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In a conversation recently with one of my friends who works with pastors and religious leaders to engage Millennials (young adults), a pastor said, “I can’t figure them out, I’m done with em.”

“Really?” our friend said in reply. “You’re just gonna give up on connecting to 77 million people?”

I found this conversation very intriguing. I wonder how many faith group leaders feel the same way, that their ability to connect to 20- to 30-somethings is difficult and perhaps the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

I am fully aware that many in the Boomer era (for example) have mischaracterized the Millennials and are at odds with their lifestyles and practices.  But I celebrate this wonderful generation, and have determined that any lack of positive connection is due to an inability to learn, love, and appreciate them.

There is a growing disconnect with Millennials because of the stereotypes many people hold about them. I have had enough personal experiences, and have read enough studies, to simply say that those who label this generation are usually as wrong as chocolate syrup on steak. I believe that with relevant and accurate information, we can sew the fabric of the generations and faith together.

As I pondered the statement “I can’t figure them out, I’m done with em,” I boiled down my thoughts to these reasons to stay engaged.

  1. LOVE. 
    For Millennials, so much of their DNA is relational.  That is, they are enlivened by relationships that engage and empower, not demean and judge.  Loving this generation is really natural and easy IF you first take a step back and admire the lives they are leading.  If you are a boomer reading this, do you remember how rebellious your parents thought you were when you wore bell-bottom pants and platform shoes?  Now the trends include piercings, tattoos, hair designs of all types, apparel (or not), and so on. When one looks upon the heart and loves people for their unique nature FIRST (without judgment), then the anecdotal stuff evaporates like dew in the sun and is replaced with holistic respect and genuine care.
     
  2. LEARN. 
    Personal engagement is the best source of knowledge.  I became a pilot once, and when I actually took my first solo flight, my hands-on learning took on a whole new meaning. No longer was I watching someone else fly a plane on video or in the passenger’s seat. You can study the Millennials by various means in all of their forms; but you can only authenticate that knowledge by spending time with them.  As you learn more about them, it becomes much easier to connect. Why? Because they make sense. The package they came in is as unique as a snowflake, and by learning more about them, it is easier to love them.  As I said in a recent blog post, “3 keys to working with Millennials,” you need to learn their language. Take the time to learn about them and really know them.
     
  3. APPRECIATE. 
    Maybe the number one key is don’t try to fix them.  Part of the appreciation we ought to have for them is centered in recognizing the amazing things they are teaching us and appreciating the authentic lives they are living.  Appreciation is most often communicated in the eyes and by expressing gratitude. This real time generation is motivated by feedback and recognition.  Appreciate them enough to communicate with gratitude—and mean it.

I believe any frustrations in establishing a positive connection with Millennials can be answered by these three reasons to stay engaged. This generation is teaching us great lessons in questioning the status quo, not judging, seeking understanding, and living lives with purpose.  I for one want to establish deep community with them, sincerely LOVE them without an agenda, LEARN about them and from them, and APPRECIATE their value and worth by authentically celebrating who they are.

Learn more about engaging your Millennials in their faith through the Leader’s Portal of Launching Leaders, and through Steve’s book, Leadership by LIGHT: Principles That Empower

 

 

Steven A. Hitz is a founding director of Launching Leaders Worldwide, a faith-based nonprofit organization that helps Millennials create their future. Learn about the online learning resources available to your church through the organization’s Leader’s Portal and through Steve’s book, Leadership by LIGHT: Principles That Empower. Visit LLworldwide.org.

 

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Rev.rael Imo

commented on Jan 19, 2017

Rael Imo Thanks Steven foe the 3 keys to working with Millennial's, I have not interacted so much with the young adults since i have been working close with children from age 0-15 and it has come clear to me that when i get the opportunity to work close with young adults i have a better strategy to handle them since they are people with a potential and are able to make difference in the environment in which we are in .thank you.

Ottoniel Landrau

commented on Jan 20, 2017

Take a step back and admire the lives they are leading? Recognizing the amazing things they are teaching us? Appreciating the authentic lives they are living? Wow... I frown upon "relevant" "loving" pastors who want to "win" over millenials by embracing and celebrating their lifestyles and "cool" choices. Preach the gospel, live it, and dont worry about being "liked" by millenials. Millenials are just humans in need of repentance just like every other generation. We are supposed to be teaching them how to live godly lives, how to have faith in the face of advercity, how to apply Romans 12:1-2 in their daily lives. When the "gospel" we preach suddenly lacks the power to convict and regenerate hearts and minds then the only thing left is to try to use carnal means to "attract" carnal millenials. Saving power belongs only to God and is not found in our "carnal" ways. Just preach the gospel and live it. Abide in Christ and lets not worry about being "relevant" to millenials. The gospel is always relevant and will always be relevant to spiritual awakend humans (including millenials).

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