discipleship

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. 

Engaging in Tough Discipleship Questions

  • 17 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

When you think of discipleship, what fills you with fear? 

My role as camp director of Camp Likely has given me the opportunity to meet and interact with many young adults and teens. These are teens who desire to follow Jesus with their whole hearts. They want answers to big questions as they face decisions about their futures, friendships, relationships, church, and faith. 

Some of the hardest conversations I have with them are about these big topics. These are challenging conversations because each one comes with a different perspective, sphere of influence, and specific needs. I really don’t want to give them cookie-cutter answers that I know "feel" good or are the "right" thing to say. I want to be able to engage in the conversation authentically, as Jesus did. 

This, however, has been seriously impossible. I have found that when I engage in conversations about sexuality, finances, faith, career, or relationships that I’m not sure what to say or what not to say. These are topics that are so personal, so close to the heart. I don't want to lose the relationship I already have with them by being too assertive with my views. 

My biggest fear in discipleship is being too forward. I struggle with the fine balance of listening and encouraging with correcting, or offering another way of thinking or doing. I know I limit the amount of hard conversations or questions I have because I don't want to lose the relationship. I don't want it to be overly serious. 

However, Jesus still requires me to be a disciple-maker. To be engaged. To be serious. To be fun. To be dependable. To be honest. To be faithful to His ways. 

In a world where many young people are choosing to leave their faith or live it out differently than in the past, I believe we have a call to still engage. Engage in what is going on with those who we are in relationship with. And if we can't even show up, what can we contribute? 

I truly believe that if I won't first address my fears about discipleship or my fears about the big questions or the grey areas of living for Christ, then how can I expect to be an effective disciple-maker? 

How can Jesus use your strengths and weaknesses to point people closer to Him? How can Jesus lead you to engage as He did? 

As we share some of our fears, I believe we will be able to consider what it means to truly engage in the tough questions, discover our role, and identify the obstacles that are stopping us. When I do this, I have noticed that I no longer feel stuck in my weakness but experience the joy of living in Christ's strength (Philippians 4:13).

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