(Note: if you’re not a Christian, this blog will probably be a bit on the boring side for you. Thanks for being patient with me- I’ll get back to my usual music blogging on Friday).
I’ve noticed lately that my generation (millennials) have been getting a lot of bad press lately in the mainstream media. We’re accused of being lazy, self centered and irresponsible.
I won’t try to defend myself here (most critics would just accuse me of being overly sensitive if I did), but I will say that love us or hate us, Millennials now represent a huge majority of the young families and singles that churches are trying to reach. Here’s my take on how to connect with us, without changing the heart of your message:
1. Actions speak louder than words.
My generation really doesn’t care as much about what you say from the pulpit, unless you live it out. We value honesty about both failures and triumphs, and we want to hear you talk about both honestly and frankly in your sermons.
2. Focus on conversations, not monologues.
For most of us, years of schooling has conditioned us to see long speeches as boring, but we’ll gladly listen for hours to conversations (the explosion in popularity of 45-60 minute conversational-style podcasts in the last 5 years supports this idea). Pushing communication in a more conversational direction will help us stay engaged, and absorb what you're saying better.
3. Recognize the role that technology plays in our lives.
Love it or hate it, we are the most connected, tech-savvy generation in history. There are downsides (i.e. shortened attention spans) but there are also tremendous opportunities to connect.
One of the biggest mistakes church leadership makes with technology is not realizing that many of the most important relationships, discussions, and connection opportunities for Millennials are on social media. Regardless of what you think about online interaction, if you don’t at least recognize and interact using online methods, you’re missing out on a big chunk of the conversation.
4. Be transparent.
Don’t be afraid to be honest. Perhaps more than any other generation, Millennials have been hardwired to sniff out any form of hypocrisy. Almost all of us have had emotionally difficult moments in our past from people inside and outside the church were hypocritical (parents divorcing, church splits over stupid stuff, etc), and we’ll recognize when you’re acting inconsistently very quickly.
5. Connect personally.
More than anything else, we care a lot about whether someone shows love to us and our community, not just those within the church. Encouraging conversation over coffee (and yes, we drink a lot of it) or other small acts of kindness go a long way toward communicating that you care and are genuine about living out your faith. As Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”