May 17, 2019

Talk with Millennials Not About Millennials

Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14 (RSV)

Being an old millennial myself (age 34) and working in youth and other ministries puts me in a good position to see all sides of the Millennial spectrum. For years, I have noticed congregations and committees at a Diocesan level talk about the young generations, especially how “difficult” it seems to engage millennials. But when I am part of those meetings, I have not seen any millennials involved. I have realized that it is easier for other generations to talk about millennials than with millennials. We must remember that the term is not the individual it is just a term to identify a generation. If you want to engage millennials, you must include them in the conversation.

I will not give you some magical answer or the secret to a millennial’s mind. Good communication requires our willingness to listen. To many, the term millennial has become some type of impossible phenomenon out of our reach. But millennials are not impossible to communicate with; we are passionate for change and we go about things differently. If you want to communicate with a millennial or as I like to call us, a person or individual, do it with patience and an open mind. Here are some steps that might help you in your quest to talk with a millennial.

The box

Make sure to put away your preconceived notions about what you think you know about us millennials. Don’t put everyone in a box and then expect us to stay there. It won’t work, and you will be disappointed. Give people the respect they deserve and treat them as individuals not some idea, term or definition. We are people. Remember that respect goes a long way.

Ask questions; don’t assume

Being a millennial seems to motivate people to start a conversion thinking they know what you will say before you even say it. Don’t assume what we know or think, just ask. Give yourself the opportunity to get to know us and our way of thinking. Try to be open minded. Assuming what you think we will say shows you have an agenda and that will shut down the trust in the conversation. Remember we are individuals and trust is very important.

Be genuine

People forget that we notice when someone is being honest. If you want to engage us in conversation, include us as part of the team and not as a trophy on a shelf to make yourself feel better. We millennials love to be part of a team and be a part of change. When you invite us to be part of the team then you must be willing to listen to us, don’t dismiss us as impulsive and inexperienced because we don’t think like you. Why approach us if you won’t listen to us? Be genuine, we want to be included and part of the process.

Change is second nature to millennials

Change is a motivational factor for us. We live in a world that is constantly changing and we are good at changing and modifying with the times. The famous Episcopalian phrase “We have always done it this way” is like kryptonite to a millennial. When change is needed, millennials will be the first ones to point it out loudly and with no shame whatsoever. Unfortunately, other generations take it as disrespect to tradition or the “old way” of doing things.

Here are some pointers:

  • Include us in your meetings (local, diocesan, national, all levels)
  • Invite us to join your leadership committees (all levels)
  • Let us serve at church services and not just as acolytes (reading or even preaching)
  • Try to be open minded and be ready for new ideas
  • Be genuine in your approach
  • Drop the preconceived notions (this is not nice)
  • Be patient with us and yourself
  • Encourage us for ordained ministry (you heard that Bishops!)
  • Listen to us attentively and genuinely
  • Ask lots of questions, please don’t assume anything
  • When we make a mistake, educate us instead of reprimanding us
  • And finally, do all you do with love

We must stop being so allergic to change. Jesus came to show us life-changing, spirit-lifting love and we must use that as our driving force in the world. And that love of Jesus created a movement of change that has transformed the world. The scriptures teach us that change can be scary at times, but we must remember that good communication makes change sweeter. Healthy and genuine conversation builds relationships and that is the beginning of a healthy conversation.

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 NRSV

Communicate with love and let Jesus be your guiding light.