was building a significant number. By 35 I had 75 restaurants and I built at least 50 of them from the ground up. And as I ended my operational career in retail, I managed 42 locations and built or converted at least another 15-20 in there.
One thing is very important in designing a restaurant or retail facility: targeting your demographic.
As we have seen with McDonald’s recently, if a restaurant company doesn’t begin targeting a younger generation, then the company will find itself outdated and with declining sales. There are countless restaurants that go out of business each year.
The same can be said of churches.
But the latest trend in both is targeting the young adult population.
Jeremiah 1:7 – But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
A whole new generation of restaurants are springing up that are being built with the 18-30 age group in mind. Commonly called millennials, this generation is the next one that will have disposable income, a significant online presence, and a smaller but more tight-knit tribe with which they hang out.
These restaurants appeal to the social drive of millennials through communal and moveable tables, food transparency with open kitchens, a focus on sustainability and renewable energy, and strange, funky décor with significant amounts of electrical and USB hookups.
Let’s look at a few examples:
LYFE Kitchen: The company emphasizes sustainable materials through use of bamboo for tables, fresh herb walls where herbs are grown in the store,
Modmarket : They focus on every aspect of the décor, realizing that millennials care whether the materials used are sustainable or made from laminates. They provide an even more open kitchen design that allows the customer to see everything from the sandwich line to the floor under the line. They call this “radical transparency.” They provide large 10-seat tables, giving millennials a place to gather in groups which is a significant behavior of the demographic.
The Den: Owned by Denny’s, their first store just opened on campus at one of the University of California locations. They have “quirky décor elements” which appeal to the demographic. The visual elements throughout the store are meant for millennials to share on social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram. They also feature a majority of large tables where millennials can gather.
But Fred, those are restaurants. How can restaurant design help my church?
Matthew 9:17 – Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
The age group that has the highest spending power at this moment is still the baby boomers at $2.1 trillion. But their spending power is declining as they age more and more. The group that is second in that list is the millennials, with $1.7 trillion in spending power. And their power is growing.
With churches, it is critical to target that important demographic. Not just because of their spending power, but because of Christ’s SAVING power!
Millennials are more likely to be seen at LYFE Kitchen or First Watch on a Sunday morning than in a church pew. Why? They feel the church is outdated and antiquated. If you want proof, do a simple Google image search of “churches targeting millennials” and be prepared to be amazed. You will see a lot of blog images showing empty pews in about half the pictures and then you will see a lot of old, antique church pictures. If we are not going to improve our wineskin, what makes you think we can hold new wine?
I am not going to say that millennials are shallow and only care about décor and design, but it does play a significant part in whether they attend church or not.
So here are a few things that ALL churches should be doing to target the next generation:
- Utilize an app for the sermons. The day of the paper bulletin is slowly going the way of the buffalo. Eventually the world will not want to take notes unless it is in a box labelled NOTES on a Bible app where they can Swype their notes into the box.
- For those who reach shut-ins, it is important to have more than a CD of the program. CD players are ancient technology. While CDs are still made and sold, the number one medium is downloads.
- If you are going to ask your attenders to get on their phones and tablets, make sure they are able to charge them. Perhaps provide docking ports somewhere in pew. By the time church is over, many times my battery is at 50% or less. If I were able to charge it, I would be able to take more Instagram photos of the service.
- Have community meeting places throughout the church. Yes, the sermon is important, but what about the other 167 hours in the week? Is the church easily accessible for people to come hang out and talk? If you run a school, perhaps provide an area that is closed off from the school that people can come hang out. Maybe a coffee bar. Perhaps it is open certain hours of the day.
- Have radical transparency. Be transparent about the Gospel. It is no secret that not everyone will accept the Gospel, but simply because they don’t accept it doesn’t mean we don’t preach it. Be radically transparent about the Gospel of Christ.
- Look into sustainable materials when building and renewable energy choices. It may sound strange and expensive, but this generation is looking at that.
- Be fun and quirky. Don’t just preach a serious Gospel, but preach a serious Gospel in a fun, exciting way.
Luke 5:37-39 – And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
I am blessed to be a part of a church that has started our Renew program about 2 years ago in order that we can pass the baton to the next generation. While we have a long way to go to make it a millennial-driven church, great strides have been made to cater to the young adults.
But a single church cannot carry the entire team.
We need ALL churches to look at what they are doing and make some progress in reaching the young adults.
Without them, we will have a lot more churches closing their doors in the future.