MB Seminary provides leadership development and ministry training through MinistryLift so leaders and churches can increase their capacity to love God more deeply and serve others more effectively. MinistryLift builds capacity through workshops, training videos, and a variety of ministry resources. Learn more about MinistryLift here

Preaching to Millennials

  • 24 October 2017
  • Randy Wollf

When we first moved to Thailand, I would sometimes get frustrated when trying to purchase items in local shops. I didn't know Thai and the shop-keepers usually didn't know English. Invariably, I would speak my language louder and slower so they would surely get it. Most of the time, they didn't understand and I would get more and more frustrated. The problem—we spoke different languages.

Millennials represent an age grouping of 16-34-year-olds (give or take a few years, depending on who you read). Their preferred language of communication is often different than what the rest of the population uses. Yet, those of us not in the millennial age grouping often continue to preach in a "language" that millennials struggle to fully understand or relate to. Just like in my Thailand example, both sides get frustrated because of the language difference.

Millennials hold many values, but seven core values that are common to many millennials are diversity, collaboration, authenticity, entrepreneurship, holistic integration, community, and open-source (I recommend that you watch Geoff Kullman's excellent presentation of these values here – MinistryLift members can access this resource for free).

Considering these seven core values, how can we effectively preach to millennials? Let me offer ten suggestions related to sermon preparation and delivery (most of these apply to other generations as well). 

1. Walk closely with Jesus

Whether it's millennials or anyone else, people notice and respond to preachers who are connected to Christ. It's one thing to speak about something we're vaguely familiar with; it's quite another to speak about something that flows from a renovated life. Millennials are particularly good at spotting the real goods. 

2. Collaborate with millennials and others to discern sermon topics and content

Millennials love to be a part of setting direction for virtually anything. Capitalize on this desire by enlisting their help to discern sermon topics and content. Even if you or the church leadership team chooses a series focus (e.g. discerning your God-given calling), seek the input of millennials as to the questions/concerns they have related to the main topic. Millennials are more likely to engage with a sermon when they have contributed to it in some way. 

3. Acknowledge and explore diverse perspectives

A Christ-Centred Approach to Youth Ministry

  • 23 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

I can picture it vividly. It's Friday night, the lights are dim, and the music leader is picking his guitar in the background as he sings about God's love. Meanwhile, the speaker stands up and talks in a loud voice: "Do you know how much God loves you? He loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you! Who wants to accept that love tonight?" Crying, hands start to go up. A few stragglers look around, see who else raised their hands, and decide to raise their own hands too. The leaders anxiously go around the room helping the youth say a prayer for salvation. The night concludes, everyone cries and says goodbye. Later, we all go home. 

On the following Sunday, some of the youth and leaders go to their home church and share with the congregation. "It was an amazing time at youth/camp/mission trip/retreat. We had 15 kids accept Jesus into their lives." Everyone cheers, some people cry tears of joy. Mission accomplished. 

This is often the Canadian church’s mindset; it’s about numbers. How many were there, how many got saved. 

But are these the right questions to be asking?  

Months after these types of experiences, how many of these kids who made a decision for Christ are involved in a local church, serving, and being transformed into Christ-likeness? The impetus of youth ministry can often be placed on making a personal decision for Jesus, but unless these decisions are followed by discipleship, the decisions can end up being meaningless.

So what's the remedy? I believe it's having a discipleship-focused, Christ-centred ministry. A ministry that does not just mention Jesus during an altar call, but a ministry that places Christ and his gospel at the centre; a ministry not focused solely on numbers and entertainment, but a ministry that is focused on relationships and encouraging a life that is holistically centred on him. 

Here are some practical ways you can accomplish this:

First, teach the gospel. This may sound like a no-brainer, but sadly, it's not. In many cases, youth ministries are about making morally and socially acceptable youth, not disciples. Morality is important, but it must always be taught in light of the gospel. Thus, it is important to teach about Christ, our sin, and our need to put faith in Christ for all things. 

Choosing to Quit: When Ministry Impedes Ministry

  • 19 October 2017
  • Keith Reed

stopI was raised to never give up. A drawing was fixed to my family's refrigerator door that I still remember. A heron is being choked by a mostly-swallowed frog that's gripping its predator’s neck in a desperate act of survival. The caption? Never give up.

We love inspiring images like this. Every story worth telling involves a degree of adversity and the best stories tell us how a hero overcomes extreme odds to achieve something extraordinary. Terry Fox. Captain Sully. The Hickory Hoosiers. 

We feel inspired by these stories and the slogans that fuel them. An entire brand was launched on the premise of these axioms (No Fear). The most beloved team of my childhood was defined by a three-word rallying cry that still gives me goosebumps: refuse to lose.  

Vince Lombardi once said that winners never quit and quitters never win. An inspiring quote fit for any locker room, but in most other settings it's a statement that's misleading and inaccurate. You see, the best winners know exactly when to quit.

To be fair, we must understand how to correctly define winning and losing. The best coaches and players understand the importance of "making adjustments". This is the positive way of saying they recognize what isn't working and choose to do something different. Stated differently, they choose to quit so they can win.

But what coach would actually say that? Quitting is associated with such negativity that it's typically equated to the willful acceptance of failure—a behaviour quickly linked to shame and embarrassment. Little consideration is given to the positive results of surrendering harmful practices or to the healthy consequences of giving something up after careful consideration.

In his book called Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud uses the word "ending" to describe the calculated decision to give up something up for the sake of a new direction. He uses a pruning metaphor to illustrate the positive effects of proactive termination. A skilled gardener intentionally removes branches that fall into any of three categories because this will produce the desired results: 

Pages