Why I Love Millennials
Jesus began his ministry at age 30.
In today’s world, Jesus would be a Millennial.
I love Millennials.
The Millennial Generation currently ranges from ages 22 to 38, give or take a few years. Millennials make up more than 30 percent of the world’s population. In the United States, Millennials are the largest living generation, make up half the work force, and that employment number is projected to grow to 75% by 2025. I hope our churches reflect those numbers in the coming years.
I am not a Millennial, but I married one. I’m a Gen X’er, but many of my best friends are Millennials.
Millennials energize me. We laugh together, we’re authentic together, and we enjoy dreaming together about what the church can become at its best. For my family, many of our best days have been spent in the company of Millennials. To organize my affections, here are the top five reasons “Why I Love Millennials”:
1. Millennials are the ultimate team players.
Oh, the infamous “8th Place Trophies”! Here’s where the golden mounds of plastic figurines in our landfills pay large dividends. Why work alone when “we’re all winners”? This generation has been born and bred in the team concept: play dates, team events, and “No Child Left Behind!” in the public schools. Collaboration is the name of the game for Millennials.
The Millennials bring unity to the church.
We’ve experienced this “unity infusion” time and time again in our 12 years in Ft. Lauderdale (USA) and three years in Scotland (UK). In nearly every case, Millennials quickly positioned themselves well in the church family and provided the much-needed glue of generational unity.
Here’s what I mean: Typically in the church setting, Millennials respectfully look up to Baby Boomers as iconic parental figures, they admire Generation X as invaluable big brothers and big sisters, and they’re now also reaching back to serve as mentors to Generation Z. That’s a refreshing example of generational unity to imitate.
“The Me Generation”. That’s the negative label of Millennials. I’m not buying it. With Millennials, nine times out of ten, the welfare of the group is of greater value than individual success. This mindset breeds unity rather than competition. Similar to Jesus, they are the ultimate team players and I love them for it!
2. Millennials are highly motivated.
Just because they embrace the team concept, this does not mean Millennials lack the drive to succeed as individuals. They will take daring risks of faith for Christ but perhaps for different motivations than the generations before them.
In the family of churches I’m a part of, multitudes of Millennials annually move all around the world as unsalaried missionaries. It’s called the “One Year Challenge”. With this initiative, we’ve had two Millennials from the USA come to serve our church in Edinburgh for one year. Equally impressive, two more students moved to rainy Scotland on their own dime from sunny Florida (USA) for their own unofficial “One Year Challenge” with the church.
The motivation? Millennials desire a shared global purpose, an expansion of relationships in that purpose, and additional training beyond their local church (see number 3 below). Money, titles, and fixed allegiance to a brand or an organization are commonly not driving forces for Millennials. On the contrary, purpose, relationships, or the opportunity to receive fresh coaching and personal development determine the loyalty and motivation behind their decision-making.
3. Millennials actively seek coaching and spiritual development.
This generation seeks constant feedback vital to personal growth. We see this trend in the business world as daily, interactive coaching apps replace the annual performance review. In the spiritual world, the discipling and development process for a multi-tasking Millennial may look very different than it did for generations past, but it is happening.
It’s happening so fast and from so many angles, we could completely miss it.
I’ll admit, it’s annoying when they simply will not put down their phones! “Hey, are you paying attention to me?” But many times, that’s how they naturally connect in real time to grow global relationships, immediately research meaningful topics, and receive instantaneous spiritual feedback from a variety of experts.
Millennials treasure face-to-face time with the sages of the church, but they’re also learning at lightning speed from an array of other resources. For example, when they find tiny Generation X, they often latch on to that friendship and highly value the spiritual coaching that unique relationship can provide. As a Gen X’er, that’s one of the reasons I love them so much. They’ve found us, they want to spend time with us, and they actually want to learn from us!
4. Millennials are problem solvers and decision makers.
“We cannot solve problems with the same thinking used when we created them.” (Albert Einstein)
Millennials find new solutions to solve old problems. They view the world and the church from a different lens. If they’ve grown up in and around the church, they’ve been observing us for decades. With device in hand, they have access to limitless information. They’re globally connected. They anticipate worldwide trends faster than most and strategically, that’s a big plus.
From the cradle, most Millennials were both seen and heard. We raised them to have a voice and to be involved from a young age. When we offer them a permanent seat at the “decision making table”, it can make a big difference in the vibrancy and health of the church. Millennials are forward thinkers. When empowered and motivated, they have boundless energy to find ways to get us “unstuck” on a variety of fronts.
5. Millennials are terrific leaders now.
See numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 above. That’s the makeup of a leader, right? They are team-first players, passionate, coachable, and brilliant decision-makers.
It’s all too easy for me to look at a Millennial who is clearly a leader in the business sector or in the church setting and think:
“Well, that person is the exception."
“She is just an old soul or…this guy is more mature than the average Millennial.”
In reality, it’s the polar opposite: It’s the unique qualities of the average Millennial that actually set them up, if they are led by the Holy Spirit and empowered by us, to be a successful leader now. Not someday in the distant future. Today in 2019. Lead the way, Millennials, and I’ll follow you. I love you and many more of our best days as Christians are right in front of us!
Following Jesus the Millennial
The three-year ministry of Jesus changed everything. Jesus brought new solutions to old problems. He breathed life into a dying movement. He built a mission team of fantastic leaders. With authority, Jesus made the Scriptures come alive in very practical ways for all ages and for all those willing to listen.
Imagine if Jesus came to earth in 1989 and not the first century.
If Jesus lived today, he would be a Millennial.
Let’s take this scenario one step further. If Jesus visited your hometown or place of worship today recruiting 12 Apostles to create his church from scratch, he would choose Millennials and perhaps a couple of teenagers from Generation Z. Food for thought.
For more on generations, please see the article, “Three Reasons to Think Generationally”.