Millennials are a powerful force for good. They are educated, talented, passionate, generous, and are looking to use their gifts to change their communities and the world. For churches to tap into the millennial generation, they need to invest time and energy into learning about this generation and what makes them take action. Millennials want to make a difference, and leadership in your church could be the key. Is your church providing them opportunities?
Millennials are largely a mystery to older generations, and they are certainly different than Gen X and Baby Boomers. Their views of culture, affinity for technology and social media, and perceived selfishness make them an easy target for stereotypes that are not necessarily true. This “selfish” generation has high expectations of themselves and the people and institutions around them, including your church.
They want to give back! A lot of the young millennials are living with their parents because of increasing living expenses and school debt coupled with a tough job market. The older millennials are in their mid-30’s and are in the throes of parenting young children while trying to makes ends meet. They are nostalgic, they save money, and they give freely to charitable organizations. Even in the midst of financial struggle, they appear to be the most charitable generation with 84 percent making annual charitable donations and 70 percent volunteering their time and talents to causes they care most about. (Source.)
So, how do you encourage this generation to be leaders in your church?
We believe it’s more about empowering this generation of millennials. If churches can figure out what is important to them, we, as a church community, can unlock their potential and get them in leadership positions within the church. After all, they are the future of the church. Whether these positions are paid or just on a volunteer basis, we’re giving you some ways to tap into their talent in order to reach your community and ultimately, the world.
Ask for feedback. Then, ask them to be a part of the solution.
Call a meeting, and ask them questions. (Tip: you may have to provide a babysitting option to get them there!) Ask if the church is meeting their needs as families and as individuals. If the answers end up being “no,” ask what the church can do to support their marriages, children, and their spiritual journey as men and women of faith. You’ll probably get more ideas than one or two staff members can implement, and this is where you can give them a chance to volunteer their time to bring these new ideas to life. Will it be organizing a parent’s night out once a month at your church? Or, will it be something as simple as setting up and monitoring a young mother’s Facebook group to support each other through this challenging season of life?
Having the church as a whole take an interest in their lives is just one way your millennial members will feel valued by older generations. With millennials actively being a part of the solution, you are empowering them to lead these new efforts and grow as followers of Christ.
Be open to change and new ideas.
Generally speaking, millennials don’t like hearing “this is how we’ve always done it” or “we can’t change that.” They are all about finding solutions to problems, even if it steps on a few toes. If you want to empower millennials to become leaders in the church, let them bring new ideas to the table and keep an open mind. It might not work, but letting them own that mistake and find an even better solution might be the challenge they need to ultimately turn a brilliant idea into a program that reaches the lost.
Create a vision for your church that looks outward.
Create a vision for your church that millennials can support. Center all teachings, social media, and programs around an agenda that is genuinely aiming to save lost souls and be the hands and feet of Jesus out in the community. Arguing about instruments or no instruments will be a really quick way to turn away millennials. Talk about what matters. Reinforce the mission and vision often, and ask young adults to be a part of its success.
Be creative in ways they can further the mission of Christ in their communities.
Allow millennials to chart their own path as far as volunteering or furthering the gospel in their community. We know that they want to give their time and resources, so give them an opportunity to serve, and ultimately lead. Gone are the days where volunteering for the church means just being inside the church walls.
To utilize their talents, you have to think outside the box. Did you know that a tattoo artist can serve Jesus by donating time and resources to covering up sex trade marks on women in recovery? What a wonderful way to serve these women! A tech savvy young man can initiate computer classes at the local senior center in your community to serve past generations.
Chances are, you have millennial writers, photographers, artists, car mechanics, or finance gurus in your congregation just waiting for an opportunity to use their talents. Give them a way to use them in the name of your church, and watch their confidence (and leadership skills) blossom!
Mentor, mentor, mentor.
Discipleship is a HUGE part of Christianity. But millennials aren’t looking for the parent/child type of relationship from their church. They want to learn without being talked down to. They want to try new ideas in the church without a sneer from the older staff members. Mentoring means coming alongside someone and teaching them, adult to adult. It means speaking wisdom into their lives and addressing the sometimes uncomfortable questions that young believers ask.
According to the Pew Religion Study, more than one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith, up 10 percentage points since 2007. This could mean that older members (and parents) aren’t “passing on the faith” as well as past generations. Millennials value learning from older generations and your church will see dividends when members choose to pour into the next generation!
In conclusion, millennials WANT to be a part of a church that loves people, cares deeply for the community, and wants to reach the lost of the world. If your church would like to attract the next generation and grow your numbers, millennials need to be empowered to lead.