Ministry with Millenials and GenZ- Part 2

“Growing Young” is a book based on 4 years of extensive research with over 500 young adults, and over 300 churches, searching for ways to keep and connect youth/emerging adults with the church.

At the end of the first blog on “Ministry to and with Millenials and GenZ” I said that I would give some ideas of what the church can do to engage with these emerging adults.  You might have been eagerly awaiting a list of programs and strategies for Immanuel to do: and while we will eventually get to some of that, the most important thing I learned about what the church can do for the young adults and teenagers in their communities is for each one of us to seek them out, engage with them, find out what matters to them, and know them. 

  • LISTEN to teens, simply listen to them, and empathize.
  • Walk alongside them in their fear/worry/anxiety
  • Be willing to talk about the difficult issues: sexuality/gender; money; justice for all; indigenous peoples, etc.
  • Be one of the 5 non-parental adults that teens need in their life to grow in their faith
  • Invest in them, grow with them, make a commitment to them. 

There will be several opportunities for you to discuss these things further and to begin to un-pack this information as it applies to Immanuel.   The staff has started reading Growing Young and will be processing each chapter, and then bringing a plan for strategy to the congregation.  This book is based on 4 years of extensive research with over 500 young adults, and over 300 churches, searching for ways to keep and connect youth/emerging adults with the church.  It’s a positive, hopeful book, sharing how it is possible for any church to “grow young” despite the trend of teens/young adults leaving the church. And when a church grows young, it makes a positive impact on all aspects of church life – “In a kingdom win/win, stronger ministry to young people bulks up the ministry muscles of the entire congregation, and vice versa.” (p. 42)

We will also offer an “Adult Education” class on Sundays, starting Sunday, Sept. 22 after worship (lunch provided) based in part on the “Growing Young” book.  This is for any and all of you who want to learn more about becoming a church that is “growing young:” parents of teens and young children, those of us who are “almost” finished parenting, those of you who are grandparents, and those of you who love youth and want to be a part of a church that loves youth!  So… anybody and everybody!! 

While the book outlines six essential strategies that a church needs to embrace in order to “grow young” we were all encouraged by these 10 qualities that your church does NOT need in order to grow young.  While some of these things are still important, they were not THE thing that the research found made a church attractive to youth.  The list my surprise you.

  1. A precise size
  2. A trendy location or region
  3. An exact age
  4. A popular denomination…or lack of denomination
  5. An off-the-charts cool quotient
  6. A big, modern building
  7. A big budget
  8. A “contemporary” worship service
  9. A watered-down teaching style
  10.   A hyper-entertaining ministry program

I would like to invite you to pray, join, and engage in the learning.  Stay tuned for continued details and communication regarding how we hope to engage Immanuel in being a church that is “growing young.”  

In Christ, Ruth Ann

Ministry with Millenials and Gen Z

From June 3-7, Erick and I took a summer seminar at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan called: “Ministry to and with Millenials and GenZ.”   The learning was fantastic: both from the professors and with our classmates and colleagues in ministry.   It was a rich and beautiful time.

There’s so much I want to share, too much even: I don’t know where to start!   I think it might be helpful to break it up into 2 blogs with this first one talking about the characteristics of these two generations. Millennials are those born from 1980-2000, or some say 1980-1995 and GenZ are those born from 1999-2015, our current middle-schoolers, and teens.  I’ll write later about what we can do in the church to engage with these generations and help them to rediscover their faith.

Young adults and teens are doing life differently today then we did 30-plus years ago.  We sense this, we know this, but maybe we don’t always understand it completely.  We have some of our own biases and prejudices (eg. “all millennials are lazy”) on who these “emerging adults” are, which I’ve learned are not always true or helpful.

So, here is some data based on thousands of hours of rigorous research.  Some of it may surprise you, or even challenge you! 

  • Millenials are not lazy.  They work hard and are often stressed because of how much they care about “doing it all.” 
  • They care deeply about having meaning and purpose in their lives.  They want their work to be meaningful and will leave jobs that don’t give them meaning, even if it means taking less money.  
  • They appreciate flexibility.
  • They believe in their “dreams” and still believe they can achieve their dreams (a meaningful life). 
  • The institutions they support need to align with their values, otherwise they won’t support it.
  • Millennials want to be empowered, they are eager and ready to be given responsibility.
  • They want to grow and develop themselves, in work and in life. 
  • Creativity and self-expression are important for this generation.
  • Gen Z’ers are more fearful and cautious, and less optimistic than millennials.
  • They are willing to take more “practical” jobs so they can simply make money and support themselves; they lived through the most recent economic recession and don’t want that to happen to them. They are entrepreneurial.
  • Work is not life.  Work is work, to make money. 
  • Gen Zers are very tolerant and non-judgmental, and don’t always understand why adults can’t just let “people be who they are.” 
  • They are growing up even more slowly than millennials did, and with lots of connection to parents as their “safe” place. 
  • They are less likely to party, to have sex, or to do stupid things in high-school because they know and have seen the impact of un-safe events.  
  • Physical and emotional safety is extremely important to this generation.   They have discovered that it’s safer to interact on-line than to have personal, face-to-face relationships.  
  • Anxiety and depression have never been higher than with this generation; they are also very willing to talk about mental health issues.
  • They have never known life without the internet.  Screen time hours directly correlate to self-professed feelings of loneliness, being less happy with life, and being anxious.  
  • This is a skeptical generation: there is no automatic trust

This is not an exhaustive description of these young adults, but hopefully you begin to get a picture of who they are.   There are definitely exceptions to these descriptions. However, this gives a broad view of the emerging adults in our society, which can help us have conversations about how/why many of them are leaving the church, and what we can do to re-connect with them.   That’s for next time. 

Thanks for reading,

In Christ,
Ruth Ann