Remember back in the day, you were a little kid in the Masjid excited about the anticipation of a Masjid sleepover (the elders called it I’tikaaf). You were running around playing tag; you were giggly and talked non-stop with your friends. Someone brought a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos to the party (others came with their Slurpees), the delight was building .. that is until the flustered frowning elder told you all to shut up or go home. “This is I’tikaaf,” he shouted, “not childcare!”
First and foremost we must all take a deep breath and understand that there truly is such a thing as ‘generation gap’; Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. Goldman Sachs defines Millennials as the generation born between 1980 and 2000. Today this demographic group comprises people age 15-35 with an average age of 25 as of 2015. In many ways, this cohort’s characteristics resemble those of prior generations, but with great extremes. They are more educated, more ethnically diverse, more politically liberal, more tech savvy, and less religious than Gen Xers and Boomers. Millennials are currently the largest generation in the U.S., and unless traditional leadership-to-community engagement adapts, we might find them unfulfilled and disengaged. Or has that already happened?
Let’s explore this question: Based on what research has uncovered from this generation’s behaviors and attitudes, how may we engineer and enhance the Muslim Millennial’s worship experience?
Top Values: Happiness and Passion
According to research compiled by CEBGlobal, Millennials value happiness as the top of their most-desired value! Horror and Tales of punishment aren’t going to keep them engaged. And the constant doom-and-gloom political rhetoric of the Baby Boomer generation just won’t cut it anymore.
Instead of a lecture about punishment, how about more lectures on the characteristics of Paradise? Instead of non-stop seriousness in the Masjid, why not activities that get Millennials smiling, having fun and interacting with one another? Instead of non-stop depressing political commentary, how about detailed and inspiring stories of individuals and organizations that are making a positive difference?
What ideas do you have to make the worship experience Happier?
Environments that are SOCIAL
In a survey conducted by PGI, they showed that 88% of Millennials want a fun and social work environment. Now it’s not a given that that translates to the worship environment, but I’m going to speculate that a fun and social worship environment would also resonate with this generation. Remember back to the friends, Doritos and giggles of youth that we spoke of earlier? I’ve seen the community in Dallas, U.S.A, attracting Millennials solely for the reason that there are age-similar like-minded Millennials that they can socialize with in their Masjid worship experience.
Perhaps Masjid management could design age or profession specific Halaqas so that Millennials can meet and build bonds with one another.
(But to be honest, I’m at a loss, and I need your thoughts: how does one foster friendship amongst people?)
What ideas do you have to make the worship experience more FRIENDLY and SOCIAL?
Founder and President of DiscoverU, an Islam-based personal development institute. Muhammad Alshareef graduated Islamic Law from Madinah University and holds a Masters Degree from West Virginia University. Canadian, ethnically Egyptian, and a true citizen of the world. He writes about Islamic solutions to popular personal development questions.