How do you reach and engage millennials?
For nearly a decade, leaders debated this question and looked for every possible answer. Countless studies, articles, and even books are produced about the largest generation in the country.
Church leaders seem especially perplexed by millennials. Studies show millennials are the least religious generation in the country, and church attendance among this generation is declining. With one generation representing almost 1/3 of the entire population, what should church leaders like you do to effectively engage them?
Who are the millennials?
When I say “millennial,” what comes to mind? A 24-year-old guy with a man bun sitting in a coffee shop? A 22-year-old young lady trying to grow her Snapchat following?
Many people associate millennials with twenty somethings, and that’s no longer the case. Born between 1980-2000, this generation is now 17-37 years old. And nearly 49 million millennials are 27-37.
What were you doing in your late 20s and early 30s?
- Getting married
- Having children
- Settling into your career
And that’s exactly what millennials are now doing.
They’re no longer the “job-hopping” generation, as new research indicates they are far less likely to leave their current job than ever before. Workplace loyalty is on the rise.
So why should you, a church leader, be interested in what millennials do at work? Why do their feelings in the workplace matter for your congregation?
One word: leadership.
Millennials want leadership opportunities
The best place to begin is the data. According to the 2015 Millennials Study by The Hartford, 80% of millennials say they are leaders today. And 77% of those aspire to be a leader tomorrow.
Let’s dive a little deeper into these stats. At first glance, it may seem as though this generation is impatient when it comes to leadership. While still young, they may not appear to have the necessary life experience to lead.
But millennials often align leadership with John Maxwell’s definition of leadership: influence. Being the first digital generation has many benefits, and one benefit is the ability to influence people through technology. Whether it’s through social media, YouTube, or a blog, millennials understand how to influence people online.
Understanding online influence is huge, especially when combined with how fast things move. Thanks to technology, our live move faster than ever. The ability to adapt, change, and move forward is crucial for success now. And navigating that well requires the timeless principles of leadership.
What does this mean?
How can your church leverage what this generation wants for the sake of the kingdom? What strategies can you develop in order to engage a generation where they are?
1. Offer leadership development opportunities. Millennials overwhelmingly want to develop their leadership potential. In fact, one survey says 71% of millennials who plan to leave their jobs do so because they aren’t being developed as leaders. And according to Udemy, the popular online course platform, millennials take more courses on leadership development than any other workplace skill.
This generation desperately wants to be better leaders. Why? Because they know the impact of good leadership. With a desire to make a difference in the world, they want the skills necessary to leave a lasting change. And what they need most from you and your leadership team is a model of leading biblically. Teach them the timeless leadership principles in Scripture. Show them how biblical principles impact the daily strategies and tactics of leadership.
Maybe you mentor them in a small group, or maybe you invite them to some meetings to observe how things get done. Or maybe you pair them with older leaders and business executives within the church. Whatever you do, offer consistent training in biblical leadership. The world doesn’t just need more leaders; we need more biblical leaders.
2. Let them lead. If millennials can start and run million dollar or billion dollar companies, they can lead within your church. Many already are in management positions in their jobs, and they have unique skills and abilities to serve your church.
But don’t assume you know where they should serve. Instead, ask them where their gifts and passions best fit within the church. It could be in the band, on the tech team, teaching a children’s class, or greeting in the parking lot. You will also get answers for ministry areas that don’t exist within your church. They may want to serve in social media, video creation, or online marketing. You won’t know how they can lead until you ask.
3. Give regular feedback. One of the biggest trends in the American workplace involves feedback. The annual review is replaced with regular, ongoing feedback about job performance. Tech giant IBM, a company with 400,000 employees globally, has an app where employees can instantly give feedback to peers, direct reports, and even supervisors.
This instant, ongoing approach is far more effective. Studies show employees who get monthly feedback from their supervisors are more than twice as engaged at work. In other words, millennials want ongoing insight into their roles as leaders. Don’t wait to share your observations with them. Do it early and often, and you’ll find greater trust and respect.
As millennials get older, your strategies to reach them must change. And since this generation is deeply entrenched in their careers, you have the opportunity to use their passions to reach people and fulfill the Great Commission.