Seven church trends in 2024: Millennials are the new core of the church

Feb. 8, 2024

By Rev. Rick King

Many of you know I follow cultural trends that are having an impact on American religion. I find it valuable to seek out others’ perspectives on cultural trends and leadership, and one person I follow closely is Canadian pastor, blogger, podcaster, and trainer Carey Nieuwhof. As a Canadian, he’s in a nation that’s about 10 years ahead of the U.S. in becoming a post-Christian society. This series of columns is on church trends in 2024 that find particular resonance with our church as we engage the cultural forces at work and seek transformation in response.

At its November meeting, our Executive Board began a group discernment process called a Future Search that involved a look at the recent past and what we’ve learned from its events and activities; a snapshot in December of our present reality, the threats and opportunities within the church and the culture surrounding it; out of that, I developed five scenarios for a sustainable FHC future, of which the board presented four at FHC’s annual meeting Jan. 28.

A few weeks ago, I wrote here about that dying breed of church called “stable,” neither growing nor declining appreciably. There used to be a lot of churches whose membership was stable, with not a lot of change year to year. But that all has gone away, particularly since the pandemic. Many more churches have closed their doors—but churches are also growing, in many cases rapidly. But treading water is no longer a thing churches do. Either they flourish, or they die.

The second trend is that the generation called the Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) are the new core constituency of today’s church. Since 2019, Millennial church attendance is surging—especially non-White Millennials—more than any other demographic group in the U.S. (rising from 26 percent before COVID to 30 percent after the pandemic). For non-White Millennials, the jump is from 31 percent to 40 percent!

The flipside of this statistic is that Baby Boomers never fully returned to church after COVID, dropping from 31 percent before COVID to 22 percent after it. You may have noticed it in those attending church with us—very subtly, but noticeable.

This affects the way people serve and give to the church’s mission, because Millennials differ from Boomers in attitudes and habits. Millennials give differently and with different motivations than Boomers, and the way we engage them in their stewardship (giving and serving) needs to attend to these.

Furthermore, younger Millennials and Generation Z (current ages of 12-27) exhibit more of an all-in approach to living out their faith than other generations—going beyond attending, giving, and serving, the traditional Boomer traits.

The oldest Millennials turn 43 this year; what should we be doing to treat them as the new core of the church?