You’ve read the articles and gone to the seminars about it. You’ve seen the info graphics and watched the videos about it. You may have even sought out the advice of the self-described “professional” on how in the world to reach this demographic known as The Millennials. Yet there still doesn’t seem to be much conclusive help as to how to reach this group.
The problem is that we’re not treating millennials as individuals. Instead, there’s a common misconception that millennials are all the same and you can reach them all in the same way. I’m a millennial, and I’m much different than other millennials that I work with and interact with on a daily basis. We’re not all the same!
Now let me be clear, I think it’s wonderful that church’s seem to care so much about reaching millennials. Many churches have gone to great lengths trying to most effectively reach my generation. The problem I have is in their approach, not in their heartbeat.
It’s time we stopped segmenting off an entire generation and instead focused on the time-tested principles of reaching individuals that we find in God’s Word. You must relate to individuals no matter what walk of life they’re in. Statistics about millennials are tremendously helpful and I’m not questioning them, but you should also understand that modeling your church’s message around overarching statistics about a large demographic won’t give you the return you are looking for. Frankly, many “experts” on the topic that I have met and/or read are wrong. Their information about millennials is informed by the culture they are a part of and they simply don’t have all the answers (even if they build themselves up to have them).
The dilemma remains: there is a whole generation out there that needs to be reached. So how do we reach them? As a millennial myself, who happens to also be a pastor, I get this question all the time. The answer, I believe, is found in Christ’s heart for the individual. It’s more about relationships than demographics! Of course, some of you may be thinking, that’s such a ‘Millennial’ thing to say, but I believe this concept spans across all generations.
The questions millennials seek answers for have not changed. They are the same questions people have been asking for centuries. Questions like, “What is my purpose in life?” or, “Does God even care?” are frequently asked by my generation. The church ought to be able to offer the answer to this by showing the goodness of God and the goodness of being a community that’s not afraid to ask tough questions.
We (as millennials) want our churches to be big on person-to-person discipleship. We strive to build healthy relationships with other believers. We long for community! This is exactly what God created all people to love. Every generation has been endowed with a love for true community. Churches should emphasize personal discipleship and one-on-one relationships, not because millennials want it, but because it’s both universally effective and thoroughly Scriptural. But none of this can happen if you insist on unnecessarily creating generational divides. None of this will be possible if you keep just calling us “millennials.” Nothing says, “I don’t want to get to know you,” more than a preacher saying, “I already know you because I know all about millennials.” Maybe it’s time we stop writing posts about “How to Reach Millennials” and start focusing on reaching people! So don’t call me a millennial. Look at me as a fellow image bearer of God and treat me like one.
Caleb Phelps graduated from BJU with a BA in Bible and an MA in Theology. After graduating from seminary Caleb traveled in evangelism which took him across the country to many different churches and camps. While he was traveling Caleb met the love of his life, Rachel. They got married and moved to Indianapolis, IN where Caleb now serves as the youth pastor at Crosspointe Baptist Church. You can check out his youth group's website at www.crosspointeyouth.com.
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