It goes something like this. Millennials are straying from the faith. Spiritual formation happens from and in the church. To reverse the trend and preserve the future means getting Millennials to come to church. And since this is true, the church has to become edgier to get them through the door.
The unintended consequences have been harsh. Millennials who don't go to church are more nominal than ever and not drawn by the surface changes, while the Millennials who were participating and passionate about their faith are more discouraged than ever from feeling left behind and under-developed.
To put it in simpler terms: by trying to create bridges to Millennials outside the church, we can sometimes create bridges over the ones already there.
But there's good news - did you catch it? There are Millennials ALREADY IN your church that love Jesus and aren't asking for the perks and upgrades!
Connect well with these young people and they will be the ones who most effectively engage their own generation. Here are the three kinds of Millennials already in your church that can't afford to be ignored:
1. The Theologian
The Theologian is most interested in growing in their faith through Biblical study. They're looking for solid exegesis and want to apply their faith to the tough questions around them. Discipleship and mentorship have a high-value, and they're wanting to go past the life-application Bible study. They're happy to wrestle with difficult texts, expose themselves to liturgy, and engage with other traditions and practices within the faith.
2. The Creative
Google has my favorite definition thus far for the young, Smart Creative - someone who has technical knowledge combined with business/enterprise instincts and creativity. The Creative in your church is going to be the entrepreneur, the artist, the musician, the justice advocate, etc. Their emphasis will be combining their creativity and their faith to devise solutions to problems they see around them, and their hope will be for the church to be a launching pad and support system.
3. The Captain
The Captain in your church is the driven, A-type leader. They're natural connectors, collaborators, and organizers. They're goal-oriented and yearn to be a part of bringing people together to do something incredible. They will want to be a part of the inner-workings of your church and have a legitimate voice at the table, and learn what it looks like to lead people.
If you're a church leader or pastor, here are some practical investments you can make to connect with the Theologians, Creatives, and Captains in your church.
- Do you have a former pastor or professor in your faith community? Take the strain off the college or adult pastor and see if these valuable resources are open to leading an informal group that studies church history, non-topical Biblical study, and theology at large. Rather than altering the programs or structures that exist, seek to provide other learning opportunities that engage Theologians more progressed in their faith.
- Tap into the convening power of your church and begin sponsoring a once-a-week gathering for the Creatives in your church to come together and brainstorm, network, and collaborate. Sometimes its literally just a physical space with supporting leadership that is needed. Even better, encourage older practitioners in your church with experience in diverse workplaces to join these Creatives.
- Invite Captains who demonstrate humility to sit in on key staff, board, or elder meetings at the church. But don't just leave them as quiet participants taking notes - ensure them that their voice matters and makes a difference in the discussion and decisions. Allow them to shadow leadership at important meetings and conversations outside the church as well.
What are some other ways the passionate Millennial Christ-follower can be connected to in church? What is your faith community already doing in these areas? Tweet and Share this article to start conversation!