An Essential Ingredient for Reaching and Engaging Millennials

Many pastors of smaller or mid-sized churches peer out across their Sunday congregation at a sea of gray (hair), with the occasional island of baldness rising slightly out of the ocean.

In other words, there’s a group notably absent for many of these congregations.

Who is missing?

Millennials! Born between 1981 and 1996, the millennial age cohort describes people between 18 and 33 years old.

One report from Pew research found that 35% of millennials report having no religious identity or belief, a rate higher than any preceding generation! Much discussion and even research centers on these “missing millennials”.

For example, Lifeway Research found that millennials desire[1]:

  • contemporary worship

  • authenticity and transparency in leadership

  • care for the hurting

Interestingly, research also found that the few millennials who do sit in our pews may be the most passionate people in the congregation![2]

Therein lies a great opportunity that we don’t want to miss!

I believe that rising to the occasion and reaching millennials requires more than relevant programs or contemporary music. Reaching millennials requires an emotionally intelligent approach.

Understanding others comprises that aspect of emotional intelligence that I call relational insight. Using relational insight to then successfully relate to others – in this case, millennials (assuming you are not a millennial yourself!) – creates an emotionally intelligent approach.

How to do that?  Consider, six recommendations from Ed Stetzer at Lifeway Research[3]:

  1. Get to know and build relationships with millennials in the church and out of the church. Find out what they like and how they think.

  2. For those attending church, tap into their passion for relevancy and making a difference.

  3. Build relationships with them.

  4. Ask them for their input.

  5. Help them find opportunities of leadership and expression of their gifts.

  6. Help them tap into ways to helping the hurting.

When a generational group goes missing we wonder about the future of the church. There do exist opportunities, however, to reach Millennials. I hope this article provokes your thinking on how to engage them in a “emotionally intelligent” way.



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Dr. JeannieComment