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3 Proven Ways to Keep Millennials in the Church

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My good friend Jude Blayney pastors in Adelaide at C3 Church Melrose Park.

He about to finish a Masters in Business Leadership and his planned thesis is generational change in leadership.

He is passionate about understanding the people he pastors and in particular the rising generation of young leaders, often referred to as Millennials.

While engaging with this generation Jude has extensively studied their habits and styles and is trying various things to interact with, and lead them.

His insights are gathered from the front lines of pastoral ministry and will help you work with this rising generation.

Thanks Jude.

In most churches we find different generational groups. 

Each of these groups has different attitudes, behaviours and beliefs about a whole range of subjects including finance, the bible, and relationships.

Building a healthy church requires leaders to work with and build connections to all these generations.

One generation that is in the spotlight right now is the Millennials sometimes referred to as Generation Y.

millennials

Words or phrases used to describe Millennials/Generation Y include

interactive

impulsive

entitled

fearless

self-absorbed

empowered

participation

ownership

Hyper-collaboration

inclusion

We have focused on Inclusion, Participation and Collaboration to engage the Millennials. 

Inclusion

Inclusion simply means they want personally to feel included and they want to have this reflected to others as an atmosphere in their places/spaces they cohabit.

A key component of inclusion is communication. 

If we don’t communicate clearly with someone how can we connect with him or her so that they sense inclusion?

We decided to change the way we communicated in church.

Our newssheet reflects the Boomer/Generation X feel with more information while our Facebook posts and Instagram reflect a more engaging persona to connect with the Millennials. (N.B. that Facebook isn’t the main domain of the Millennials rather it is more a train station on their journey).

Further, communication with Millennials went beyond emailing everyone, to using apps like Messenger to immediately connect with the Millennials.

It’s ok to use email with Boomers and X but we need to embrace the way Millennials communicate if they are going to feel included.

Another aspect of inclusion is the belief their world is a ‘web’ or network not hierarchical system. 

In other words, they can and should be able to directly communicate with any leader concerning ideas, concepts or vision.

They are not usurping authority as such, rather contributing in the fashion they have been trained in and understand.

We make room for this by using apps like ‘whatsapp’ and ‘trello’ which allow communication to all

These applications are interactive and create hyper collaboration and immediate communication through the network not through a hierarchy of leadership.

Participation

This requires involvement.

We get them in the pulpit for communion messages, even sermons when I am around, as a profiling method but we add to this by providing points/moments of reflection.

We ask all Millennials (actually all people for that matter) to reflect back to someone 3 things they loved about what they did and one thing they would change.

Then we reflect back to them one thing we would change and things we loved.

Millennials aren’t averse to correction but they do want affirmation.

Getting the right balance encourages participation.

This at times has caused me as the Senior Pastor to step aside, to allow for others. It’s a personal challenge to not feel threatened.

Participation can also be seen in Millennials through a strong sense of personal ownership to change the world.

Ownership for them relates to who has control.

They want to be able to control their personal mission.

So how can the church give them control without relinquishing vision, wisdom or connection to the other generations? 

Church leadership needs to find ways of developing the difference between individual control vs corporate control.

For us, we chose to give them aspects of control through the way they give.

This relates to using apps like Push-pay and Tithe.ly so they can control what they give.

Also, rather than just talking about serving in the church talk about personal serving as a part of a personal mission. It becomes about my mission in the church not just about the church needing people to contribute.

Collaboration

This involves influence.

This is not so much about asking transformational questions (the end result of trying to get to an outcome determined or undetermined) but rather making deliberate decisions to create giving and receiving moments.

As leaders these moments are a two way street, actually it’s more like a multi-laned intersection. 

We use very open questions about services or events (with NO expectation of the outcome).

‘What we going to do for New Years Day as it’s a Sunday?’

We make sure the Boomers and the X’s are included but ask some Millennials to speak first.

Millennials don’t want control they crave to be heard for influence.

The result is often very messy conversations but the buy in is very high.

The goal is NOT finding consensus but rather allowing for differing views to be expressed.

This is called hyper-collaboration. 

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Hyper collaboration brings challenges to other management and leadership styles.

Boomers tend to be more rigid around a particular leadership trend while Generation X tend to look to getting results and performance.

Millennials don’t necessarily have any issues with these except they are more personal in their application by allowing people to do what they want to do. Working with this in churches can be challenging.

For us, we regularly have leadership and staff reviews to help connect the Millennials to what they want to do and what they feel they can do.

This takes time but is very rewarding.

Engaging Millennials requires time, and deep commitment to foster inclusion, allow participation and to champion collaboration. It’s a journey we are on and will fight to stay on for the future. 

Well that’s an excellent post from Jude, thanks you my good friend.

You may like to read these other insightful posts on millennials

What Millennials Need In A Leader

Why Millennials Won’t Build the Kinds of Churches their Parents Built

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