Millennials in Missions, part 2
Mark Vowels, CGO Director
“If you can’t beat them, join them.” Okay, two questions.
Why would we want to beat them? Millennials are the future!
And why would we think in terms of surrender rather than engagement? The truth is, for a variety of reasons, millennials offer great hope for the future of Gospel ministry.
Because millennials value authenticity, they are prime targets for discipleship.
They want to talk, to listen, to be coached, and valued. They want to know you and understand how you make life work. They want to experience your walk with Christ in the same satisfying way you do.
So be open. Be transparent. Be welcoming. Show them what’s under the hood. Let them into your life. They will expect to be treated as an equal – a true brother or sister in Christ – not like a project, but like a friend.
I know a man who is twenty years older than me who is personally discipling around twenty millennials. He devotes most of his time to pouring himself into this generation. They know everything about him and he knows everything about them, and they are growing together into Christ-likeness.
Then, millennials make great disciple-makers.
They thrive on relationships and networks. That spells evangelism and discipleship. By their very nature they make good missionaries. I know a millennial couple here in Greenville that has hosted forty different people in their home this year, just to get to know them and to pursue the chance to show them Jesus.
We don’t have to teach millennials the importance or the methodology for building relationships. It’s in their DNA. No previous generation has such potential in doing the basic work of the Great Commission – making disciples.
In my last post, I said that millennials are disruptive. But that doesn’t mean they are provocateurs. No, they are creative. They are entrepreneurial. They are change agents.
In church, in school, in the work place, or in society, people can see that as a threat or they can see that as a doorway to new ideas, new approaches, and new blessings. Listen to them! Don’t dismiss them! Don’t let cultural or generational differences cause you to miss the gold nuggets in their gravel-filled pans.
Last, millennials are optimistic.
That’s why they leave our churches for places that vibrate with hope. So often we give them a steady diet of gloom and doom.
On the one hand, millennials will shed what seems like an empty shell of tradition in a heartbeat, but on the other hand, they will cling tenaciously to what they believe to be true. They will give of themselves sacrificially to causes in which they believe.
So let’s introduce them to good causes and good ministries. Take time to explain the value and benefit of investing themselves in your ministry opportunities. Don’t expect millennials to just volunteer. Recruit them with good stories and with avenues to contribute, have a voice, and make a difference.
If you just want to fix millennials, I have two responses. One, good luck with that. And two, please don’t tell me. I’m much too busy with a host of opportunities to partner with millennials for the advance of the Gospel.
Millennials in Missions, part 1
Mark Vowels, CGO Director
This post begins a series on millennials in missions. Tune in during the month of July for thoughts on incorporating the next generation into great commission ministry.
I am a baby boomer who is the parent of, and who teaches, millennials. People my age tend to fall into one of two categories when talking about millennials: Fear them and fix them or strive to understand them. I’m in the second group.
I suspect the attempt to fix the younger generation has been going on since the days of Adam and Eve. Every generation tends to look at succeeding generations with some level of suspicion that maybe they just aren’t as good as their predecessors. Please. This is cyclical folly and produces nothing.
That being said, like others of my stage in life, I struggle to fully understand millennials. Nothing new there; my parents struggled to fully understand me. What is more productive, in my opinion, than perennial analysis, is recognizing key characteristics among millennials and seeking to capitalize on their strengths.
This post will attempt to identify some of millennials’ passions and the next post will suggest ways to engage them in productive ways for the accomplishment of great commission ministry.
Millennials are authentic. They value people being real. They are not impressed by titles or positions but are focused on seeing what someone is really all about. Nobody in any generation likes hypocrisy, but millennials tend to root out and expose fakery with greater energy than their forbearers. That also means that millennials tend to reveal what they think and how they feel with greater openness than what is comfortable for older generations. No putting on airs. No trying to impress. Just be yourself.
Millennials love to network and see relationships as foundational to success in any endeavor. While some parents and grandparents complain that millennials falter relationally, that just isn’t so. They simply approach relationships differently than previous generations. They grew up with internet technology and can be thought of as digital natives. Their appetite for the myriad iterations of social media often enhances their focus on relationships. Millennials aren’t loners. They need relationships to function.
Millennials are disruptive, or so say many employers. Fair enough. But why are they disruptive? It’s because (not unlike every other generation of American youth) they are unwilling to embrace the status quo. The flood of new technologies that is the backdrop of their lives proves to millennials that things can be done better, faster, smarter and in ways that are even fun. So millennials like to question why things are done the way they are. They come up with better processes and improved strategies without being asked. This goes against the grain of many who “paid their dues” to get where they are, but the millennials are proving that they often really do have a better way forward.
Millennials are hopeful. They are dreamers. This is perhaps their most engaging characteristic. They believe that they can make their school, their job, their city and their world better. They want to make a difference and they are thoroughly convinced that they can. Their propensity to network, to use technology and to share both the credit for, and benefits of, achievement means that they expect to see improvement at every turn. Failure is merely an opportunity to learn and progress. They want to be heard because they have big ideas and high expectations.
All of these characteristics can be either annoying or amusing to previous generations who have “been there and done that.” Or they can be capitalized upon for the good of the gospel. In my next post, I’ll give some suggestions about doing just that.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.