Congregations considering seeking hip, young pastors to help attract Millennials may want to think twice about that move.
A study of 250 American congregations has found that youth and young adults want substance from their ministers and churches more than they want style.
They presented an anecdote in the article about young people feeling called to a congregation pastored by a 76-year-old. They cited his deep interest and commitment to their lives. It’s what’s missing for the shrinking number of young people who go to church.
“With age can come great wisdom and depth, but few young people are receiving what older churchgoers offer,” Powell, Mulder and Griffin wrote in the article titled “Research Says: Young People Don’t Want Hip Pastors.”
Researchers at the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary met with pastors and church members as part of a four-year study of U.S. congregations that are effectively engaging 15- to 29-year-olds. The 250 evangelical, mainline and Catholic churches studied represented 20-plus denominations in nearly 40 states. The churches included new plants to congregations that have existed for more than a century, the article said. Half were mostly white and a third were multiracial. The others were black, Latino or Asian American.
Powell, Mulder and Griffin said the research found that cool pastors weren’t the only thing most young people don’t want.
“A long list of qualities had less predictive value in the 250 exemplary congregations than we expected,” they wrote.
They include trendy locations, specific denominations, “culturally relevant” teaching styles and fashionable pastor attire.
Nor is there a preferred church size, the researchers found.
“We saw no statistical relationship between church size and ability to draw young people.”
It also doesn’t matter if churches are old or new, if they have large budgets, offer contemporary worship or meet in large, modern facilities.
“Some of the congregations that are most effective with young people have state-of-the-art facilities,” they wrote. “But not most. The majority … gather in decent, but not spectacular, spaces.”
One factor they found to be vital in attracting and serving young people is a desire to be good neighbors in their cities.
“The churches ‘growing young’ consistently showed high involvement and creativity in their commitment to be good neighbors and to involve young people in the process,” according to the article.