It's been a while since I have written any thoughts on a recent study by Barna Group which collectively asked the question "What is your ideal church?" to a group of millennials. So here I am to finish the series out. Before we start lets take a look at the results of the survey:
In my last post in this series I shared some thoughts on "Sanctuary VS Auditorium". In today's post I would like to focus on "Quiet VS Loud" - a series of questions which sought to discover whether millennials are more interested in loud worship services or whether they prefer something quiet. Interestingly, 67% said quiet with only 33% voting for loud.
In one sense, I am surprised by these results. I have been living the worship wars for quite a while and the rhetoric has always been a divisive "young people who want loud worship vs old people who want quiet worship". Loud, in this debate, would mean something along the lines of alive, exciting, invigorating, and inspiring. Those who vote for loud worship often complain how the older generation prefers dead tradition to living expression resulting in boring, uneventful, irrelevant, and out of touch (with culture) worship experiences. Quiet, in this debate, would mean something along the lines of reverent, sacred, civil, mannered, and classy. Those who vote for quiet worship often complain how the younger generation prefers secular culture to sacred ways resulting in carnal, mundane, wordly, sensual and out of touch (with heaven) worship experiences. The line of division couldn't be any thicker.
However, something weird is happening with the millennial generation. Something that transcends the worship wars of old. I share this, not based on research papers but based on my own personal experience as a millennial doing life with other millennials. We no longer fit into the us VS them rhetoric. Instead, many millennials seem to reject the contemporary flashy worship performance as inauthentic and - quite frankly - fake. Instead, many seem to prefer the "quiet" form of worship which the authors of the worship wars (whoever they are) said we hated.
Now before I move on, allow me to clear something up here. By "quiet" I am not talking about worship that resembles something straight out of the 1800's. I am not referring to traditional worship styles. Rather I am referring to traditional worship values. As a result many millennials prefer a worship experience that is "quiet" in the sense that it inspires contemplation and depth of thought. This kind of worship can involve hymns but also involves a variety of other contemporary music styles. Again, the point is not the style but the value that is being celebrated. What most millennials seem to be rejecting is, 1) the love of tradition that keeps older generations chained to dead worship forms and, 2) the love of performance that keeps younger generations chained to shallow worship forms. Instead, what they seek is worship without agenda. Worship that is free, expressing the heart, and unhindered by cultural expectation. This kind of desire has given birth to a much more eclectic worship culture that appreciates all forms of worship from the ancients to the modern and is happy to celebrate them all.
This happens to be the mindset that I fall into. Any church that promotes a one-dimensional worship style is perceived as narrow and dogmatic regardless of whether it is a traditional or contemporary church.* The fact that you are suggesting that this worship style is the only acceptable one is enough to send me running the other way. Was God sitting in heaven longing for Hillsong to come along before he could finally sit back and say "phew, they finally got it. Now thats worship!" Or is he curled up in a corner somewhere reminiscing on the days of Charles Spurgeon - "Oh angels I gota tell ya, those were the days! If only I could hit 'pause' on humanities freedom of expression and evolution of culture so that I could be worshiped with organs and hymns for all eternity!" I think not.
So what kind of worship are millennials drawn to? According to the survey they are drawn to the quiet much more than the loud. This doesn't imply a return to "grandmas organ" but rather a rediscovery of what it means to be in the presence of God free from agendas and ulterior motives. That's some pretty neat stuff.
Check out the articles below which go into more depth.
Until the next one,
What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials?
Millennials Do Not Want Flashy Worship, Study Shows
The Raw Church Movement
* Of course, this depends on the church's cultural context. Churches in multicultural and multi-generational communities are the ones that are perceived as narrow and dogmatic when they approach worship in a "this way and no other" fashion. Whereas churches in mono-cultural contexts do not fall under this kind of scrutiny for obvious reasons.