This month this writer has been looking at the reasons why there is disconnect with Millennials (those born between 1977 and 2000) in many congregations. The overwhelming reasons outlined this month have been because this age group is
grossly misunderstood and wholly underutilized and in some cases unappreciated. As a result of this disengagement many congregations are losing this age group, most never return. In the conclusion of this series, the Barna Group’s “Five Reasons Why Millennials Stay Connected” (Sept. 2013) will be summarized to assist congregations in building deeper, more lasting connections with Millennials.
1. Make room for meaningful relationships. Among those Millennials who remain active in church, this much is clear: the most positive church experiences are relational. This stands true from the inverse angle as well: 7 out of 10 Millennials
who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly 9 out of 10 never had a mentor at the church.
2. Teach cultural discernment. A second important ministry outcome for today’s Millennials is helping them develop discernment skills—especially in understanding and interpreting today’s culture. For a generation that already laments the
complexity of modern life, the Church can offer valuable clarity. Millennials need help learning how to apply their hearts and minds to today’s cultural realities. In many ways, pop culture has become the driver of religion for Millennials, so helping them think and respond rightly to culture should be a priority.
3. Make reverse mentoring a priority. A third thing Barna Group’s team has learned about effective ministry to Millennials is that young people want to be taken seriously today—not for some distant future leadership position. In their eyes,
institutional church life is too hierarchical. And they’re not interested in earning their way to the top so much as they’re want to put their gifts and skills to work for the local church in the present— not future—tense.
4. Embrace the potency of vocational discipleship. The church must teach a more potent theology of vocation, or calling. Millennials who have remained active are three times more likely than dropouts to say they learned to view their gifts and passions as part of God’s calling (45 percent versus 17 percent). Most churches seem to leave this kind of vocation- based outcome largely at the door unless these students show interest in traditional church-based ministry. Churches must find a way to help Millennials connect to the rich history of Christianity with their own unique work God has called them to.
5. Facilitate connection with Jesus. Finally, more than a mere community club helping youth cross the threshold of adulthood, church communities can help Millennials generate a lasting faith by facilitating a deeper sense of intimacy with God. This means Millennials who retain a longer lasting faith than their peers are more likely to find a sense of authority in the Word of God—both in the pages of the Bible as well as in their experience of intimacy with the God they follow. In other words, the version of ‘Jesus in a vacuum’ that is often packaged for young people doesn’t last long compared to faith in Christ that is not compartmentalized but wholly integrated into all areas of their life. Beloved, the issue of connecting with young adults will be a topic of continuing discussion for some time especially as we watch a new generation of young people coming of age. What we do know at the present is that young adults are more than the future, they are the present, they are undeniable, vibrant, idealistic, creative, and refuse to be impeded by conventional constraints. It is this writer’s prayer this series has caused church leaders to re-examine their ministry practices as relates to these
adults. Embracing and utilizing the unique contributions these young adults bring to the table will result in a revival in your congregation! Next Month: Breast Cancer Awareness Month The writer does not assume responsibility in any way for readers’ efforts to apply or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles, as they may not be necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.