Thursday, June 08, 2017

Millennials, Applebee's, and the Church

I've read too many articles about Millennials the past few years. Then again, people have also written too many. These articles range from blaming this generation for something to exploring how to court its interest.

Often, these two extremes appear in the same thinkpiece.

One of the most recent is that Millennials are apparently killing Applebee's:
"Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants, and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants," Smith wrote.
Grocery chains are increasingly competing with restaurants, thanks to lower prices and perks such as pick-up and delivery, new technology, and trendy features like wine bars and to-go meals. And meal-delivery kits like Blue Apron are focused on getting millennials on subscription plans to persuade them to stay in and cook a certain number of days a week.

According to this article, going to a sit-down restaurant is not appealing to younger people as cooking at home, ordering from grocery stores or take-out places, or opting for quicker options at places like Chipotle or Panera. The experience of sitting in the booth of a restaurant surrounded by other people and strange decor while paying more is not what they prefer.

What can we deduce that they do prefer? The comfort of home, the choice one may hold by cooking themselves, the convenience of delivery, and fast production between other activities or obligations.

(I think there are also economic factors such as student debt and stagnant wages, but let's set those aside for now.)

To me, there are obvious parallels to some things that today's church is struggling with, at least in my experience. Not as many people are interested in commuting to a place surrounded by others and strange d├ęcor to nurture their spirituality. More and more are interested in exploring their faith from their homes, perhaps surrounded by a few close and trusted fellow pilgrims. I myself have been hearing a lot of wishes for greater convenience and faster production between kids' practices and other responsibilities.

I'm not excusing all of these changes and desires. As a pastor, some of them drive me crazy. But lamenting them won't fix what the church is facing.

How, instead, could the church re-imagine what it does to adapt to this new reality? The article above mentions that more and more restaurants are adding delivery services, as one solution to what they're dealing with. What sorts of equivalents might the church come up with?

More emphasis on small groups in homes, pubs, or coffeehouses?

More resources for those who want to study and pray on their own?

Live-streaming services or producing regular downloadable Bible study videos?

None of these are new or original. But these restaurants' problems are not so different from the church's. After we're done griping, how do we respond?