Ministering to Millennials

UnknownLast week our executive team participated in Movement Day in New York City.  This is an annual event hosted by the New York City Leadership Center and Redeemer City to City.  It is always a rich time of learning and connection.  There is half a day of plenary speakers and half a day of various seminars related to city reaching.  This year we heard from Tim Keller, Luis Palau, Ajith Fernando, Bob Doll, and Richard Stearns.  Each one of them brought wise and insightful words as they related to the challenge of ministering to cities in the 21st century.  Cru was a co-sponsor and hosted several of the afternoon seminars.  One of those seminars was on Emerging Leaders and the opportunity to minister to the Millennial generation (those born since 1982).  I was actually one of the designers of this track, but not a presenter.  I was excited to hear from others who have gained some critical insight to this important audience.  We put together a panel of qualified people, including: Jonathan Pokluda, Teaching Pastor and Leader of The Porch in Dallas, TX; Matt Mikalatos, our Cru City Leader in Portland, OR and an emerging author; Cristina Chermak, a volunteer leader at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX; and Carrie Walker, one of our Cru City Leaders for New York City.  I gleaned three important principles for ministering to Millennials from their wisdom–here they are.

1. Create Safe Space  The MIllennial Generation is largely either disinterested in the church today if they have never been exposed, or if they have been exposed to church in their upbringing, they are now fleeing the traditional church in great numbers.  To regain their trust and have the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation surrounding the gospel you must create safe space.  Notice I did not say a safe place.  The key is not necessarily a location or a particular building.  It is the atmosphere of that space that allows them to engage freely that is important.  So it might be a church building–or not.  Safe space is primarily about honesty, authenticity, and humility.  Engagement will happen as leadership and participants refuse to hide anything, are real about their own lives, and come along side in stead of preaching from above.  This will provide a pathway for open dialogue about things that matter leading to the gospel.

2. Communicate Boldly, Yet With Respect  Because authenticity is such a high value for this generation, the gospel should not be hidden in any way. There is no need to wrap the message in a slick package.  It must be communicated clearly and without apology.  But it must also be communicated with a respect for one’s current religious beliefs and view of the world.  This is true whether you are communicating one on one or in a group setting.  All people crave purpose and meaning in life, including the millennial generation.  They will attempt many paths to get there.  We must listen and learn if we want to connect in way that will invites another perspective.  The truth of the gospel does not need defending, but our approach may need some tempering if we want to he heard and received.

3. Provide Opportunities To Contribute And Lead  This generation has been characterized as apathetic and lazy.  I have not found this to be any more true than previous generations.  This is actually a passionate generation that wants to contribute.  Sometimes the expectation is to make it big quickly, and that can be a delusion.  But if we take a mentoring approach that provides meaningful and appropriate contributions, I believe we can tap into a rich well of energy and passion.  Their connectedness and knowledge of the world today makes them invaluable to thinking more holistically about mission.  And don’t just look for those who look like natural leaders.  You may be surprised at the depth of those who are not wrapped in traditional leadership clothing.  But if you do not engage them in meaningful ways, you may lose them to other causes.

What are your observations?  What are you learning about ministering to this audience?  If you are a Millennial, what would you tell me about the thoughts above?

4 replies
  1. Justin Karl
    Justin Karl says:

    I really enjoyed this post, I find #2 to be particularly important from working with college aged students and being a millennial myself. I really believe that the Internet changed everything. Everything that is false or a lie or misleading can be found in an instant. We should be clear and bold as Paul models for us in the NT. We must remember that slick packaging of the Gospel…looks like lying and salesmanship in a generation that can research anything from their phone. Wikipedia is the authority to many millennials, not a random ministry guy until a relationship is built. (#1 i.e.)

    #3 can be dangerous risk as we seek to create disciples over fans. I feel like many millennials love being fans or associated with things, but with minimal sacrifice or commitment. For instance, the idea of sacrificial giving time, talent or treasure is foreign but wearing a T-shirt, tweeting or texting in $10 for any given disaster is preferred and the norm. This is problematic in following Christ, which necessitates surrender, when nominal involvement is what many of our generation are accustom to in any religious life or cause.

    • Gary Runn
      Gary Runn says:

      Thanks much Justin for your insightful comments. I really appreciate your insight on Millennials and as a Millennial. I love your emphasis on surrender-which I think is a necessity for all followers of Christ of any generation. I think your “fan” insight is intriguing and causing me to think more deeply about the fan mentality versus true discipleship. Great insights!


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