By Shane Bennett
As the father of four daughters, it’s been impressed upon me that different people think differently. What seems entirely sensible to me does not make similar sense to everyone, apparently! In some cases, it doesn’t make sense to anyone in our house. And the crazy thing is, unless the sense-difference results in tears (not at all uncommon), I might not even notice it.
What if that dynamic is at work on a broad scale as we invite people into God’s global purposes? On the one hand, we have a huge, manpower-intensive task before us in reaching the couple billion people who presently have little or no access to the gospel. (Justin Long unfolds the task brilliantly and soberly.)
On the other hand, the U.S. is home to more than 95 million Millennials, the generation born between 1982 and 2000. If you live in another country, maybe you’ve noticed them there, too! Some percentage of them love Jesus and wouldn’t be totally put off by a relevant invitation to get some skin in the Great Commission game. But what if the “relevant invitation” that makes sense to me (straddling the frontier between the Boomer and Gen X generations), doesn’t, like, work for them?
This is more than marketing. God help us, we don’t need Millennials to buy our stuff. But we certainly need them to take up the mantle for reaching unreached Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and others. If you’re under 32, please copy and paste this line into the comments section (below) and fill in the blank: “Seriously? If you want me to jump into God’s purposes with you, you need to…” If you’re older than 32, here are a dozen things I already know we should keep in mind as we invite Millennials to follow us as we follow Jesus.
1. Learn how they tick.
Sign up for the MissioNexus webinar on October 9 during which Jim Raymo, co-author of Millenials and Mission, will give you the real scoop! Or, you could get the book. In the meantime…
2. Invite them in.
Nothing beats laying down your phone, leaning in over a coffee-stained table, looking someone right in the eyes, and asking them to go do a certain job in a specific hard place among a truly beautiful people.
Turns out that also bestows great honor on the invited, and it’s closely related to number three:
3. Unleash their latent capacity.
Peter says in his first letter, “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” The Holy Spirit has put gifts in the lives of Jesus-loving Millennials. Do you recognize their gifts and skills? Our job is to help them see those and connect the dots to productive global service.
As we do this, we’ve got to invite Millennials to lead and also give them room to fail.
4. Teach them to raise money and to make money.
The movements we long to see in the world will be funded not only with raised funds, but by hard work paid by the hour. People catalyzing those movements need to be familiar and skilled in both.
5. Motivate with the Bible, the world, and a big God.
We shouldn’t be surprised if Millennials need more than an accurate exposition of the Great Commission to get in the game. Couple biblical mandate and authority with a vision of solving big-time global problems. Place these both under the umbrella of a big God bent on remaking the cosmos and we’ll find Millennials rising to the challenge.
6. Hire one to get the rest.
In What the Church Can Learn from Jimmy Fallon, Tiffany DeLuccia talks about NBC’s brilliance in hiring Fallon to replace Jay Leno in their premier late-night time slot: “They invested in a person who could authentically speak to a different generation, who could make them laugh and make them want to share their laughs with a friend.”
We might see success that mirrors their ratings bump if we hired Millennials to mobilize Millennials.
7. Recognize that friends bring friends.
Youth with a Mission recently surveyed 186 of their global staff. When asked to list all the factors that influenced their decision to join YWAM, almost everyone cited a friend’s leverage in their decision to join. Only five percent cited a missions event or conference.
How can we encourage people to invite their friends to jump in?
8. Embrace the appeal of diversity.
When we moved back to Colorado from England, our then-twelve-year-old son looked around our town and asked, “Where are all the black people?” Millennials form the most racially diverse generation in American history; more than four out of ten are non-white.
When they look at your agency or church, does it feel really white?
9. Make cross-generational connections.
Drew Dyck, managing editor of Leadership Journal and author of Yawning at Tigers, says, “Intergenerational relationships are crucial. The number one predictive factor as to whether or not a young Christian will retain his or her faith is whether that person has a meaningful relationship with an older Christian.”
We’ll see a similar benefit in Millennials staying connected to the Great Commission if we also connect them with older mentors.
10. Open your network.
One of the greatest gifts an older person can give to a younger person is access. You know people succeeding in a variety of fields and a plethora of cross-cultural situations. Consider introducing newcomers to veterans of similar focus and passion. As a bridge, you can tell a smart, successful older person that it’s OK, beneficial even, to give some time and attention to a future (apparently distant future) rock star. Cast the vision: “I know he talks kind of funny and he only owns one pair of pants, but I think you two could accomplish some good stuff together.”
11. You think what?!?
You see it coming don’t you? Maybe you’ve already experienced it: You’re sitting in the lunch room, someone’s decrying the latest court ruling allowing same-sex marriage, and your sharp, young mobilization director (see number 6 above) says softly, “What’s the big deal anyway? Why are we so concerned about this?” Or your brochure-worthy evangelist, reviewing with you the future of the fourth church she’s helped start, confesses that she’s both gay and not inclined to leave the work God is obviously blessing.
Millennials are living through tidal shifts in culture and thinking differently from many of us in significant ways. How do we respond? How can we get ready for this?
12. Know that smart phone’s not going away.
Expect that technology will play a bigger part in a Millennial’s life than yours. We also need to check the assumption that technology is a distraction or an inferior way of relating. While we’re at it, let’s add live-chat to our websites! I totally believe that will lead to more coffee-shop opps (see number 2 above).
Bonus: 13. Foster holy hookups.
Millennials are marrying later and doing so out of a greater context of broken relationships than previous generations. Without rushing people to marriage, how can we provide relationship counsel and help them through the minefields and decisions? How can we offer opportunities to meet like-minded Jesus followers? For starters, how about, “Go on a short-term trip with us and get a free six-month membership to CalledTogether.us”?
God will accomplish his global purposes, his kingdom will come, and I love to watch as coming generations rise up to run their leg of the race. May he give those of us who need it grace to listen well, open the door, and get out of the way. And to you who are stepping into the fray, success to you beyond what we all together have ever asked or dreamed.
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Photo: Creative Commons image from quinn.anya.
About Shane Bennett
Shane has been loving Muslims and connecting people who love Jesus with Muslims for more than 20 years. He speaks like he writes – in a practical, humorous, and easy-to-relate-to way – about God’s passion to bring all peoples into his kingdom. Contact Shane to speak to your people.