5 Questions We MUST Answer if We Hope Reach Millennials

There’s a really strange phenomenon taking place in our culture.

On the average Sunday morning, you will likely find more children, youth, young adults and young families at I-HOP than at the local church. You’ll see more youth and young adults at the neighborhood coffeehouse than you will in the local Sunday school classroom. There are more young families at the ball fields and sports arenas than in worship or youth group or children’s church.

This past Sunday, my husband and I walked in to eat at a local restaurant right after church. Families were seated all around us, but only one looked like they had been to church. The others all had on dance recital outfits and baseball gear. They looked like wonderful families, but they didn’t seem to be church-involved families (at least not on this past Sunday).

So, what is going on?

What is happening in our culture?

~ In most of our churches, the average age is going up.

~ Our churches are aging and our members are too.

Some churches are finding ways to reach children, youth, young adults and young families.

In fact, a good number of churches are primarily attended by those ages 50 and under. You can read about 2 of these fast-growing young churches that I’ve previously highlighted here:

*Highpoint Church – https://www.melanieredd.com/worship-wednesday-a-perfect-place-for-imperfect-people/

*Orchard Fellowship – https://www.melanieredd.com/a-greenhouse-for-creating-missionaries-ministry-and-discipleship/

However, if you were to honestly look around at your church this week, you would likely notice an absence of youth.

And, if you were to visit other churches in any city or community, you would see the same thing.

Children, youth, young adults and young families are not as active in churches.

Individuals under the age of 35 are especially not involved in church.

In fact, according to the Barna Research Group, 52% of Millennials are not in anyone’s church. (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials)

Millennials are the kids of the Baby Boomers and are lumped into a group of kids born from about 1981-2002, making them anywhere from about age 13 to age 35.

We are especially losing this group of people and their children (and the generations that will come after them).

~ So, what do we do?

~ Is there hope?

~ How can we reach this next generation for Christ?

~ Are there some ways we can relate better to them as adults and as church members?

Absolutely!

The largest generation in recorded American history is on the rise. They are the "Millennials," and they are in the age group that is from about age 13 to age 35. How can we reach this generation with the gospel? Here are 5 great questions we must answer if we hope to reach these kids.

I’d like to suggest “5 Questions We Must Answer if We Hope to Relate to and Reach the Next Generation for Christ.

Question One – Are you for real or are you fake?

I was seated with some other ladies recently having lunch and talking about an upcoming church event. Seated next to us were two young women enjoying a nice, long lunch without their children. At one point during the lunch, one of the young women got up to go the restroom and left the other woman alone at the table. She was seated just a few inches from me. As we were laughing, I heard her laughing too. I turned to see that she was laughing at our conversation.

We struck up a little light conversation as she waited for her friend to return to the table. The friend returned, and we tried to engage her in the conversation. She was much more guarded.

To my surprise she suddenly said, “Are y’all for real? Are you real or are you fake? Because we’ve dealt with church women who were fake, and we are not into that.” I think that’s the question all young adults are asking:

“Are you for real? Are you real or are you fake?

We’ve dealt with church people who were fake, and we are not into that.”

I’m not sure that there has ever been a generation quite like this one.

They demand authenticity and proof like no other group in history. In fact, it is typical for members of this group to “fact check” everything you say.  While in seminary last year, I was surrounded by 20-somethings. It was the norm for them to “Google” anything that they had a question about. A professor could hardly get through a lecture without some student raising their hand to tell them a related fact they’d found by searching on the Internet on their cell phones. They would also call almost everything into question.

My own kids are both in this age group, and being “genuine” is especially important to my son. He is 22, and he really values people who are not pretentious, but rather authentic and legitimate. And, he has a special barometer that can weed out the fakes and frauds from the genuine sorts.

This generation, like no other, wants their leaders and mentors to walk the same way that they talk. They want them to be the same person on Sunday that they have been Monday through Saturday. They despise pretense and duplicity; they value people who are sincere, honest and real. They really want you to be authentic, and they are constantly watching to see if you are.

