In September & October we posted a 5-part series of OPC millennials talking about reaching millennials. We have a couple more posts coming in the series, but wanted to pause and give you a single post summary and recap. The authors have been very forthcoming and helpful and there are probably 20 things in this series that are worth everyone’s time and would help us greatly in this challenging area of ministry—reaching the younger generations for Christ.
This post will be truncated, but we wanted to give you a few extended quotes to either recap or draw you in to check out more.
This post would be a nice summary to read as a group and discuss.
Regarding the millennial generation and who they are:
From Tiffany Ward (Tiffany’s full post)
“It is a stereotype, but a true stereotype, that millennials want “authenticity.” Perhaps this is why so many evangelical taglines begin with the word “authentic” (“authentic-worship… authentic-fellowship… authentic-community…” etc). Being the young Postmoderns that we are, we are inherently skeptical of people who portray themselves as being all-put-together. We have tattoos and piercings, and we like them. We have hurt, we struggle with anxiety, loneliness, and depression, and we want to be honest about that. Just as importantly, we want our religious leaders and community to be honest and genuine.
If millennials are skeptical of people who seem “all-put-together,” it does not take a lot of mental energy to understand why the OPC may be unappealing. The unfortunate impression of our churches can be that we are “the frozen chosen” and even if not, that we are still upper-middle-class-stiffs who think we get everything right. This impression does not have to be the case (and indeed in many churches is not)! I have been heartened by recent examples of churches in our denomination hosting public talks at local libraries on the topic of depression, or addressing the struggle of families caring for people with disabilities, and others investing themselves in evangelizing Muslim refugees and tutoring their children. I have also seen a trend of pastors longing to be more open and genuine, to tear down the traditional wall of the impenetrable minister and his fish-bowl perfect family in exchange for vulnerability and openness. These trends can only serve to strengthen our connection with millennials.”
And from Kerri Ann Cruse (Kerri Ann’s full post)
“Millennials can be who they want to be and if the people around them aren’t the same that’s okay because they can find people who are like them on the internet. Sadly, this often also means they are always “on”. The older millennials remember a time when they would go home from school, play with friends for a bit, and then not see them again until the next day. They could relax, spend time with family, and do their own thing. Now, when we leave people, we are still tied to them. We watch what they are doing on different social media platforms, know who’s hanging out with whom, know where you weren’t invited, and we develop serious cases of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). There is a pressure to have an “Insta-perfect” lifestyle all the time.
This pressure of always being watched and feeling like one needs to be picture perfect causes stress, anxiety, and depression. It also causes a search for others who are “authentic”. We know deep down no one has their life all together, but many are afraid to admit it. So millennials tend to search out not just friends, but also brands, companies, politicians, and churches that are “authentic.”
Regarding engaging millennials and entering into their lives:
From Everett Henes (Everett’s full post)
“I have been privileged to work with young people over the past 20+ years, with the last 11 of those years being in the OPC…..What should we know? We should know that they are people who deserve our love and respect. We should expect to spend time with them, caring about the details in their lives and inviting them into ours. We should have them in our homes as well as in our worship. Our preaching should be willing to tackle hard questions and proclaim hard truths winsomely. I can’t stress, enough, that what they require most is your time and respect. Take them seriously and talk with them about serious things. They are not interested in worship that is catering to their supposed wants. Sure, it is true that many will go to the megachurch down the street and prefer a rock band and laser light show. But so many of them are looking for worship that is historically rooted that seeks to take seriously the moment and matter of worship.
It’s impossible to ask the right questions if we aren’t hearing what their questions are. This is where spending time with them comes in, getting to know them and understanding what their questions are and why (the second part being just as important and sometimes more important). Young people are asking questions about issues of the day: abortion, gay-marriage, LGBTQ+ issues, how should politicians act, what does a Christian family look like, what does it mean to live a faithful Christian life, what are ways that the church has adopted cultural values without thinking or realizing it…they want to know how best to glorify God in these various areas and more!
I think the first thing we need to do is work on our poker face. What I mean is, our answer to their question (or shock at it) shouldn’t be the first thing we show. If we want to know what they’re thinking about or wrestling with, we need to be ready to hear it without overreaction or simply writing them off.”
And from Kerri Ann Cruse (Kerri Ann’s full post)
“Many OPC churches also face the problem of welcoming in young professionals who aren’t married, or married women who are in the work place. There is a strong emphasis on getting married and, for the women especially, to then be in the home and home schooling. We need to find balance in these issues, and we need to learn to fellowship with single millennials in a way that isn’t always trying to set them up with all the other single people in the church. Young women who want to work shouldn’t feel like they are sinning in doing so. God has given us all different talents and callings. The millennial generation is filled with hard workers who are often passionate about their work. Encourage them to go and be a light in these places.”
And from Jonathan Cruse (Jonathan’s full post)
“The big issues today are obviously gender, racial, and sexual identity. Can we affirm that people matter? Do people’s feelings matter? I think many non-Christian millennials need to see we can indeed affirm those questions before the conversation can continue. They need to see we can both affirm that every person matters, and yet at the same time hold a biblical ethic of identity.”
Some practical suggestions in concrete areas of ministry & outreach:
From Jonathan Cruse (Jonathan’s full post)
“The OPC needs to recognize that media and technology are wonderful tools that can be used for great good. I think when millennials, who love tech, see a denomination (I’m painting with a broad brush, please understand) that doesn’t care much about it, or doesn’t care enough about it to utilize it well (e.g., we have a website, but do we have a good website; do we have good, clean, crisp, compelling design work down by graphic artist professionals who are up-to-date on the latest trends; are we utilizing new media like Apps and Podcasts?) the impression that they could come away with is that these are a people who are not for them.”
From Ben Ward (Ben’s full post)
“Don’t be any weirder than the gospel already makes you. Being a faithful Christian will already make you weird in lots of people’s eyes. So other than that, try to be a normal person. If non-Christians see that a “normal” person with regular interests, fashion sense, and odors can be a faithful Christian, they will be much more likely to hear the claims of Christ from that person.”