The Millennial Opportunity

By Jonathan Teague

Few subjects today occupy more attention and debate in our culture than the millennial generation. Generally, these are adults who were born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. In terms of population, millennials are the largest generation in our country today, and it would seem they are, fairly or unfairly, critiqued, analyzed and scrutinized more than any previous generation, perhaps. Maybe you have heard some of these critiques before:

  • Millennials are delaying adulthood (i.e., still “living off” their parents, waiting to get married, haphazard in their careers)
  • Millennials are frivolous and poor money managers
  • Millennials want to lead but don’t want to be led
  • Millennials want to be rewarded for just “showing up”
  • Millennials are far too dependent on their feelings and emotions
  • Millennials are less interested and less involved in religious activities such as church attendance

Older generations, in particular, are finding it increasingly hard to understand millennials and are deeply concerned about the overall direction this generation may take our culture in the future. Specifically, older generations in the Church are concerned that millennials lack the spiritual fortitude and personal commitment to effectively advance the Gospel in a world that seems to be quickly slipping down a steep moral slope.

At the same time, more and more young adults are keeping religious participation at arm’s length to varying degrees. Many have lost faith in religious institutions and leaders. Many millennials had negative experiences growing up in church, or they are turned off by the regular reports of impropriety within churches and among church leaders. In short, “church” does not always pass the authenticity test.

But I believe there is hope, and that a unique opportunity is presenting itself today in the body of Christ. I believe one of the most effective ways the Church can connect with millennials is through the cultivation of relationships between the generations. The Scripture speaks to the importance of faith being passed from one generation to the next (Deuteronomy 6:6–9; Psalm 145:4–7), and for Christians to cultivate a faith worth imitating so they can teach that faith to other younger believers (Philippians 3:12–21; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 2:1–8).

Older, spiritually mature adults can and should play an important role in the spiritual formation of younger adults. Younger adults should be availing themselves to building relationships with believers whose long paths of faithfulness to Christ have shaped who they are and how they have lived their lives. We can learn from each other, and we can grow together.

If are you are an older, mature believer in Christ, you may be skeptical as to whether you have anything to offer a millennial in your church or sphere of influence, and you may be even more skeptical as to whether a millennial would listen to what you might have to say. Please, don’t be discouraged and remember these three things:

  1. Community– Millennials are far more likely to open up their lives to you in a mentoring/discipleship context when you are willing to share your life with them. Find out what your church is already doing to serve young adults and get involved. Be prepared to open up your life by being accessible, patient and generous with your time.
  2. Authority–Scripture instructs us to pass on our faith to others. As you open your life to a millennial, be prepared to be investigated! They want to see if you will pass the authenticity test by matching what you say with how you live. You will be granted the authority to speak into their lives as a mentor and disciple-maker when they trust the credibility and vulnerability of your walk with Christ.
  3. Transformation– There is no greater joy than having a front-row seat for life-change! This is the privilege that awaits a mature believer who is willing to walk with, talk with, listen to, pray with, struggle with, and celebrate with a millennial. We want to grow disciples who have the privilege of seeing others grow in Christ.

As believers, we must overcome generational stereotypes and surface-level misunderstandings of one another. It’s simply insufficient to judge each other across generational divides. There is a biblical way forward, and those of us who have the joy of knowing Christ and walking with Him for many years need to leverage the opportunity before us to take our faith and pass it on to a generation that is far more spiritually sensitive than we realize and one that God wants to use for His glory!

Jonathan Teague serves as Married Adult Minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Teague.

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