The Millennials. They are the young fathers and mothers who you want to reach.
They are the young couples you want to mentor. They are the up-and-coming leaders you want to invest in.
Millennials get a negative review at times. We talk about how less committed they are to the church. How they tolerate things that their parents and grandparents would find deplorable. How they have a shallow faith that cannot stand for the truth.
But ... they can be reached. They can be discipled. They can be the next generation of leaders who will take the gospel to the world in unparalleled ways.
And in spite of all you read and hear about them, I want you to know that you can reach Millennials and their families.
Millennials have unique traits and characteristics that you want to know about so you can be effective in reaching and discipling them. Let's look at some of those generational specifics that will help us know how to connect with them and invest in them spiritually.
Millennials are digital natives. They grew up in a digital world and engaging with technology is as natural as breathing for them. And yet we fall behind in using technology to engage with them and share the gospel with them.
Millennials have grown up with massive changes happening all around them. They are used to change and do not walk away from it. But often we refuse to change so that we can stay current with the culture we find around us. If we are going to effectively reach and minister to Millennials, we must keep a solid grip on doctrine while changing our methods so we can be relevant and reach Millennials.
If we are going to reach Millennials, then we must be willing to make key changes in worship style, church methods and mode of operation—even when it means doing things differently than we were brought up with.
Much of what Gen X and Boomers oppose is simply because it's not the way they "did church" growing up. But we must realize change is a catalyst for growth. We must be willing to change what is not working. Churches have a choice. They will either change what Millennials are not connecting with or die a slow death.
I was at a church a few months ago that had no children. No students. No Millennial parents. Just Boomers. The sad news is that church is dying a slow death. Once the older generations pass, that church will have to close its doors. They are terminal.
Millennials are the young leaders who we must invest in. They have so many great qualities. They are:
—Possessing the traits of great leadership.
Millennials truly can change the world for Christ as they step into key leadership roles. But we must also realize that Gen X and Boomers are the key groups that must lead the mentoring. We must add "knowledge to the zeal of Millennials."
Let me ask you: Are you willing to let go of the past? Are you willing to change methods, philosophies and traditions? What worked yesterday must be looked at closely and changed if it is no longer effective.
The reason why many churches aren't reaching Millennials is because they don't understand them and don't have the ability to relate to them. Churches who want to reach Millennials must change that. They must be intentional in relating to them and understanding them.
Here are a few of the key things Millennials are starting to bring to the table.
Secularization: Religious values disappear and are replaced with government ideas. People begin to be influenced by religion less and less.
Gender revolution: The categories of "male" and "female" are deemed insufficient or invalid. Genders become fluid or even optional.
Pluralization—the idea of truth is not absolute: There are many options. To say Jesus is the only way to eternal life is to be intolerant.
And so many are biblically illiterate, having grown up in an increasingly anti-Christian worldview.
Millennials are leaving our churches. For the most part, they have very little connection to the traditional church. The number of Americans ages 18-29 who have no religious affiliation has nearly quadrupled in the last 30 years, and 39% of Millennials are religiously unaffiliated. This is three times the unaffiliated rate among seniors (ages 65 and older).
Many Millennials have become disillusioned with the church: They have watched as their church-attending parents lived one way at church and a different way during the week. This has caused them to ask if Christianity really works in our day-by-day lives. They see their parents and grandparents being solid at church while at the same time being dysfunctional at home. In many cases, they have lost respect for the church because our walk doesn't match our talk.
Rapid change: The average Millennial will have 17 jobs across five careers in their lifetime. They are used to rapid change in every area of their lives. And this includes the church as well. Millennials will switch places of worship often.
Social media: Millennials see social media as a conduit to communicate and connect. It is the language through which they speak. They see no difference between online and offline communication. We must find ways to bring offline community to their online world.
Leadership: Millennials don't follow positions or titles; they follow people they love and respect. They follow relationship, not rules. The old saying is very true with Millennials: People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
We must listen to Millennials: Give them opportunities to lead and be heard. Respect their differences of opinion. Be willing to collaborate with them. I recently read this noteworthy statement:
"For Millennials, leadership is about relating, listening, collaborating and empowering, not about commanding or demanding."
Check their schedule and be flexible. They are very, very busy. They want to know that the things they are investing their time into are relevant and can make a difference. Ask yourself these questions:
—Is this the best time of the week to reach Millennials?
—What programs are no longer fruitful and need to be stopped?
—What programs or events can we consolidate and streamline?
As you do this, it will enable you to put more focus, strategy and quality in what you do.
Church services: Many Millennials believe you can worship without attending church. Add online services to the mix and you'll find that for many Millennials, online church has replaced physically attending a church in person.
Purpose of facilities: You will find that many churches are remodeling and adding areas like bigger foyers, coffee spaces and other gathering points.
Coffee should be your friend: Coffee is about more than a beverage. It communicates to Millennials that your church has a heart for hospitality and care.
Millennials lack understanding of God's Word: But the good news is this—they want to learn more about God's Word. They want to explore the Bible at a deeper level rather than just breezing through the pages.
Giving: While Boomers tithe without question, Millennials are the least likely generation to tithe. And before they give, they want to know what the money is going to and how it will impact people's lives.
If our churches are going to be strong in the future, then we must be willing to change and adjust so we can reach Millennials. When this happens, we will see them make a huge impact on their generation and future generations.
Dale Hudson is a ministry builder. As a children's pastor, he has helped build some of the largest and fastest-growing children's ministries in the country. At Cross Church, he led the children's ministry to double in size. At Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, he helped the church grow from 8,000 to 16,000 in four years with the majority of the growth coming from reaching unchurched families.
For the original article, visit relevantchildrensministry.com.
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