Millennials And Faith: Can eLearning Draw Millennials Back to Faith?

Millennials And Faith

The Pew Research Center’s study on America’s Changing Religious Landscape released on May 12, 2015, contained alarming, and disheartening, information about the Millennial Generation’s decline in identifying themselves as Christians. According to the study, the number of Millennials identifying themselves as having no religious affiliation increased by 9% since 2007. Over 30% of Millennials claimed to have no religious affiliation. This statistic has set off alarm bells in the Christian community. Well, honestly, these alarm bells started ringing years ago, but this study raises the volume to a deafening roar. The question has been asked a million times, how do we reach Millennials in a meaningful way and engage with Millennials to show them how they fit into modern Christianity?

How Can eLearning Draw Millennials Back to Faith

I believe the answer lies in the way Millennials are already interacting with the world around us. Churches cannot reach this generation using the same techniques that worked with previous generations. Christians need to meet Millennials where they live, on-line. Many churches have already started to do this, but failed to get the long-term traction that they were hoping for. So, where is it going wrong?

Look at one of the most effective and prolific arenas in which churches engage with their congregation: small group curriculum and discipleship courses. The small group curriculum model has changed very little since Saddleback Church introduced the HOST small group ministry concept in 2001: ordinary people with HEARTS for unconnected people to OPEN their homes, SERVE a few refreshments, and TURN on the VCR. Now it is a DVD or Blu-ray player instead of a VCR, or maybe even a podcast, but this model is still the most prevalent means of engaging members outside of Sunday gatherings. Even the largest churches with a huge on-line presence rely on this model.

More often than not, existing on-line curriculum consists of 45-minute sermons (either a podcast or video) accompanied by a PDF of questions to discuss in person. Sometimes there is a discussion forum included, but typically there are no interactive elements beyond an email address to contact if you have any questions.

Why isn’t this model working to draw in and maintain a relationship with Millennials? The root of the problem is that they are not being equipped with the proper outreach materials. The Millennials that are already attending church and are committed are willing to trudge through a 45-minute audio segment from a pastor that they know and respect, but the chances of an unconnected Millennial dedicating a 45-minute chunk of their day to a recording of a sermon are slim to nil. Small group and discipleship curriculum is all or nothing at this point, either you invest the time or you disengage completely. Millennials need to be given an instructionally sound alternative, an easily digestible substitute to the cumbersome 20th century model.

Start by looking at how Millennials regard eLearning. As of 2012, more than 30% of college students attended at least one class on-line, and that number increases every year. Focus specifically on Millennial students and that number jumps closer to 60%. As Millennials join the workforce, corporate on-line training options have increased by about 9% per year over the past 5 years! Over 50% of corporate training includes some element of eLearning. Millennials are exposed to well-designed eLearning at work and at school, but when they go to church, they are totally turned off by the outdated content being offered to them there.

If the Christian community came to embrace eLearning principles and standards and applied them to their small group and discipleship events, the sky would be the limit for reaching Christians and non-Christians Millennials. The Christian community could use eLearning as an opportunity to engage with an audience that may otherwise never set foot in a church. Engaging, well-designed, “sticky” eLearning content generated with the help of Instructional Design Professionals could be better engagement tools to Millennials than any other outreach tool. This could take many forms: posting micro-videos on YouTube of Gospel-based principles, gamification of small group curriculum, interactive eLearning content posted on church websites, etc. Look at the success of the YouVersion Bible App and reading plans. There is a hunger for this information in an on-line format; we just have to make it palatable.

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