I count myself as a millennial, so I believe I can speak on this with some level of authority. If you don’t know what a millennial is, it’s a broad term for a generation born approximately between the years 1982 and 2002. A popular video did the rounds on social media earlier this year, which really speaks into this well. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out here
Millennials are often seen as one of the most difficult generations to engage with due to a variety of reasons; some older generations put it down to ‘selfishness’ and ‘self-entitlement’ where as others blame the older generations as the parents of this age group. The common argument around ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mindset has become the popular rhetoric that only seems to result in more finger-pointing in every direction, which does no one any favours.
I tend to take a more sociological approach. I instead look at the increasing complexities that millennials face. Millennials have grown up in a world of rapid hyper-connectedness through means that no other generation has faced before; I’m talking about social media, mobile connectedness (smartphones etc) and the integration of the internet in the mid-late 1990s. With this, can come the need for instant social gratification. This raises the question; how has the Church responded?
The Church may not have to like how young people are, but the fact is; it’s the way this generation is, and the Church must meet young people where they are. It’s a harsh reality, but one that cannot be ignored.
The Barna group is a body of researchers that focus on generational needs and views, and they do fascinating statistics on the Church, particularly as it pertains to engagement. David Kinnaman is president of Barna Group and the author of ‘You Lost Me: Why young Christians are leaving the Church’ (buy here).
Kinnaman focuses on millennials’ needs for understanding and Church transparency in issues that millennials want to know about, particularly around social issues. The Church can shy away from the tough topics, which can create millennials to grow a mistrust in the Church. Again, whether these feelings are apt or not, the fact remains; it’s where young people are at, and the Church needs to be able to effectively and transparently address the concerns of millennials.
I have noticed a strong correlation between the Churches that are open about talking about ‘taboo’ topics and growth and sustainability of young people.
The question I would encourage any Church to ask millennials is this; what do you want to know? And then be prepared to journey with millennials through this. The need for instant information needs to be available, and if this means the Church needs to brush up on its modern-day apologetics, then this is what must be done.
The truth of the Bible is our ally, and we need to guide young people to the same understanding. It all starts with the question; what do you want to know?
(More reading form Barna group: https://www.barna.com/research/what-millennials-want-when-they-visit-church/)