Pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about how to reach millennials.They range in age from 20-37 or so, or around that, and they probably do not care what we are saying here :-).
But we care, and we all wish there were more of them at church on Sunday, or in any group of the church, or at least listening to or watching our sermons on our website.
And why don’t they like the kind of church we like? And the Swedish hymns I love to sing?
Fact is, some of them have nothing or little against Jesus our Lord. They just give Him no thought.
They may have fought against the church in general of course. So we want to write about it.
We will try to use some stories, in case you are a millennial!
With love and authenticity,
Knute, and Jeff and Jim
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Why can’t we just tell them to think differently?
Because they don’t. 🙂
Every generation has a worldview and a unique slice of the culture they grow up in.
Our job as leaders is to exegete that worldview and to understand how that generation thinks within that culture.
- It just is not so simple. And the moment we begin to close off any intelligent and biblical discussions regarding our theological beliefs we have lost our way of learning.
- It is our joy and responsibility to live in harmony with millennial friends, and if we just push them out we will lose a most faithful committed group of Christ-followers.
- Well, we can, and we do; but it just does not do much good. Do we fool ourselves sometimes?
- Because they grew up so very differently than we did, and a lot of that is because of the way their parents raised them, no doubt.
- Just as when we “send” mission people to other lands we urge them to learn the language and the culture of the people there…well, you can finish the sentence for people in our setting and these times.
How do we communicate with them?
- The best way to communicate with them is in relational settings, so our tones have to change.They don’t process “hellfire and brimstone.”We can teach them the deep, powerful, and even confrontational truths of the Scripture, but we must do this in a gentler tone that is more of a conversation.
- Communicate with them in a narrative fashion.
For most millennials, everything they’ve ever heard or experienced has come in story form—TV show, movies, even the books they listen to.When speaking to them, move away from the academic mindset of three or four points and more into a narrative mindset of one overarching point. They will hear it better.
- Speak to them conversationally.
Ask rhetorical questions.
Maybe in a smaller setting ask for feedback, and help them to own their faith in a different way.
- Honestly and openly!
- Relationships lead to conversations with this great group of people.
- You will earn the awesome privilege to learn from them and speak into their lives.
- God has called us to love one another.
- Speak with them not to
- I have found that millennials are the most loyal servants and supporters in the church when they realize you love them.
- They are eager to be heard and understood and they are often lumped into pockets of categories that are just not true.
- Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t adding to the separation because of our incessant attempt to speak despairingly about them.
- Use whatever tool that is available to communicate with them on social media, but don’t take over their platforms.
- In plain language, straight, with calm love. And patience.
- With stories, and mission, mission, mission. Many do want their lives to have meaning and purpose. Not all, but many.
- With loving candor and authenticity. Just as all of us do not listen well when the preacher acts like a Preacher, millennials do not wish to be lectured to, belittled, or talked down to.
- With sensitivity to their inability to grab eternal truths the same way many of us olders did—“God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me.” I do remember.
- In relationships, or over coffee, with careful conversations, and with patience.
- In a worship service, often after worship and music that touches their hearts and likes. Unfair or not, this is often true.
What questions are they asking?
- A millennial is always asking the question, “Why? Why would God want me to do that…or why did God say…?”
- The second big question is, “Does it work?”
How do they view the Scripture?
- In general:
Millennials view the Scripture as good thoughts and optional actions.A millennial will think more in terms of spirituality, so they will think of the teachings of Christ, and the whole of Scripture, as a way to deepen and improve their lives.They really struggle with the authoritative nature of Scripture.When Scripture is taught this way the reaction tends to be, “That’s the way you view it.”
- Real solid foundational work has to be done so that they can engage the Scripture as authoritative truth.
What can we do to appeal to them?
- Relationships, relationships, relationships!They crave mentoring, friendships, and parental relationships, so one of the best tools we have is our willingness to invest in their lives.Some of the retirees in your congregation may be your best secret weapons when it comes to reaching millennials, because the retirees can take the time to invest in them.The other wonderful asset most pastors and church leaders have—their home.Open your home to a millennial. A game night, a dinner—or invite them simply to be part of the rhythm of your family.These are the types of relationships they are very open to and often looking for.
What questions are they asking?
- How does God fit into my life?
- Why is there so much evil in the world?
- Why can’t we just let everyone find his or her own way to God?
- Is there really one way to God?
- How can we make a difference with the underprivileged in our world?
- How can I get to the top faster than my parents?
How do they view Scripture?
- They are very teachable and have a high regard for Scripture, once you have taken the time to show them how relevant it is to their lives.
- Once again, they are diligently seeking the truth and are willing to ask questions instead of just believing something because you do.
- They most definitely want to know what you believe and why you believe it.
- Lastly, the parents are at fault just as much as the millennials, when their beliefs run awry, because many parents have carpooled them around to everything except the local church.
- Why would God allow or do that? How can judgment that includes death like that take so many pages of the Bible and history? What kind of a God…well, you can finish the sentence. We all have many questions we cannot answer, and maybe can be glad some people are honest about the hard parts.
- Why does sin matter so much? Okay, probably not out loud, but this shows up in two ways:
More than many who are older, they see the judgments in the Bible and wonder how sin could deserve that. Or they admit they are sinners who sin, but see no need for judgment for that. “Aren’t we all sinners?”
- Why, in general? Why, about tragedies? Why, so many hypocrites? Questions we all have asked, but many of them were just answered lightly as we were told to have faith and stop questioning God.
- So they certainly need to see and feel the Big Story of Scripture, including how we were made to know God, and why the Savior came because we, all people, kept running away from their Creator, with no way to deal with their sin and guilt.
- Scripture must be seen as the story of grace and truth, not just a lot of lists of actions to do or avoid. And especially to understand what it means to live in spiritual combination with Christ.
- Nothing we know or learn should water down the truth of Scripture as revealed, but the issues must be presented with love, with authentic care, patiently, and with authentic sincerity.
Pastorpedia is a ministry of CE National, a church effectiveness ministry. To receive an email when each Pastorpedia is available, signup for ON MISSION Insights at cenational.org/omi_signup.
The three experienced pastors in these videos are Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.
Ed Short, CE National church consultant, is available to help you launch your ministry into a more thriving atmosphere. Visit cenational.org/candc to find out more.