Millennials need to have authentic relationships modeled for them.


Understanding Millennials PART TWO

In Part One of the series, we identified who the millennials are, how they were raised, and how their worldview came about. Today we’ll look at how this most unique group can be groomed to take the Church in a powerfully positive direction, and it’s all about relationships. I’m convinced we all were created with a void in our hearts that could only be filled with meaningful relationships, first with God, and then with others. After all, the greatest two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) were to love God and love others.

The good news is that those who formed “electronic relationships” are excited to discover the real thing. It’s so much more satisfying. This offers a great opportunity for the rest of us if we are willing to reach out to them with the real thing. If we are convinced that the negative stereotypes are true across the board, then we may be shocked to learn that millennials are unlike any previous generation in positive ways. They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated and more ethnically diverse. They are drawn to working as a team, high achievement, modesty, and good conduct. How’s that for offering hope?

If millennials are to be molded into leaders who will bring life to the American Church, we must do more than avoid or analyze them. We must impart a biblical worldview in the context of meaningful relationships. According to the research, they will be open if they know you’re the real deal. Force feeding them dogma will turn them off.

When Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, to encourage him to remain steadfast in the midst of suffering (2 Timothy), he didn’t rehearse the validity of the gospel message or equip him with some great apologetic arguments. Instead, he began by reminding Timothy of his own relationship with him, as well as Timothy’s relationships with his mother and grandmother, whose faith had resulted in Timothy becoming a minister of the gospel:

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:14-15).

The whole idea of learning the gospel through relationships clearly isn’t unique to millennials. It’s been God’s plan all along. Paul drove the point home to Timothy a little later in the same letter:

And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also (2:2).

Our mission is clear. We must be the faithful ones who are willing to cultivate these relationships through which millennials will be attracted to the gospel message and to our Savior and Lord.


Six months ago, Dee and I joined a new church plant that was meeting in an elementary school about 30 minutes from our home. Before we discovered it, we thought our search for an authentic, relationship-based church, one determined to do church God’s way, whatever that looked like, had ended in failure. Then we discovered Venture Church.

The image in my head

It was their grand opening—the very first day. Everything had been well-planned and implemented—the signs, banners and curtains—friendly people everywhere greeting and directing the guests. As soon as we entered the auditorium, we were shocked to see well over 200 people in attendance and more were still wandering in. That’s when it happened. In an instant, I was horrified by what I saw. The music was great, but two members of the praise team were jumping around like crazy people as the smoke shot up from behind them. This was the last thing I wanted to see. I had been conditioned to see this as a performance, not worship. I felt like I had entered an adult jumpy castle in the heart of the Smokey Mountains. Dee and I looked at each other in dismay. We had been seated. It was too late to back out now. We had to see it through.

When the pastor spoke, I thought he really needed to cut back on his caffeine intake. He put the energizer bunny to shame, but his message was good. No, it was great. The glimmer of hope brought us back again…and again. Fast forward to today. I want to tell you what our church experience has to do with this article. You see, this church is full of millennials, and we’ve come to love the church because we’ve come to love them. We’ve learned that what we saw, and continue to see on stage, was and is genuine. These people just can’t contain their love for their Lord. They refuse to be bound by “ecclesiastic decorum.” Many of them have heart-wrenching stories that led to encounters with God that have truly set them free. They can’t help but dance. Sounds like David when he brought the ark back to the City of David (2 Sam. 6:16). I’m still workin’ on the smoke.

As for the pastor, we’ve learned that once his foot hits the stage, he comes alive in a most unique, but authentic way. By the way, he could be considered a young gen-exer or an old millennial. This clearly isn’t church as usual, and we love it. We love the energy of all these young people and how relationship-hungry they are. We now lead a small group. They’re all millennials. I play in the praise band. Most of them are millennials. Every week

People are coming to Christ. Many are millennials. The outreach, children, and young adult ministries are way beyond what you would expect from a church less than a year old. God is clearly at work here and it’s exciting to be a part of it.

Here’s my point. Don’t apply the stereotypes to all millennials. Some are exactly what you think, but many aren’t. I believe God can use their “outside the box” mentality and ingenuity to grow His Kingdom and bring glory to Himself. We must be the faithful ones to guide them in the right direction. Next week we’ll look at “Why Millennials Care and how we must help them redirect their “justice-ordered” inclinations to a more biblically-based motivation.



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