In the April issue of Pastorpedia, pastors Jeff Bogue, Knute Larson, and Jim Brown talk about how to relate to
Millennials and Gen-Xers.
Why don’t Millennials change to be like we are, perfect in every way?
The younger ones, we mean. They have such funny ideas and ways.
And when I was their age, I was not sure of people my age, and now I am one of them. That always happens with time—we look down on the generation ahead of us, and then we are they.
So we reverse the order, and critique the younger. Or don’t like their music and clothes.
So the three of us decided to tackle at least part of this, hoping we all believe and practice Philippians 2:1-4. No matter what our age or experience.
And knowing that this is crucial for all churches, and that some attitudes toward the younger could be set to music as a funeral hymn for those churches.
Aging and loving,
Knute, with Jeff and Jim
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Knute Larson will be speaking during Pastorpedia Live on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, in Winona Lake, Indiana. He’ll be discussing how a pastor can lead his church through change. Find out more…
Why aren’t Millennials like we were? And what can we do?
Millennials are fundamentally approaching truth differently than baby boomers or Gen-Xers. A baby boomer and a Gen-Xer would make this statement, “Prove to me what is accurate and right, and I will accept it as truth.” A millennial makes a completely different statement; a millennial will say or think, “Show me what works, and I’ll accept it as truth.”
Generally, if you engage in apologetics with millennials, they will feel like you’re arguing with them and ultimately reach the conclusion that what is right for you is right for you and what is right for them is right for them. With the millennial, we need to start with the life questions they are asking and lead them through the Scriptures—by answering the questions that they’re asking. We have to show them that the Scriptures work, and as they see the Scriptures working, they’ll accept that as their truth. It’s a very different mindset that must be approached in a very different way.
- They live in a world where news is old before it goes to print!
- Everything they watch is on an electronic device, so we must rethink how we communicate with them.
- We can’t allow technology to keep us from connecting with them. We must set aside our anger that surfaces when they communicate by texting instead of talking.
- We must be willing to be all things to all men to reach them instead of holding on to the way we always communicated. Otherwise we shut them out.
- They grew up in a different day then we did and we must be willing to meet them in their world.
- They don’t just have one church—they will go where they can find what they need, often to multiple churches.
- They value transparency and vulnerability, so we must create environments where that can be fostered.
- They are very health-conscious, and are drawn to communities that connect them to running, exercise, diet, and health. We must rethink how we build our buildings.
- They have a big burden for the social needs and injustices in our world. We can get them connected with mission emphases, local and global.
- Just because, is one answer. Same reason we all were not exactly like our seniors in what we liked and disliked. I never attached to the “Ink Spots” music, which my nice parents loved. (And I know only three of you know the name Ink Spots.)
- The communications and electronics and digital revolution. It has exploded at the speed of light. I move we accept what has happened, and use all of the good parts of these changes for ministry and outreach and connections.
- Some of the wrong beliefs that came in almost as fast as the technology—we must face it!—have changed morals and practices we must call sin. How do we love the person as Jesus did, and still someday get to “Sin no more”? Patiently, for sure.
- Some of the changes were reactions to stiffness and even illogical or extra-biblical positions of the church. Way back, we used to say that our church did not believe in pre-marital sex because it could lead to dancing! Now some are mad that many younger people like wine with their spaghetti because they know the people at the wedding Jesus attended got drunk with strong Welch’s!
- One motivating and comforting fact is that young people are attracted to authenticity and love and integrity and openness. Fake and glitzy and clichés should have been ditched long ago.
Who should manage this ministry?
I actually feel very strongly that the senior pastor ought to be the champion of reaching millennials. We need to be asking the question constantly: How do our evangelism methods and focuses need to shift to reach the next generation?
Senior pastors should exegete the culture at all times. We need to lead our churches through the process of allowing them to become places where millennials can connect with God and interact with Him freely.
- Someone who has a heart for them, as they want to see that you love them first.
- A person who is patient with their hit-and-miss attendance. This group floats around. Their long-term commitments are hard to pin down.
- Someone who is in touch with the social needs in the community and world and is willing to open their homes and hearts to them.
- Someone that leverages social media as a tool in connecting with them.
- Someone who values relationships over programs.
- Warning: this is a hobby horse. The point person for any ministry should be on staff, so if there is only one person on staff, that pastor is the main point person. That means he must read and ask and dream, with the help of others. But the ministry manager for any ministry is by definition a strong volunteer, and that may be who should manage the outreach and pastoring of millennials.
- For sure there should be a small (3-5) team of strong and committed people who love our Lord and this group, including both women and men.
- Many churches have the board grappling with this instead of staying with the boundaries of “The Soccer Field” (see Pastorpedia resources) and allowing staff with strong volunteers to run the ministries “in the infield” of the soccer field. At least one or two of them must be great with social media.
How do we help boomers and church leaders feel the need?
One of the biggest ways we help them feel the need is simply to do the math with them. So as a rule, 75% of 75-year-olds go to church and 25% of 25-year-olds go to church. Boomers see that the culture is collapsing and that the church has less and less influence in our culture. We, as senior pastors, need to help them understand that we can teach the Bible unapologetically, we can stand firm on our doctrine and our theology, but we can and must change our methods to communicate God’s truth to a new generation in a new way.
We have to help baby boomers see that millennials are different people. For instance, most of them do not know what it’s like to come from a two-parent family. Most of them have gone through some kind of divorce. Many of them are looking for parental figures. A baby boomer would be a wonderful friend for a millennial to have. Most of them are scared of raising their children; they are unsure how to do it, because they weren’t raised well. Most of them think in terms of community service and involvement. They do not have the isolationist/separatist mindset that the church often had through the baby boomers’ development. They would believe strongly that “if servanthood is beneath you, leadership is above you.”
If you do not interact with them, serve them, and serve with them, they don’t view us as credible.
Finally, the baby boomers have to understand that millennials generally are not as politically oriented as the generation before them. We have to realize they are not as patriotic, they are not as enthusiastic about the country, and they are not as grateful for it. So, those types of messages need to be adjusted within our congregations. After all, Jesus did not come to save a country; he came to build His kingdom.
On the other hand, we should speak plainly to millennials and we should teach them the hard truths of Scripture unapologetically. But we must divorce ourselves from legalism in the Christian subculture.
- Paint the picture for them of their own children and how sad it would be if no one were willing to reach them.
- Help them to see that Jesus longs to see the whole world saved.
- Show them that the younger are the largest group of people on planet earth—if we get them then the majority of the world is reached!
- Create ministry opportunities where they rub elbows with them and see their hearts for the world.
- Give the Millennials opportunities to serve and share their hearts.
- Pray for a softening of hearts between the different age groups. Show that you care for all of them.
- “Feel” is the operative word here. Many will say they believe there is a need, but want younger people to change their ways and likes first.
- Candid talks and prayers. Or by the singing of dirges from funerals if leaders will not open the church doors wider. All you have to do is to drive by the almost-empty church buildings that would not change or add. Sometimes we are not candid enough, with love.
- Pray Colossians 4:2-3—type prayers privately and in the services.
Pastorpedia is produced monthly by three experienced pastors: 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.