How Toronto’s C3 Church is attracting millennials to Christianity
For some millennials, Sundays are not about sleeping in or finding the best brunch spot in the city.
Instead, it’s a day where people come together and celebrate their faith in one of the hippest churches in Toronto.
C3 is not your traditional Christian church.
The pastor, 32-year-old Sam Picken, can be seen wearing black skinny jeans and a black T-shirt that shows off his sleeve of tattoos.
WATCH: Hundreds of millennials drawn to C3 Church in Toronto. Farah Nasser has more.
The service starts out with a band, dressed in everyday clothing, playing trendy music — making it feel more like a concert than a traditional church service.
Picken told Global News he tries to make the messages relevant to those attending the service.
“I think to myself, what would I like to go to?” Picken said.
“I think that if Jesus was alive today … I think he would be wearing jeans and a T-shirt and he would look like you and look like me walking around the streets and hanging out and living in our society, in our culture.”
Picken said he interprets the values and messages of the Bible into the present to make it more “relevant” to his churchgoers.
Attendance has grown since its start in Toronto nearly four years ago. The congregation began with eight people but Picken said more than 1,000 people attend his services on Sunday.
The church was founded in Sydney, Australia over 35 years ago by Phill and Chris Pringle.
WATCH: Sam Picken, pastor at C3 in Toronto describes typical Sunday service
“There are just under 500 C3 churches all around the world,” Picken said.
“When people arrive, the first thing they see and hear is not the preaching or the religion, so to speak, it’s just the people. When you’re walking up the stairs, even if you did arrive with a cynical heart, you’re meeting the people.”
Ipsos polling, conducted for Global News, showed that Generation X and Baby Boomers are more likely to not attend religious services or meetings, while millennials are more likely to go once a week or more.
“There were a large group of churches that actually grew up in the 1980s in Australia, so Hillsong, C3, and some other churches of its type that are Pentecostal, are charismatic churches that really cater to what we call ‘seekers,’” said Laura Beth Bugg, an assistant professor for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto.
“So millennials who may have been affiliated with churches when they were in their teens but left the church and now are drawn back into this sort of experience that is offered at C3,” she said.
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“The pastor is wearing skinny jeans, they have Instagram accounts, Facebook, podcasts, the music is very highly produced. So instead of moving away from popular culture, they are actually actively immersed in popular culture.”
Mirelli Vanheer attends C3 services with her husband Robert Clement, but said in her 20s she felt disconnected from her faith.
“I had a lot of doubts and I would probably say that I was an atheist in my 20s. I just didn’t see the relevance of faith or even believe that God existed,” she said.
“But through a series of really grappling with that question and seeking answers, I think my faith has become more real and more relevant.”
When Vanheer looks at the young people attending C3, she said it brings her back to that time when she was in her 20s.
“When I had questions I didn’t have a church that I could go to, to find those answers. C3 is doing that for people in their 20s and 30s and so when I see people walk through this door I see me, but I see that they have a kind of hope that I didn’t have,” she said.
“They have a place to go to that I didn’t have … I can really relate to that struggle and that time of questioning and I just want to encourage people that there are real answers and this is a great place to find them.”
Picken said while he knows trends can change, he believes people will always be drawn to church.
“We have 60 year olds in our church that are themselves, but young at heart, and it’s attractive and we’ll adjust with trends without compromising the message,” Picken said.
“I think people are always going to love the church. I always have.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.