Much has been written about Millennials, the generation whose members are now in their 20s and early 30s. But a lot of this coverage seems negative – our shortfalls are obvious and constantly pointed out. We’re fickle, addicted to technology, entitled… the list goes on. And you know what? A lot of that’s true!
But what of our strengths? Rather than focusing on the difficulties of working alongside Millennials, what opportunities are present within this generation?
And more importantly for this External Focus blog, how can Millennials help serve the causes, ministries, and impact opportunities you care about?
What We Want
Over the last three years I’ve gotten to help mobilize the Millennials in our church. And sure, we’ve run up against the difficulties inherent with our character flaws, including those listed above. But there has also been one really big beautiful thing I’ve come to realize…
We want to change the world.
There’s something that starts to make our guts ache and our pulses quicken when we think of “how things could be.” Any snapshot of our generation shows how hungry we are to make things better, and we’ll grasp at whatever might make that happen – whether it means buying certain products, using our networks, showing up to chat about “social justice,” and more.
So how can you help harness this passion – and even some of our weaknesses – for good?
1. Create easily accessible starting points
We’re not good at committing. We know that, and while we need to do something about that weakness, it’ll be a journey.
So while we’re in the process of that particular sanctification, it’s good to understand this: If the only chance for us to get involved in your cause requires a major commitment, then you’ll have a hard time getting us interested.
On the other hand, an initial one-time opportunity – one that allows us to see your ministry in action and catch a vision for how we can be a part of it – will serve you better. Yes, to make real impact Millennials need to stick around for the long run. But by creating a graduated way for us to fall in love with your ministry and commit to it, you will see more of us take the initial step.
2. Cast a vision bigger than the task
Because Millennials want to change the world, we often fall into the trap of thinking we have to start something new, something “bigger” or “faster moving” than existing organizations. Little do we realize the steps required to make an impact… which is why there are a number of halfway-finished “startups” in our recent past!
Instead of getting frustrated with us, harness this energy by inviting us to dream big alongside you. We can still do the task or duty you truly need help with, but first help us see how God is changing the world through your ministry… and how our particular role impacts the cause.
For example, rather than simply asking us to mentor a kid once a month, remind us of the impact that discipleship can have on a child in a difficult home life… how that changed child will influence their peers and their future children… and so on. Not only will we stick around longer through difficult moments, but we may in fact overshoot the small commitment you’re asking us to make!
All because you helped us to see the overall importance of what God is doing through your ministry.
The vision you cast doesn’t have to be something fancy, and you don’t have to lie to us. Just point us in the direction of seeing the big-picture impact that our specific investment will make, and we’ll become your biggest advocates.
3. Leverage our excitement and our networks
Another complaint about Millennials is that we’re “always on our phones.” This may be true, but it can also be one of your biggest assets.
Millennials get excited about our experiences, and we love to share them with others. If powerful things are happening as you impact others, share that story. And tell the story in such a way that we can share it, too. With Millennials and social media, your organization or cause will have more exposure to people through an easily shareable video or blog post than you could through an extensive mail campaign or vision-casting dinner.
As Millennials serve with you, we’ll be excited to tell others about what we’re learning and experiencing. Help us do that!
4. Don’t hesitate to disciple us.
Most importantly, make your interactions with us a discipleship opportunity. Like it or not, we’re the next generation of your church. Teach us the biblical roots for our zeal for making an impact. Disciple us through the spiritual disciplines and demonstrate how they will allow us to truly change the world. Lead us through the sanctification process by starting with where we are – then always demanding better for us.
And when we drive you crazy with our many flaws, just remind yourself that we’re really just looking for a leader to show us the way. God will continue to mold us and teach us, and we might just end up being your biggest asset for whatever ministry or impact God has called you to. He has a way of working through our weaknesses!