They want to spend time with you, interact with you and have a meaningful relationship with you:

  • They want to be invited into your home,
  • Ride with you in your car,
  • Eat meals with you,
  • Ask you blunt questions,
  • See how you relate to your spouse and friends,
  • See how you treat your kids,
  • Observe how you handle conflict, 
  • Be involved in your life.

The Barna Group puts it this way: “the most positive church experiences among Millennials are relational. Seven out of Ten (7 out of 10) Millennials who dropped out of church did NOT have a close friendship with an adult and nearly nine out of ten (9 out of 10) never had a mentor at the church.” (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials)

If we are to reach and relate to this next generation, we must answer question one:

Are we for real or are we fake?

(Are we genuine followers of Christ or are we just full of hot air?)

Question Two – Do you really care, and do you really care about ME?

So many kids in this generation did not grow up with much stability. It’s been unstable at home, at school, in the neighborhood, and in our country.  They are amazingly resilient and strong as a generation, but they have lived through much.

Author Tim Elmore states it this way, “Is it just my imagination, or has this generation been assaulted with more than its share of tragedy?” (Tim Elmore, Generation iY:Our Last Chance to Save Their Future)

Elmore goes on to give “A Snapshot of their Turbulent Years” detailing some of the horrific things that this generation has lived through:

1995 – A truck bombing at the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City kills 168 people.

1996 – A terrorist bomb explodes at the summer Olympic games in Atlanta, killing two and wounding more than a hundred more.

1999 – Fifteen die in a shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO.

2001 – Hijacked jets crash into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly three thousand people died; it became the largest terror attack in U.S. history.

2003 – The Columbia space shuttle breaks apart, killing all seven astronauts on board.

2004 – A massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggers devastating tsunamis in east Asia, killing about 225,000 people in fourteen countries.

2005 – Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orléans and the Gulf Coast states.

2007 – Thirty-three people are gunned down on the Virginia Tech campus in Roanoke, VA.

2010 – More than two hundred thousand people are killed in an earthquake in Haiti and another 1.5 million are left homeless. (Stats from Tim Elmore’s book, page 145).

This ofttimes hard-to-reach generation has lived through much tragedy in their short lifetimes.

Most of us (over the age of 35) cannot relate to how hard and how harsh their exposure to turbulence has been. These horrible world events have caused many of the Millennials to be a bit more bitter and a lot more skeptical. But, they can be won over by true compassion, kindness, and love. They can be reached.  They will respond to church people who care.

If we are to reach and relate to this next generation, we must answer question two: Do you really care, and do you really care about ME?

Question Three – How has this Jesus made a difference in your life?

This next generation wants to know how our God has made a difference in our lives. They want us to tell them and show them how Jesus has truly changed our lives. Testimonies and stories seem to be especially effective when dealing with this group of young adults.

For them to hear our testimony of God’s grace in our lives is powerful. They also seem to really appreciate it when we share our struggles, our weaknesses and our failures alongside our stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us.

To share our relationship with Christ with this generation:

  • Share your personal testimony with them.
  • Tell them about a great Christian book you are reading and what you like about it.
  • Open up a discussion with them. My college-age kids love to toss ideas around and talk about meaningful subjects. Many nights around the dinner table, we still will get into a debate about some spiritual subject. It can be a great time to share your heart and share scripture with these young adults. (Remember – many of them were not raised in any church.)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions and let them ask hard questions. 
  • Take them with you when you are going to be around another believer or someone who will motivate and encourage them toward Christ.
  • Invite them to a Bible study.
  • Involve them in a missions or outreach project. Let them see the hands and feet of Christ at work.
  • Pray for them and let them know you are praying for them. 
  • Offer to pray with them about something they are struggling with.

My friend Ellen Olford, who is on the ministry staff at Central Church in Collierville, TN, puts it this way, “They want to know that this Jesus you talk about is real and how He has made a difference in your life.”

If we are to reach and relate to this next generation, we must answer question three: How has Jesus made a difference in my life?

Question Four – Can Jesus make a difference in my life too?

