A friend invited Chanel Lee to come to Fusion Church in Somers Point four years ago.

Lee, just 19, at the time, wasn’t raised in a religious household, but recalls that the spiritual experience changed her life that day.

“I was not happy with my life. I didn’t really understand who I was,” said Lee, who is now one of the worship leaders at Fusion.

Lee, of Ocean City, is unlike most millennials, identified as those in their teens to early 30s. Numbering more than 83 million, they are now the largest generation, surpassing baby boomers. But fewer than 30 percent of millennials attend services at least weekly, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.

But while some of the biggest declines have been among mainline Protestants and Catholics, churches like hers have been holding their own.

The number of worshipers at churches in the evangelical Protestant tradition, which includes many non-denominational congregations like Fusion Church, have at least remained unchanged or may have risen by as many as 5 million, according to Pew research.

At Coastal Christian Church in Ocean City, traditional values can be expressed in modern ways, such as daily posts to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The church streams its midweek and Sunday services.

While there is often a temptation for older generations to hold onto their traditions, Pastor Matt Stokes, lead pastor at Coastal Christian, said his church has a growing young adults ministry and four millennials on staff — the worship leader, two student ministries leaders and the office assistant.

A majority of musicians who lead the church’s worship throughout the week are young adults, Stokes said.

“Millennials do not hold tradition in such high esteem,” Stokes said. “At Coastal, we believe ‘the message never changes, but the method is always changing.’”

At Fusion Church, about 30 percent of worshipers are millennials, Lead Pastor Brendon Wilson said.

“They (millennials) often don’t have a sense of spirituality, or they have seen a church that is old-fashioned or disconnected with what they would feel are current issues in society,” Wilson said.

But things change. Marriage, children and life events — even divorce at a young age — cause people to think spiritually, Wilson said.

Praise Tabernacle in Egg Harbor Township has 350 members, 275 of whom show up regularly on Sundays, Pastor Steve Rahter said.

About 60 are millennials, said Rahter, who also has two daughters, ages 23 and 26.

They want to experience God’s presence, he said.

“They are looking for teaching or preaching that is not just Bible lessons, but truth that is applicable to the reality of their daily lives,” he said.

They also want to see their church taking a stand with the poor, the homeless and the oppressed, Rahter said.

Millennials come in all different styles, Stokes said.

“What I love about our fellowship is that you can walk into a church service and see the senior citizen wearing a suit sitting next to a college kid in skinny jeans,” Stokes said.

One of the Fusion’s services isn’t even in a church.

A 10 a.m. Sunday service is held inside a movie theater on the Black Horse Pike in Mays Landing.

Wilson said a reason Fusion Church and other nondenominational churches might hold more appeal to millennials is partially because of the music.

The songs are driven by bands and not old-fashioned, Wilson said.

There’s also social media, something these churches are heavily involved with.

Fusion’s announcements and videos are released through social media.

Praise Tabernacle has a website, YouTube channel, a church app and streams services through its Facebook page.

When watching a Praise Tabernacle worship service, a person will see more than just singing.

The church allows people to dance, wave flags and banners, or even paint or draw to connect with God, Rahter said.

“You will not see that necessarily in a traditional church,” he said, “because everybody kind of does the same thing at the same time.”

Lee recalls a sense of purpose, a calling, a destiny with her first visit.

“There is a freedom that is within his (God’s) presence, you are not what the world tells you that you are,” Lee said.

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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