What is it that Millennials Want?
Millennials are those young adults that every church seems to clamor for. They’re the ones born between 1982 and 2004 and were the first generation to “come of age” in the new millennium. Their generation now outnumbers the generation of Baby Boomers and in reaching that size, they are the largest generation in our country.
Research conducted by the Pew Research Center has brought forth some of the distinctive characteristics of Millennials that distinguish them from Baby Boomers. One difference is how they prefer to spend their money. Boomers like things. Even if they are not as acquisitive as they were in their earlier years, Boomers like to spend their money to buy things. Often those things are not essential; they are simply desired. So they are purchased and possessed.
Millennials, on the other hand, prefer to spend their money on experiences. Ordinarily they see themselves in relationships, and they like to spend their money on fulfilling those relationships. They would rather spend their time and money to go, see, do and experience the world in which they live rather than to have more possessions.
We have known that Millennials are often more available to participate in a mission project or to spend their money on projects where they can clearly see that their investment makes a difference in the lives of other people. Those are clear examples of the Millennial preference for active engagement with their personal resources.
Millennials are typically more ready to physically serve than to come to the church house and sit. That act of sitting requires nothing of them. Serving puts them into direct relationship.
So what’s available at your church that draws Millennials, with their keen preferences, to experience rather than be in docile detachment from others? In many cases, there’s not much there except the longing of the older folk in the congregation that these youngsters would come be part of the church that they like.
And how does a church stewardship program bring the fullness of opportunity for experiences that allow for Millennials to give available resources in a meaningful way, be it time, talent or treasure?
Beware! If you’re looking to engage Millennials into some form of ministry at your church, be willing and prepared to make changes in how you do things around the place that you’ve called yours. They are looking for something different. Their experience of meaningful worship often will not look like yours, so are you willing to adapt your format of worship? Oops…their songs may not be like your hymns. Is your pastor prepared to modify traditional ways of preparing orders of worship, selection of music, instrumentation, lighting and sound? Remember, they are searching for the experience of worship and not necessarily the ritual of worship.
God called some ancient ones to be prophets to the peoples. Maybe God is doing that today. It seems to me, though, that God is calling the traditionalists to examine fresh ways of seeing and experiencing worship…and giving…and hope…and movement in accord with God’s Spirit.
Yes, there are many Millennials who declare “none” when asked about a religious preference. There’s an opening here in God’s creation for those who have discovered the meaning and power of a relationship with God to demonstrate and share that experience. That may be how we invite Millennials into a fresh spiritual community that will be different from “church” as we’ve known it and as many Millennials have defined it.
It’s a new day of possibility rather than despair, when we avail ourselves to share the experience and let the words come later, when we can be the presence of God rather than trying to change the understanding of someone else by talking about it. We, in the Body of Christ, must go and be present in the lives of individuals in this unique Millennial generation, meet them in their life experiences and dare to trust that God will work through those shared life experiences.