Listening to Millennials

Catholic outlet EWTN News report that Pope Francis wants to hear directly from millennials. In 2018 the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will gather to discuss “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.” In preparation for this gathering they have appealed directly to youth. They want to hear what it is like for younger generations to be part of the Catholic church. 

As part of their effort, an online survey includes questions about education, the home, family life, the self-perception of the young, and overall levels of trust in both secular and religious institutions. The website for this initiative is only available in Italian as of now, but the survey can be taken in a number of languages, including English.

The Catholics are seeking to connect with younger generations and incorporate their voices as they move into the future. This article from Forbes suggests listening to millennials is one important way to keep young people engaged. Churches have followed suit by listening to millennials, finding shortcomings as well as what millennials are seeking

But what does it mean to listen to millennials?

Derek Rishmawy observes that listening is not the same as acquiescing. Listening to millennials opens avenues for better service in gospel ministry, and does not necessitate catering to every desire. Rishmawy notes that listening does not always connote an appeasement, saying that millennials (and he writes as one) are young, do not know everything, and do not constitute the whole of the body of Christ. They might be crying out for something that, frankly, isn’t the church’s greatest need.

But listening does achieve other good ends. Rishmawy writes that listening demonstrates to millennials that they are being taken seriously and that they are part of what God is doing in the present moment among the people of God, it leads to more effective equipping and teaching in mentorship, preaching, and education ministries, and also leads to discernment when entrusting another generation with leadership responsibilities, whether in a small group setting or planting a new church. Rishmawy notes that all listening should be done prayerfully, so that church leaders might discern God’s leading as they engage with the entirety of the church.

How does your church do it? How are you engaging millennials in conversation about their experiences as part of the church, and how are you processing that information in a way that helps you in edifying all of the congregation? How are you empowering another generation for leadership? How are you discerning God’s calling for your congregation in meeting the real needs of your community, including the needs of younger generations? How will your church respond? 

You can start small. You don’t need to launch a website or build a survey. Invite a millennial from your congregation for coffee. Offer to buy. Be up front about what you are seeking, saying that you want to learn. Ask questions about how your conversation partner has experienced life as part of your church fellowship. Encourage the person to be honest, even if the truth might hurt. Ask your conversation partner about how their friends perceive Christianity, and then ask how your church might be able to better share the love of Christ with these neighbors.

Then, pray with your conversation partner about reaching millennials for Christ. Invite other leaders in your congregation to pray in proper settings as the months unfold. And seek God’s guidance as you put in place a plan of action.

Millennials are already speaking. Are you willing to listen?