Questions three and four go hand in hand. As you are sharing the reality of Jesus in your own life, you will hopefully begin to see a curiosity from these young adults.  As opportunities arise, show them how Jesus can change their lives. Share with them the good news of the Gospel. Tell them what Jesus has done for them and how they can know Him. You may have to connect the dots for them. They aren’t stupid, but they may be uninformed and uneducated when it comes to spiritual matters.

Don’t assume that they know anything. Just start with the basics and teach them.

My friend Dawn and her family were on mission in the Pacific Northwest. She started a Bible study in her home and invited her neighbors. Many young women came to her home, drank her coffee, ate her food and spent time with her. Not a single one of the women had ever opened the Bible, been to church or even attempted a Bible study. Each week, Dawn was able to patiently and lovingly teach the women and share simple truths with them. Over time, she was able to see several of those women come to faith in Christ. 

Another friend, Lorena, works with a young 20-something. This girl has taken up with Lorena, and they enjoy a good working relationship. In recent days, this young woman has started asking questions and wanting to talk about spiritual matters. Slowly, Lorena is leading her to the cross.

A few tips on witnessing and sharing Christ with this generation:

~ Be authentic and as genuine as possible as you relate to them.

~ Share your personal testimony. They love stories!

~ Be patient and not pushy as you share with them. They hate pushy!

~ Discuss, don’t lecture. 

~ Don’t rush the process. They may take much time to take steps toward the Savior. 

~ Use the Bible – for heaven’s sake! There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God. 

They can be won by persistent love, compassion, and much prayer.

And, they will likely want to know the answer to question four: Can Jesus make a difference in my life too?

Question Five – Will you please let me do something? (I’m dying to use my gift and make a difference in this world!)

This generation is amazing when they get excited about the Lord. They are much more bold, passionate, and fervent than many of their parents or grandparents have been.

Some of the most incredible spiritual leaders are rising out of this generation. Let me name just a few:

~ David Platt, Age 35, President of the International Mission Board, Pastor, Author and very popular leader

Francesca Battistelli, Age 29, is contemporary Christian music’s top-selling new artist in a decade, and the first woman to win the Dove Award for Artist of the Year since Amy Grant in 1992.

Josue Urrutia, Age 24. About one in six Americans is Hispanic, and a growing number of those, particularly young people, either identify as evangelical or have no affiliation at all, according to Pew Research. Leading the outreach to this demographic is Josue Urrutia—the youngest member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s (NHCLC) board of directors and pastor of a vibrant bilingual congregation.

~ Crystal Paine, Age 32. Crystal Paine is best known, at least to savvy shoppers, as the Money Saving Mom. Her website is among the most popular personal finance blogs and mommy blogs of all time, fueling the extreme couponing craze. Paine doles out tips for scoring discounts, meal-planning, homeschooling, and managing money—all to help readers make more effective use of their resources. In between freebie offers and coupon codes, Paine recommends Christian devotionals, discusses favorite Bible verses, and lays out her plans to be “intentional” with her family and finances. (Read more stories like this one at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/august-web-only/33-under-33-continued.html)

This generation can be a force for good. 

They are passionate, strong and ready to spring into action. They want to discover their gifts and put them to work. They don’t want to sit and watch. Barna Research has researched the 5 reasons that millennials will stay connected to church.

One of those five reasons that they stay is that they are allowed to jump in, get involved and make a difference. 

Here is what the research says, “Effective ministry to Millennials means helping these young believers discover their own mission in the world, not merely asking them to wait their turn…. The research shows few churches help young people discover a sense of mission, though this too is important in cultivating a faith that lasts.” (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/635-5-reasons-millennials-stay-connected-to-church#.VS2gec40rU4)

If we are to reach and relate to this generation, we must help them to be on mission for God. We must dream with them and help them to envision a special future.

They have so much to offer for the Kingdom, and they will ask: Will you please let me do something?

As I close, I want to give you an alarming statistic to consider:

According to author Tim Elmore:

ALMOST HALF OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION TODAY IS 21 YEARS OR YOUNGER. (Generation iY, page 147)

“The average age in China and India (the two largest nations) – is in the mid-twenties.

