4 Ways to Build Trust with Millennials

Some millennials have a hard time trusting, especially when it comes to institutions. From the media to Wall Street to Congress to the President to local police, millennials are quick to assess and question all motives and actions. In recent years the church and religious institutions have fallen in the polls when it comes to trust and respect among millennials (as well as other generations).

A large percentage of millennials remember the attacks on the World Trade Centers and know the reality of a world of terrorism and fear. Time and time again, millennials have seen those in positions of authority abuse their power for their own good, manipulating laws, rules, and basic moral decency for their own selfish desires. Earning trust, whether it’s in the workplace or at church, takes time and effort on both parts. One way workplaces are extending trust to millennials is offering flexibility when it comes to hours. 

“Virtually every workplace survey conducted in recent years says flexibility is important to this generation,” writes Sarah Fister Gale on Workforce.com. Laura Owen of Polycom Inc., an audio- and video-conferencing technology company in San Jose, California, continued in an interview, “Employees can connect from anywhere. Our philosophy is that work is about what you do not where you do it. Once you think about work in that way, it is easy to embrace these kinds of policies (flexible work arrangements).”

Can we think about the church in the same manner? Isn’t this the very heartbeat of the missional worldview, which declares the church is about “what you do and why you do it — not where you do it?”

How can church be both a place where we gather as a community for worship and about the living out of our daily lives? Embracing this paradox will help us begin to not only develop trust with millennials, but discover how to better fulfill the Great Commission.  Try this…


Those in positions of leadership and making decisions need to create space where they listen, not only to their congregation, but also to the voices in the community. Actively listening strengthens relationships, but also means that your opinions might change. 

Do the work.

Trust is gained when those in leadership share the behind-the-scenes work, whether it’s setting up chairs before service or cleaning afterwards. Church staff are called from the congregation not to lord it over others, but to serve alongside others. Pick up litter from the sidewalk, open doors for strangers, treat your servers with generosity — wherever we go we can be the church by what we are called to do­­ — love our neighbors. 

Be authentic.

Be real, transparent, open. Share your honest struggles and shortcomings and reliance on Christ’s grace to work through your weaknesses. Trust is gained little by little over the long haul.

Cooperate with other churches for the good of the community. 

The subtle language and actions of churches make it seem that they are in competition with one another, trying to build the biggest buildings with the largest number of weekly attendees. Churches need to learn to share, to work together across denominational lines, refusing to worry about whether or not “new people” will visit their building.    

Flexibility is important to millennials, not just in the workplace, but in all of life. Churches that can think, be and act missionally, responding to those in need in the community, will begin to earn the trust and respect of millennials.

Millennial LifeBurlapComment