in YG

Ministry with Millennials: The Power of Relationships

“The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.” –Brian Tracy

Peer relationships have been assumed to be the gold standard of youth ministries.  But what keeps them in the church after youth group?  In this most recent study of Adventist Millennials, conducted by the Barna Group, there were some fascinating findings.  Here’s what the research revealed, as summarized in Ministry Magazine:

Several themes emerged that point the way for local congregations to create a positive environment for their youth and young adults. . . The first key is intergenerational relationships. For so many of our respondents, their relationship with the church was determined by their relationship with older members. These were even more important than peer relationships in many cases (especially as members transition from teenagers to young adults).

Story after story would affirm the poignancy of relationships between the generations and the impression it made on Adventist Millennials. Notably, local churches don’t need to figure out how to make intergenerational relationships happen: They are already happening. However, it is important to note that these intergenerational relationships can work both ways—both negatively and positively.

The Power of Relationships
Among the prominent themes that emerged from the qualitative research was the desire among Millennials to have constructive, positive relationships with adults in the church; Adults other than their parents or the youth pastor.  It bears repeating that these interactions with adults are already occurring, however the key to longitudinal engagement of Millennials lies in the nature of these encounters.

Another theme from the qualitative research gives instrumental insights as to these vital relationships, and is summarized well in Ministry Magazine:

Nothing drives teenagers and young adults from the church faster than being rejected, and nothing draws them in faster than being accepted. Both are currently happening in spades in Adventist churches around North America.

It seems that older adults tend to look at specific struggles and assign a judgment of the young person’s heart or intentions. But the young people often told us that God was using these struggles to draw them closer to Him. . . a process the older adults couldn’t see.

Tracy shared her story of where her poor decision left her feeling judged by the church as opposed to feeling comforted—unfortunately she then felt defined by a single instance of sin. “In one of my past relationships I let my boyfriend take me too far. . . and I really can’t forgive myself. I am praying God helps me forgive myself. It is tough to overcome something that has gone against your beliefs and I was stupid enough to let it happen. Each day I pray I can overcome this.”

The stories and the surveys suggest what is needed is the patience to form solid relationships which exude forgiveness and acceptance—trusting God to make the necessary changes, and recognizing change also needs time. Never discard someone in the midst of a personal struggle, for it may be just what God is using to make them into who He needs in the church.

Dr. Clint Jenkin offers a nice summary of these qualitative findings from the Adventist Millennial Research.

Forgiveness & Acceptance
It’s not uncommon for relationships between adults and next generations to center on the themes of standards, behavior, and judgment.  And clearly the Bible articulates God’s sentiments on these important topics, including His administrative, transformative, and judicial roles.  Without negating Scriptural wisdom, the research endorses the role of church members as “ministers of reconciliation,” especially in adult relationships with next generations.

Although in parental roles, it might have become habitual to relate with one’s children, leading off with rules, consequences, and discipline; Church adults are encouraged to lead with forgiveness and acceptance as they engage next generations, allowing rapport, trust, and respect to develop.

Just as important, the research also points to forgiveness and acceptance of church adults by Millennials.  The opportunity for mutually beneficial relationships to grow requires vulnerability and humility on the part of all generations.

I imagine many of us have stories from childhood, teen years, and young adulthood where adult members of the church loved and embraced us.  We may recall the profound impact forgiveness and acceptance had on young and older alike.

As a church leader/pastor/member, what might you and your team do to intentionally foster constructive, positive, intergenerational relationships undergirded by a culture of forgiveness and acceptance?

in YG

From Losing Millennials to Loving Them: Help for the Local Church

Several of you may have read the books, reviewed the research, and even attended a multiplicity of seminars and workshops about Millennials and their precarious relationship with the church. But the question that still hangs in the middle of the room is:

"How do I share this with my local church in a way that will lead to change?"

In my experience, I've found many churches consider what is shared from the pulpit to be of high value and importance.  In initiatives like Millennial Matrix and others, where change is being forged in the local church, using a sermon series has played a vital role in shifting culture and educating church members.

To help you and your church, YGU would like to share our sermon series, "You Lost Me," that coincides with David Kinnaman's book by the same title.  This series afforded YG a chance to share with our congregation, over several weeks, valuable insights and findings.


[Click the graphic to view our Vimeo channel collection for this sermon series.]

Simultaneous to the sermon series, we encouraged our members to be involved with a weekly LIFEgroup, our small group ministry, utilizing the You Lost Me DVD and discussion guide. This afforded church members opportunities for conversation and interaction on the sermon topics and the book chapters.

[Click the graphic to see the RIGHTNow Media collection for this LIFEgroup series.]

We found this to be a powerful way to help our local church to get on the same page on Millennial issues and forge a mission for young adult ministry.

I know this may feel a bit overwhelming, so let me share here just one sample sermon I gave to help my local church love young adults better.

Hopefully these various media files and sermons have sparked for you some ideas of how to effectively implement teaching and culture change in your local setting. You know your church best, so contextualize and customize your approach to be constructive and palatable.

And finally, take and use any or all of the stuff cited here. Seriously. Email me [ ] sharing what you need, and I will do my utmost to provide it to you [down to my sermon outlines]. Seriously. 

At YG, we are committed to be of help to you and your local church love young adults better. You can do it, we can help.

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YG University [YGU] is our endeavor to be a life-long learning community of disciples, seeking to deepen the Christ-centered devotion of next generations, beyond the contours of Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church.

YGU aspires to be of benefit to the larger sphere of young adult ministry development across the Adventist landscape. We pray to be a blessing to many others and we are excited for the learning opportunities it will offer us as well.


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