Many people in Africa won’t see their 30th birthday.

In America, the Millennial Generation will likely become our largest in history.

The earth’s population is growing younger, and these kids desperately need guidance.”(Tim Elmore, Generation iY, page 147)

The largest generation in recorded American history is on the rise. They are the "Millennials," and they are in the age group that is from about age 13 to age 35. How can we reach this generation with the gospel? Here are 5 great questions we must answer if we hope to reach these kids.

 

There’s a really strange phenomenon taking place in our the culture.

Kids aren’t going to church much anymore.

Last week, according to the Barna Group, only 28% of Millennials (ages 13-35) went to any church.

https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/635-5-reasons-millennials-stay-connected-to-church#.VS2gec40rU4

So, what do we do?

~ Is there hope?

~ How can we reach this next generation for Christ?

~ Are there some ways we can relate better to them as adults and as church members?

Absolutely!

I’d like to suggest “5 Questions We Must Answer if We Hope to Relate to and Reach the Next Generation for Christ.”

The largest generation in recorded American history is on the rise. They are the "Millennials," and they are in the age group that is from about age 13 to age 35. How can we reach this generation with the gospel? Here are 5 great questions we must answer if we hope to reach these kids.Question One – Are you for real or are you fake?

Question Two – Do you really care, and do you really care about ME?

Question Three – How has this Jesus made a difference in your life?

Question Four – Can Jesus make a difference in my life too?

Question Five – Will you please let me do something? (I’m dying to use my gift and make a difference in this world!)

As a mom, friend, Sunday school teacher and mentor to many millennials, I don’t pretend to have all the answers or to know everything that we need to do to reach them.

But, I do know that we must do something. We must continue to seek to engage this group of kids.  I think of the wise words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9: 22-23:

“When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

So, what do you think?

~ Are you a millennial? Do you agree with my questions?

~ Are you a parent of a millennial? What has worked effectively for you?

~ Are you in youth, college or singles ministry? What great tools have you discovered?

~ Share your thoughts with me

I’d love to hear from you!

**And, would you do me a favor — if this article has helped you today — would you share it with someone else? 

~ I regularly link to these AMAZING SITES~

My research and resources for this post include: 

  • Tim Elmore, Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future;
  • David M. Csinos and Ivy Beckwith, Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus;
  • Houston Heflin, Youth Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Youth Ministry;
  • “5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church” (Barna.org);
  • “Are You Reaching the Next Generation?” (Billy Burns, Ministrytodaymag.com);
  • “Millennials and the Bible: 3 Surprising Insights” (Barna.org).
  • Personal Interview with Ellen Olford about Women’s Ministry in the Local Church

© Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About helloredds@gmail.com

Blessed wife of Randy for over 25 years, mom to two great college students, blogger, women’s ministry coach, speaker and author who is amazed by God’s grace-

22 thoughts on “5 Questions We MUST Answer if We Hope Reach Millennials

  1. love this article and believe that all 5 of these questions should,be asked. But I really want to know how to get more than 28% of the millieniels to come back into the church so that the answers to the these questions can be implemented. Love th article. My mind is whirling and I will spend the rest of the day in prayer asking God to use me thru these questions in regards to my church.

    1. Hey Kathryn,

      Appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment today! I really am grateful for you and your encouragement.

      Just a thought on the other 72% – Maybe we don’t try to get the other 72% to come to church right away. Maybe we meet them, engage them and relate to them right where they are and then invite them to church later. I think we will have to get creative with this generation.

      Sounds like you have a real passion to reach this next generation. I pray that God will use you mightily in your sphere on influence and with those around you.

      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  2. Melanie, this is by far your best blog. It kept me interested till the end. It was engaging and factual. I am mentoring a 16 yr. old and all you have said is true. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Pat!

      I appreciate your kind words and insights.

      I hope to write more posts like this one in the future. These kids are heavy on my heart, and I am concerned that we are losing them.

      Grateful that this 16 year old has you in her life. What a blessing for both of you!

      Thanks for speaking positive words into my life today~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

    1. Thanks, Jennifer!

      It is shocking when you start looking at numbers, isn’t it!

