People often make the mistake of approaching the Millennials as a group. The problem is that we are not easily classified in any grouping other than our birth years.
I am a 28-year-old married mother of four who never finished college. My best friend of over 10 years is a 29-year-old believing single college graduate working in her dream career. My newly believing younger sister is married to an unbeliever; she’s a 25-year-old hairstylist with a stepson. Another close friend is 26 years old, single, an unbeliever who works in Boston’s financial district and was just accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MBA program. Some of the people I’m closest to in my life have, on paper, almost nothing in common with me.
Living out my faith in the incredibly diverse sphere of “Millennial” has challenged me to thoroughly evaluate why my life is better because Christ is in it. With so many paths to finding meaning and purpose, Millennials need to know why following Christ holds a value above career ambition, global consciousness, philanthropy, or morality.
Perhaps this is why the traditional stereotype of the institutional church model doesn’t appeal to many of my generation. When being a Christian is equated with church attendance and upholding a rigid moral standard, it doesn’t look any different from any other path being presented by the world. It’s just another way to find personal fulfillment. Worse, the church looks hypocritical when its members don’t seem to live up to what is being preached.
This is why grace has to be the core of the message, especially when relating to Millennials. The world we have inherited is a difficult and different world than that of our predecessors. We need to be shown grace while we weed through the influences growing ever louder all around us that are vying for our attention and allegiance. We need to see how the voice of Christ rings out in contrast to the cacophony with a message of love in spite of our shortcomings and hope in spite of bleak prospects.
Direct discipleship with someone a stage ahead of me in the journey helped keep me grounded. A multigenerational congregation and a Bible study group of women who ranged in age from 25 to 90 years embraced me.
All of these people showed me that when it comes to the basics, my life isn’t so different from those who have gone before me. They are the great cloud of witnesses I feel cheering me on as I run my personal race of faith. I am encouraged to live my life openly and authentically; grace abounds. These people inspire me to better know the Savior they credit with their stories more than any theological debate or culture-centric ministry ever could.
You want to know Millennials? Stop trying to categorize and contain us. Give us grace while we grow. Seek us out and embrace us in your multigenerational ministries. Draw us in with the unconditional love of Christ as it authentically plays out in the life of the congregation, not the trendiest worship or high-tech service that will eventually leave us seeking the next new thing. Remind us gently that nothing apart from the love of Christ, which transcends time and trends, will provide true fulfillment.
Show us the Church as an imperfect work in progress. Because that is how we see ourselves.