What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials?

April 2, 2014

My son, Jess Rainer, and I recently spoke in Texas on the topic of the Millennials, America’s largest generation of nearly 79 million persons. Because we co-authored a book entitled The Millennials, we have had the opportunity to speak on the subject on many occasions.

We reminded this audience in Dallas of the birth dates of this generation, 1980 to 2000, and then proceeded to share our research. We had commissioned LifeWay Research to survey 1,200 of the older Millennials; the researchers did an outstanding job. We have thus been able to share incredible amounts of data and insights from these young adults.

The Question about Worship Style

As in most of our speaking settings, we allow a portion of our presentation to be a time of questions and answers. And inevitably someone will ask us about the worship style preferences of the Millennials.

Typically the context of the question emanates from a background of nearly three decades of “worship wars.” In other words, on what “side” are the Millennials? Traditional? Contemporary? Or somewhere on the nebulous spectrum of blended styles?

And though Jess and I did not originally ask those questions in our research, we have sufficient anecdotal evidence to respond. And our response is usually received with some surprise. The direct answer is “none of the above.”

The Three Things That Matter Most

You see, most Millennials don’t think in the old worship war paradigm. In that regard, “style” of worship is not their primary focus. Instead they seek worship services and music that have three major elements.

  1. They desire the music to have rich content. They desire to sing those songs that reflect deep biblical and theological truths. It is no accident that the hymnody of Keith and Kristyn Getty has taken the Millennials by storm. Their music reflects those deep and rich theological truths.
  2. The Millennials desire authenticity in a worship service. They can sense when congregants and worship leaders are going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether.
  3. This large generation does want a quality worship service. But that quality is a reflection of the authenticity noted above, and adequate preparation of the worship leaders both spiritually and in time of preparation. In that sense, quality worship services are possible for churches of all sizes.

The Churches They Are Attending

Millennial Christians, and a good number of seekers among their generation, are gravitating to churches where the teaching and preaching is given a high priority. They are attracted to churches whose focus is not only on the members, but on the community and the world. Inwardly focused congregations will not see many Millennials in their churches.

And you will hear Millennials speak less and less about worship style. Their focus is on theologically rich music, authenticity, and quality that reflects adequate preparation in time and prayer.

But they will walk away from congregations that are still fighting about style of music, hymnals or screen projections, or choirs or praise teams. Those are not essential issues to Millennials, and they don’t desire to waste their time hearing Christians fight about such matters.

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250 Comments

  • Chris Williams says on

    We should never walk through the doors of God’s house with the focus on ourselves. We should be there to glorify, honor, and worship God.

    Churches can fall into the trap of trying to “sell” the church or “sell” Jesus to the world in an attempt to chase sliding attendance. This happens when we try and figure out what people want rather than God. The church is then helping rather than serving. God does not need our help. He is sovereign. There is too much “me” and “I” with a little splash of pride when we help rather than serve. It is an honor to serve, but we must first submit

  • It seems to me that we are forgetting what ‘worship’ means. It is much more than meeting in a physical building and using words and music to ‘exalt God’. God wants our hearts, minds and hands, he wants our lives so he can live in and through us, being and doing what he does. The object in worship is to love, honor and humbly submit ourselves to the One who is Almighty, merciful, gracious, forgiving, the One who rescues, redeems and restores us to be one with him and all his children in his Kingdom, where he rules. The only building that counts is God’s house, his presence and us living in union with him, that can be anywhere, anytime, even in the battle, and it is the Love of God that fills us and directs us in our relationships and our rejoicing! Praising and singing to the Father and the Son are natural responses. The forms should reflect the substance which is God in Christ Jesus by God’s Spirit.

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