To many pastors, millennials are the boogey man. Their assumed apathy towards church, the constant selfie-taking and the irrational devotion to skinny jeans (as Trey Wince mentions) strikes fear in the hearts of God’s bravest leaders. This fear is fed by the rattling off of statistics that predict the untimely death of the church and the millennial as the grinning grim reaper. Yet, the truth is, relevant ministry with and to millennials doesn’t have to be a nightmare. While it will be a challenge, these three strategies can help us face the millennial boogey man and live to tell the story.
- Turn on the light: Like the boogey man who lurks in the dark, millennials incite fear simply because we cannot see beyond them. We get lost in everything that says they’re too different and we’re too out of touch to engage them. As transformational leaders we are called to “turn on the light” and illuminate ourselves to the possibility that millennials are just as desperate for God as we are. It doesn’t matter if it is tweeted or texted, millennials are searching for meaningful messages from God that we can help them hear.
- Go under the bed: Like all “creatures of the night” millennials have their hideouts. They have places, interests and ideas that are gathering points of critical mass. Whether it’s the artisan brewery, the CrossFit gym, or a twitter feed, – there are places in each of our communities where millennials physically and virtually gather. Where are most millennials hanging out in your community and why? When was the last time you were there? What did you learn? What would it look like to join the conversation or have a small group intentionally meet there?
- Find out what’s behind the door: Millennials may like different music or they may prefer a video to a book. But the one thing that unmasks ministry with millennials is mission. The millennial generation is driven by a deep-seated desire to see that work and faith is making a tangible impact in the world. The United Methodist Church may be asking to “make disciples for the transformation of the world,” but millennials are asking who, when and how many. Design missional experiences that require less money changing hands and more hands getting dirty. Make mission matter.
Once you realize the boogey man isn’t in the room, you can connect mission, ministry and millennials to live out our vision of a transformed world together.
See you on the mission field,