We are in schools everywhere. We are beginning to flood the job market. We are starting to have families. We vote. We are diverse, environmentally-aware and non-religious. We are the next generation. We are the Millennials.
The majority of us were born between 1980 and 2000, and we have pushed aside the Baby Boomers for the title of “largest generation” at 78 million people. We are large enough to make our voices heard. Did you hear us at the 2008 election? We voted for change. Have you heard us on the streets that we have Occupied? We have spoken.
We continue to speak everyday, using every avenue of communication: emailing or texting siblings and parents multiple times a week, exchanging comments or messages on Facebook and Twitter and having video chats on Skype are pretty normal. Sure, we have iPods and video games (which are usually isolating activities), but despite the opportunity for isolation, we have become the most relational and communicative generation yet.
But what is our generation speaking about? What is it that we want? What is it that we care about?
Relationships. We care deeply about our relationships, and we want to make a difference in the world. We want to make this world a better place. And since a majority of us are non-religious, we will set out to change the world without the aid of the church.
It is not that we are antagonistic towards the church; we do not hate religious people. We are just tired of seeing churches with “diluted doctrine and anemic biblical teaching,” as Thom Rainer stated in his book The Millennials.
We are tired of seeing the moral and ethical failures of religious leaders. We are sick of the inward-focus of the traditional American church, and if the church continues to be self-focused, we will abandon it.
For the Millennial who is a born-again Christian (a very small minority of our generation), we view the church as having strayed from Christ’s original intent. The Christian Millennial wants the church to be what Christ created it to be, demonstrated in Acts 2. We are looking for missional and incarnational people. Missional, in our eyes, is being personally involved and missional in the community where we live and work. Incarnational to us means being physically present in our community as a representative of Christ (Rainer, 260-261).
If churches want to connect with Millennial Christians, the church needs to look like the New Testament church in Acts 2, a body that meets the needs of its members and the community and that will support and give sacrificially even to brethren in other cities and countries.
A church body that is dedicated to the teachings of Christ and is deeply understanding what it is that Christ commissioned his people to do. A church that is more concerned with reaching every member of the local community with the gospel than in the growth of church membership. A church that is willing to get its hands dirty in serving the community and the world. A church that looks like Jesus Christ.
Jesus was a real person, who ministered to real people. He did not find 12 disciples and then ignore the rest of the world; he continued healing people, teaching people, caring for people, and pointing people to the Father and to salvation. He had dinner with Zacchaeus the tax collector, a person despised by most Jews. He extended hope to the Samaritan woman at the well. Remember Lazarus? The woman caught in adultery? Nicodemus? The feeding of the 5,000 on a hillside? Do churches today follow His example?
Christian Millennials can quickly see what a church is about. A church who is committed to the community, who goes deep in biblical teaching, who loves the nations, who directs its revenue outward and whose leaders demonstrate transparency, humility and integrity will get our attention and will get our support.
So what about the majority of Millennials who are not Christians and who largely ignore the church? Is there hope for reaching them with the gospel?
While the majority of Millennials are indifferent to the church, this does not mean they are opposed to the church. Millennials are very social, and not just electronically. Simply inviting someone to come with you is an easy first step in reaching out, especially if you offer to pick them up.
Many Millennials regard their parents as a positive influence in their life. Churches can help Boomer Christians connect with their adult children.
Millennials desire to make a difference in the world. Churches who are demonstrating the deep meaning of following Christ and in their concern for others will likely draw in Millennials.
Millennials are looking for what is relational and real. And we, the Church, can reach out with the real love of Christ.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
By Natalie Price, A Millennial working as the public relations manager at Highland Lakes Camp & Conference Center near Austin.