millennials

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

Four Ways to Help Youth Stick with Their Christian Faith

  • 6 June 2015
  • Randy Wollf

young people in schoolOne of the most important Canadian studies on helping youth stick with their faith is called Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to the Church.

This pivotal study contains survey responses from over 2,000 Canadian young adults and information gleaned from personal interviews of some of the respondents. It suggests several ways that parents, youth workers, children’s ministry staff, and others in the church can help youth to continue to follow Jesus. Here are four of them:

Help Parents Engage Spiritually

One of the recurring themes that surfaced was that those who continue to be engaged in their local church often had parents who modelled an authentic faith. They saw their parents praying and reading the Bible. Yet, even more than that, they saw their parents living out their faith in a way that impacted their everyday lives. They were not afraid to show their children how a Christian worldview can help them navigate through the challenges and opportunities they face. The implication is that when we help parents continue to grow in their faith, their children benefit in faith-sustaining ways.

Facilitate “God Moments”

One of the key differences between those who stay in the church and those who leave is the extent to which they experienced God. Those who can recall answers to prayer or who experienced God in worship, service, community or in some other way are more likely to press on with God later in life. Many of those still tracking with God experienced Him in a profound way through a camp or a short-term missions trip. The implication is that we need to create youth-friendly spaces (or encourage movement toward already created spaces) that help them experiment with and stretch their faith.

Invite Youth to be Vital Members of the Church Community

When youth feel like they truly belong in a church community, they are much more likely to stay within the church. In this kind of community, people care about them. Some even mentor them. Others in the church community see their gifts and encourage them to serve in meaningful ways. This gives youth an opportunity to make a difference – to feel like they are an integral part of the community. What are the implications for the rest of the church? Be friendly with youth. Include them in meaningful ways. Pray for and with them. Encourage them. Empower them to live out God’s call on their lives.

Make Christianity Relevant