I am not an expert on this subject – by any stretch of the imagination. But, it is a subject I am passionate about and try to learn about as much as I can.
I want to clarify the identity of the people I am talking about, too. I’m not necessarily referring to only the individuals that fall into the generational designation, “Millennial.” I’m talking about young adults – college age to mid-thirties. There’s a whole bunch of them. Church leaders better figure out how to lead them.
Talk to them – not at them. These adults have heard it all about how their generation is lazy, selfish, unmotivated, and still living with their parents. They are often the scorn of older generations who complain about their behavior. I have found this group in our churches to be very responsive to leadership when the leader approaches them from a position of helping or coaching.
Instead of writing them off as a group, build relationships with individuals – make sure there’s a lot of coffee around – and watch them soak up your insight as you talk to them from a position of respect and care.
Challenge them – don’t chastise them. These young leaders love a mission that requires sacrifice and produces tangible results. Far from being lazy, they will fully embrace a challenge to make a difference… if the challenge is about something that matters to them. Older generations make the mistake of thinking that because they don’t care about the things we care about – careers, wealth, social status — they just don’t care. Not true. If you put a mission in front of this bunch, they will rise up in force. Church leaders that challenge this generation with a mission for the Kingdom of God will soon experience the power of this group. But, leaders that only complain and malign these adults will only see the traits everyone commonly assigns to them.
Model behavior for them – don’t mandate it for them. If you stand in the place of authority and preach at this group about what they ought to be doing – but you aren’t really even doing it yourself – you will quickly lose your influence over them.
Roll up your sleeves and get busy doing what you expect them to do and invite them to join you in it. You will never lack for one of these adults to be at your side if you will get busy yourself. They long for authenticity. They crave mentors who are real. They’ve heard it all from us, but the truth is, they haven’t seen that much.
If you will be the person you hope they will be one day, they will follow you and exceed your expectations. Church Leaders that inspire and invest in Millennials with authentic mission and purpose for the Kingdom of God will see them rise up and lead us all to even more impact for God’s glory in His church.
We’ve got to remember, these young adults are reaping what older generations have sown into their lives.
Don’t write them off – pour your life into them – love and lead them now and then follow them as they lead us to even greater impact for the glory of God.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.