Adding Another Table and Some More Chairs

I’ve been hosting a class on The Gospel of John during lent.  Hundreds of people have been coming out for a 90-minute lecture-based teaching.  I’ve been using Adam Hamilton’s John: The Gospel of Light and Light book and DVD as a template.

It has been fun to see the divergence of generations in attendance.  We have high school students, Millennials, Xers, Boomers and Builders. In fact, the last few weeks we’ve had to add more tables and chairs to accommodate the growing number of millennials.

After the class this past week one of our long-time members said, “It sure is great to see all these young people out for your class.”  I agreed with her, of course.

The woman followed up with, “You must be pleased to see them all.  Why do you think they chose this class?”

“Good question,” I said and then, fortunately, another participant interrupted us and I didn’t have to think quickly on my feet to provide an answer!

On the drive home, however, I thought deeply about her question.  Why would millennials choose this class?  Was it the content?  Maybe.  Was it the format? Maybe.  Was it our senior pastor’s book?  Maybe.  Was it my teaching?  I doubt it! :)

Here are four reasons why I think we’ve had to add tables and chairs to accommodate the growing number of millennials:

  1. The class is candidly about Jesus and not a lot of other fluff. My formal and informal research of millennials over the last few months - through this Burlap project - has revealed that millennials have a deep interest in Jesus – for a variety of reasons.  Some desire to live more like Jesus and, therefore, they desire to know what that looks like.  Others, I think, are simply interested in the stories about Jesus on a surface level.  Still others are interested in the metaphor and symbolism in John that points to the nature of Jesus.  Regardless, millennials want to hear about Jesus without the extra fluff to sift through.  If you are going to try and connect with millennials by teaching on or about Jesus, be explicitly direct.
  2. The class has a number of other millennials in attendance. Millennials desire a place to connect, like all of us.  If you can build a community where like-minded and like-hearted people can share a conversation about whatever, in this case, Jesus, it’ll likely grow simply because there are others who share a similar desire.  This has a lot to do with the community we are building beyond the class.  It isn’t just the class that gives them opportunity for connection; it is the other gathering places they share that make the John class I am teaching common ground.  Reaching millennials requires multiple gathering opportunities.
  3. The class challenges millennials to live differently. Nearly every class I teach I end with a short reflection on the mission of God.  The “why” behind the purpose of the gathering in the first place.  I believe, from informal and formal research, that millennials love to be challenged to engage God’s mission in the world.  God’s mission is a narrative compelling enough to give their attention, and hopefully their entire life to.
  4. I believe millennials love seeing a full community, an intergenerational dynamic to the class. Many of the millennials I talk to recognizes the beauty of a multi-generational community in which they can learn and grow.  A multi-generational community proves that there is something more for all not just for me.

Want to connect with more millennials?  I encourage you to be direct, develop multiple ways for millennials to connect, challenge millennials to live differently, that is, with purpose and hope and be intentional about building a community of people that represents the “we” over the “me.”  Need help?  Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at chris@thinkburlap.com.