      Appreciate you and your ministry to those young adults in your life!

      Love you and your family—
      Melanie

  3. Thank you Melanie for this great article. This generation too weighs heavy on my heart. There are so many great young adults with such a passion for Christ. I feel like they want so much more from the church outside the walls. I pray our generation can work to embrace this need because they are the future of the church.

    1. Hey Lisa,

      I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment.

      This generation weighs heavy on my heart too! And, I think it’s a great way to pray that we can find a way to embrace their generation.
      I don’t think it will be easy, but it is still very possible.

      What energy there is in this group of kids who will likely be the largest American generation of all time! (80 million plus)

      Praying that God will use us to harness, love and encourage these kids toward using their gifts for good.
      Blessings to you and your family~
      Melanie

  4. I’m so glad you visited my blog and I’m so happy to find yours. This is an excellent and important article. I have 3 children in this generation. One is just like you are describing and one is on fire for the Lord. It has been interesting to see how differently God has work in their hearts and their responsiveness/or lack of. I am honored to share you post on the different media platforms that work with.

    1. Thanks, Ginger!

      Appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment. It’s great to hear from you.

      And we moms of these millennials can really relate to this generation – even though they sort of mystify us at times!

      Thanks so much for sharing my article with others. I am blessed that people read and share it.

      I look forward to partnering in ministry with you in the days ahead.
      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  5. Thank you for sharing this information from your research and from your experience. I couldn’t agree more about the necessity of being authentic, both in our faith and in our genuine care for this generation. May God grant revived hearts and renewed devotion to Him, and may He expand His Church in the millennial generation and beyond! Thank you for linking up with us at Grace & Truth!

    1. Hey Jennifer,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      Being real is important, isn’t it.

      And, I’m glad to link up at Grace and Truth. Looking forward to meeting many new friends.

      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  6. Melanie – I adore this article. It is so true. I have volunteered with some college age kids in leading a children’s ministry and the one thing I can say is those that are for Christ are bold for him. I feel like they are so much more together than I ever thought about being at their age. I am amazed by them. But there needs to be more of them. More of all of us really. To taste and share the freedom Christ gives is amazing and once you know it you want to share it. I want it for my kids and for yours and anyone else who will stop and listen. But church has gotten churchy in some spots and left a bad taste in some people’s mouth. Your questions are dead on as a conduit for change. thank you for the thought provoking today!

    1. Thanks, Kim!

      Appreciate you stopping by for a visit and leaving an encouraging comment. Thanks for sharing a kind word.

      I’m glad to find your blog as well.

      Look forward to serving “alongside” each other in the future.
      Hope you have a wonderful weekend.
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  7. I have just finished reading ‘Already Gone’ by Ken Ham, which directly addresses the Barna research, (and other research specifically commissioned for the book), and have just started to read ‘Family Driven Faith’ by Voddie Bauchum, which talks about similar statistics. It is good that you are looking for ways to reach out to these young people, and I think your point about being ‘real’ and not hypocritical is particularly important. My children were all born in the 2000s, so it is something on my mind a lot. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Appreciate you dropping by to leave a comment today. Both of those books you mention sound very interesting. I’ll have to look them up.

      And, it sounds like your kids are just a little behind mine. It seems that our kids want to know that we are for real and that our Jesus is for real. Authenticity is huge to my kids!

      I’ll look forward to stopping by your site again soon.
      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  8. Thanks so much for sharing the link to your post on my blog today. I LOVE all the points you make, and as a member of that generation and also a teacher, I think that they are spot on. How cool that God had us both writing on the same topic!!

    We are hosting a new link party on the blog, called The Alder Collective, and would love to have you be a part of it! I’d be honored to have you like up! http://www.currentlykelsie.com/2015/10/the-alder-collective-link-party-3.html

    1. Hey Kelsie,

      Thanks for stopping over and reading my post! I loved hearing what you and your husband had to share! It is so cool when we get on similar wavelengths, isn’t it!

      I’ll be sure to check out your link up!

      I hope you have a blessed day,
      Melanie

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