Reaching Millennials

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by Chad Owens
Chad Owens is the Children's Pastor at Water Of Life Community Church, Fontana, CA. He is passionate for the diverse community he is able to lead and the many families he has the privilege of impacting for Jesus.

There's a new generation on the rise. They're capable, smart, and full of energy. Some people refer to them as the Internet generation because of how advanced they are with digital technology and other social media outlets. Others call them the boomerang generation because they're still trying to find their way in life.

But in most of today’s society they are known as "Millennials." Born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, Millennials have a different outlook on how the world works. They see life through a different lens. Through surveys and research, they state that they value family, marriage, healthy relationships, and meaningful opportunities.

I love what David Stark, president of BusinessKeys International, said about them in his book Reaching Millennials: “It is vital today that we shift our focus and planning for this reality, not in resignation and defeat but by envisioning new ways to engage the culture and younger generations.”

Mr. Stark said it right! To be effective in reaching the next generation we have to shift our thinking. While it is admirable that the old methods used in times past have given the church much success and played a big part in where we are now, those ways of doing ministry will no longer serve as a tool for reaching this new and upcoming group of young people.

But before we can discuss how we can reach and engage Millennials, we must first take a good look at who they are.

GUIDED BY WHAT MATTERS

While studying this topic, I came across the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey. It shows that 70 percent of Millennials believe their personal values are shared by the organizations they work for. This figure rises to 80 percent among the most senior Millennials and 82 percent for those intending to stay on their jobs for at least another five years.

Here, then, is the biggest thing you must understand about Millennials: They are guided by what matters. Because of that, similar other qualities stand out.

Millennials are passionate about making an impact on society. They thrive off of making a difference and seeing lives change for the better. Results bring them great fulfillment because it shows they have meaning and a purpose in the world.

Millennials value their voice being heard. Even if you don’t agree with them, to acknowledge that you heard them will go a long way. Here is another fascinating fact about Millennials.  

Millennials desire to be in a place where their skills are developed. Millennials are less likely to get involved in opportunities that won’t stretch and grow them. The Deloitte survey reported that 63 percent of Millennials are unsatisfied in their current leadership positions because their leadership skills are not being fully developed. Only 28 percent of them reported feeling that their current organizations are making full use of the skills they have to offer. Millennials who are being developed in their current roles tend to show more loyalty and longevity than those who are not being developed. They value hands-on experiences and interaction. When underutilized they move on quickly. 

When I think back on a lot of my opportunities that I've said yes to, I would categorize all of them as once-in-a-lifetime chances. I would often refer to them as “bigger than me” opportunities. Every Millennial who has heart and a vision for their life wants to be part of opportunities like these. As an organization or ministry, you have to make it your absolute focus and desire to provide those for them.  

HOW CAN WE REACCH THEM

So how then do we tap into this generation? What are some methods we can use to connect with them? Here are some practical things you should do to engage Millennials in your ministry.

State the "why."

Millennials are also known as the “Y” generation because they came after Generation X. And the Y generation likes to know why.

Millennials are not the type of people who will do what you tell them to do and do it without an explanation. You must state the why if you want to engage Millennials in your ministry. You can do this by first casting a compelling vision or sharing impactful stories, then tying it in with why their role is important and how it plays a part in what you're doing.  

Each time I'm presented with a new opportunity from Tina Houser, Executive Editor of Kidzmatter Magazine, I'm thrilled! There are so many things about the opportunity that thrill me, but what excites me the most is knowing how much of an impact I’m about to make. Tina does such an incredible job explaining that to me, and I’m sold every time!

Provide feedback.

Millennials love feedback, whether it’s a simple, "Good job," or a more glowing, "Incredible work!" or an instructional, "Here are some things you can improve on." Feedback is a development tool, and Millennials appreciate receiving it.  

However, they don’t appreciate feedback when it's given without relational investment. Ever heard the saying, "People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care?" That statement rings true for Millennials. Make sure your feedback is filled with tender mercies and true concern. And provide practical examples of how you would like to see improvement.

Another tip: Make sure you "sandwich" your feedback. This means: state the positives, give them the areas where they can grow or improve, then state more positives. Always end your feedback on a positive note and ask if they have any questions about what you've told them.

Let them own it.

This is by far the most important thing you can ever do for a Millennial. Whatever the task, project, or assignment you’ve decided to give them, it’s crucial that you allow them to run with it. Millennials like to feel in control, so giving them the responsibility and the authority that comes with the task is important to them. You then should position yourself to partner with them and coach them. It's our job to give them the resources they need to complete the task.

Create an authentic environment.

Millennials want authenticity. They are not impressed by extensive programs that lack purpose and innovation. They love being a part of things that are new and cutting-edge. Creating an environment where dreaming about the future and creating out-of-the-box ideas is a must if you want to engage the next generation. Pour into them and give them leadership opportunities that will challenge them.  

Every year, more and more Millennials are deciding to leave the Church. Most of them feel like they have no place in the Church. It’s time to change that! And that change starts with us!