Barna was commissioned to learn more about Millennial perspectives on worship and community spaces and to hear from practitioners about how the next generation of Christian adults is shaping their approach to form and function.
The eldest Millennials—born between 1984 and 2002—turned 30 in 2014. Millennials are coming into their own as adults and putting their own spin on cultural issues around family and friends, institutions and information, consumption and creativity–and faith and beliefs. At the same time, many faith communities and Christian organizations are struggling with how to make space for Millennials—not just appealing space in their buildings and gathering places, but also space in their institutional culture, ministry models, and leadership approach. Based on its experience in tracking and illuminating the ways of Millennials to the Church, Barna was commissioned to learn more about their perspectives on worship and community spaces and to hear from practitioners about how the next generation of Christian adults is shaping their approach to form and function.
First, Barna conducted focus groups of Millennial adults in Atlanta, Georgia, and Chicago, Illinois. Participants were screened from a variety of religious backgrounds as well as racial and ethnic backgrounds. These groups took “field trips” to two different styles of churches in their cities, traditional and ultra-modern, and discussions focused on their reactions to the spaces and the implications for community building.
Next, Barna designed an online survey conducted with 843 Millennial U.S. adults. In addition to conventional word-based questions, the online survey also included questions with image choices as the answers. This type of visual polling provided useful insights into today’s design-oriented and image-drenched, Instagram and Pinterest generation—giving us an immediate sense of the kinds of images Millennials respond to on a broad range of topics, including work, home, faith, Christianity, and church.
The results of the survey helped us understand how spaces can enhance or inhibit Millennials’ ability to engage with a church community, engage with God, feel at home, and discover themselves. While there is no simple, one-size-fits-all blueprint for an institutional culture, ministry program, leadership structure, or building that is guaranteed to reach Millennials, the study showed distinct points of connection with Millennials that are instrumental in helping churches and faith-based organizations make better decisions.
Using its research findings, Barna developed and published a highly designed report (monograph) that includes professionally designed infographics on the data, commentary and insights from various thought leaders in the U.S., and reflective questions for pastors, leaders, and educators. The monograph is a handbook for turning information about Millennials into connections with Millennials in churches, schools, and organizations – in the U.S. and across the globe.