“Millennials want to change the world. The problem is that it is not sustainable without an inner life rooted in God.”
According to a Pew Research study, millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. Millennials, whom we now define as those ages 20 to 36, number over 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 53 to 71). Businesses such as Goldman Sachs are studying this trend, recognizing they will “change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come.”
I, too, have been thinking about this new culture of millennials as they increasingly become the dominant culture in many of our churches. What are the critical issues we must address to make mature disciples, build sustainable communities and reach the world effectively? The following are my top five.
1. Practice presence in a digitally connected world.
Millennials are the first generation where social media and smartphones are the air they breathe. But screens can’t teach empathy or face-to-face conversation. We have an amazing opportunity to offer Jesus through our authentic presence—with eye contact, vulnerability and attunement. And if we teach millennials how to practice presence with themselves and others, they will passionately bring it to their families, friendships and workplaces.
2. Be alone in community.
Millennials’ longing for community is deep and profound. Yet healthy communities are built on people who are able to be alone and who are comfortable in their own skin. Integrating silence, stillness and solitude into our discipleship and churches is, I believe, particularly critical for this generation.
3. Embrace limits in “trying to do it all.”
Millennials are particularly overwhelmed and overloaded in an effort to “make it” in our intensely competitive worlds. From sports to academics to the workplace, there has been a significant increase in pressure to perform and not miss out (a.k.a., “FOMO”—fear of missing out). The problem is we are human and limited. God is God. We are not. Trusting God with our limits has been with us since the garden of Eden. We offer millennials a gift when we model and teach an applied theology of limits.
4. Learn healthy relationships in conflicts.
The longing for life-giving, healthy relationships may be the greatest felt-need of millennials, especially as it relates to conflicts—with friends, parents, co-workers, bosses, dating relationships and marriage. When we offered The Emotionally Healthy Relationship Course last year at our church, 225 people signed up before we had a chance to advertise it. Most were millennials. We had to close registration. They have inherited the brokenness and fragility of my boomer generation and desperately want to be learn a better way.
5. Cultivate a deep inner life in influencing the world.
Millennials want to change the world. That is a God-given, wonderful desire. The problem is that it is not sustainable without an inner life rooted in God. We are uniquely positioned in the church to meet this profound need. To do this well, we must draw from the multiracial, global church and the riches of different traditions going back to the church fathers (second to sixth centuries).
This is my list. What might you add?
Pete Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, and the author of two best-selling books: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church. This story was originally posted on Scazzero’s blog at EmotionallyHealthy.org.