This article is not about theological/eschatological millennialism. It is about the population born in the 1980’s and the 1990’s. Consider some characteristics of these folks:
Special – they have always been treated as special.
Sheltered – they were highly protected as children. Sometimes their parents were called “helicopter parents.”
Confident – they are motivated, goal-oriented, and confident in themselves
Team-oriented – they are group-oriented rather than being individualistic
Achieving – their generation focuses on good grades
Pressure – they had tight schedules as children
Conventional – they are civic-minded and avoid non-conformity
They are the largest living generation (88 million to the 76 million boomers) and there are more of them in the work force than any other age group. Most of them have college debt and are less likely to own a home, and 59% of their parents (boomers) financially support them in some way. They do not invest (they think it is too risky); however, they do save. 25% of them never marry. They seek to balance work with family.
How Does Any of This Affect Church Ministry?
First of all, these are over generalizations and there are many exceptions. However, some of these characteristics are having and will have a great impact upon the ministries of the local church. Wise leadership will be aware of this and use these for the glory of the Lord and the good of the church. If you have lots of millennials in your local congregation, you need to stop what you’re doing and give thanks for them. The majority of millennials do not attend church anywhere. If they are attending your church, give thanks.
If you haven’t noticed yet, you will learn that they have lots to offer.
Church Leadership Must Create an Atmosphere of Teamwork
Church leadership may not like certain things about the millennials. However, church leadership should and must communicate with this generation. In some cases, church leadership is not trusted or known by the millennials. Leadership must take the first step in getting to know these young folks and allow them to know the leadership. Trust is created by relationships. Leadership needs to create an ‘open door’ policy with this generation. Millennials must feel like they can approach leadership about anything anytime. By the way, this is a good policy for all members of the church. An atmosphere of teamwork must permeate the local church: leaders and millennials are on the same team.
Millennials are Civic-Minded
They believe in and are involved in local noble causes. Can you think of a more noble cause than the church? Millennials are sometimes more comfortable and more involved in local civic causes than church causes or ministry. This may be due to the lack of challenging (or what they would call) noble causes/ministry in the church. Boomers and Builders give liberally to the church; millennials give to several causes. Millennials look at the BIG picture. How may we address this? Congregational mission statements. When millennials (and for that matter, all members of the church) are challenged by a biblical purposeful mission statement and all the ministries of the local church contribute to that mission statement, millennials may be more likely to get involved and expend their resources to the cause. This takes time, prayer and lots of communication. Leaders need to put forth effort to harness the millennials’ interest in serving others and put it to work for the local church.
Millennials are Team-Oriented
There are few things as important to a millennial as ‘relationships.’ They love small groups, they love good Bible classes designed for them. They love people who accept them and think like them. Ministry is one of the best (if not the best) places for teamwork in the church. They like working in groups. Some churches prefer a more intergenerational mix of groups; millennials prefer, it appears to me, to serve in groups with their peers (fellow/sister millennials). Their intentions are pure.
Millennials respect older members; this would be people their parents’ ages and their grandparents’ ages.
Leadership needs to create ministry that calls for teams that are well-balanced and well organized for the good of the church and the community.
Millennials are Special
These are the children whose parents spent thousands of dollars on birthdays, proms and graduations. Their parents often used the phrase, “You are special” when addressing them as children. This may have contributed to some of the entitlement that (some) millennials feel.
They are special in the biblical sense that the Lord has designed each of them (in fact all of us in the church) with gifts, passions, life skills and life experiences that make us each unique (special). God has a general purpose for millennials and a specific purpose for each of us. Emphasize just how special each member of the church is.
Millennials are Confident
Many millennials are highly educated and trained (they are the most educated generation in the USA). They are motivated, goal-oriented and are confident about the future. They are hopeful and optimistic in many ways. Instead of being threatened (as is the case in some churches) by such, why not use these for His glory? If you have confident millennials in your church, use all their blessings for the good of the church. This may take some creativity and thought and guidance, but the benefits will be great. It would be of great benefit to you as an individual and to the church as a whole to learn to listen to millennials. By the way, millennials are tech savvy and know how to use social media for the good of the church. We are considering starting a ‘social media ministry’ using our millennials to assist.
Challenges that Some Millennials May Bring
Some millennials, if not challenged properly, will go elsewhere to church or not at all. Some millennials may not have an appreciation for current ministries in the church; they may even appear insensitive and cliquish. Some may have an entitlement mindset. Some may even run ahead of the church leadership without seeking ‘permission’ to do a project.
Millennials are not necessarily known for their loyalty to the local church or the church of Christ. Most millennials are free thinkers and don’t like to wait to do things. They also expect the church do things well when they are done; they believe their children deserve it. They will not waste their time or resources on ministry without a biblical or meaningful (to them) purpose. My experience with them is that they create their own projects and ministries, many times without any permission or guidance from the church leadership. This can be good and this can be bad; the attitudes of both parties play an important role here. As a leader you must remember that their intentions are good. It may appear that they do not want your guidance. However, that is not so; you must approach them without questioning their motives.
If church leadership can harness the blessings and the positives of the millennial generation, every generation of the church will be blessed, the church will grow and the Lord will be glorified in its locale. The unity of the church will also be enhanced; this makes the church more attractive to a lost community.
In closing, if you are a church leader, go back to the beginning of this article and read through the description of millennials again. Do you see some things listed there that trigger some creative thoughts in your mind? What is it about these folks that would be a good ministry for them?
Communicate with, pray for, build relationships with, value, and equip millennials for service and watch the Lord bless your efforts. In fact, do all of these with all members of the church and reap great benefits. Trav