Part 5: Ministry Implications In Discipling Millennials
One implication for discipleship is that churches must do more to make Millennials feel wanted, valued, and appreciated. Assimilation teams should consider intentionally showering their new believers with attention from the moment they accept Christ. This includes emphasizing baptisms as special moments of celebration in worship services, not rushed add-ons at the end of service. This gives the congregation a chance to get to know new believers through shared backgrounds statements and their statements of faith. This also encourages new believers to continue in obedience to the word of God. New members should be given the right hand of fellowship before the congregation and recognized for completing new believers’ and special discipleship studies. Additionally, assimilation teams might consider providing special seating arrangements for them at holiday services, church picnics, youth festivals, lock-ins, concerts, and outings in order to help them get acclimated to church culture. When new believers feel comfortable, they are more likely to invite their family members and friends to evangelistic outreach events, such as church picnics. Finally, assimilation teams should see that new Millennials are featured in ministry videos and provide them with frequent opportunities to get plugged into small groups and ministries since they are service-oriented. Mercado states,The implications of this way of thinking are profound. The church has to look a lot more like Jesus in order to attract postmodern Millennials. Evangelization, practiced as the proclamation of Jesus, may have to give way to “immanuelization,” where our communities of faith are the presence of Jesus to the world. This is why so many young people are attracted to service. Teens profoundly encounter Jesus through identifying with his mission and through the eyes of those they serve—almost reversing the conventional order of spiritual growth. (Mercadante, p. 11)
Discipling differently not only means that the cart might be placed before the conventional horse where growing in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is concerned, but it also means that churches and ministries must rethink how the gospel is taught, preached and communicated. Tim Elmore states in the book, Generation iY, The Last Chance to Save Their Future, “Forget the lecture, unless it is accompanied by an experience that enables them to remember the point you are making. This means they want to see something, or do something, not just hear something. Communication, in other words, must be more than two-dimensional. It must include other senses” (Elmore, 2010, p. 173). Borrowing from Leonard Sweet who first coined the acronym, Elmore states that communication must be EPIC, Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich, and Connected. Artistic communication will need to implore more story, metaphor, and film. The more technology is utilized to capture their attention, the better. Preaching and teaching will need to be transparent and relational without compromising the integrity of the Gospel.
Millennials are very close to their parents and thrive on relationships. Not only have “helicopter parents” hovered over their children and given Millennials special attention and sheltering, they have created great relationships with their teens and young adults. Churches can capitalize on these strong family bonds by extending youth ministry to include outreach to parents. Churches need to see parents as the primary spiritual educators of their youth and take more definitive steps to equip parents to disciple their young adults. Frank Mercadante , in the article, “The Millennial Generation, Postmodernism and the Changing Face of Catholic Youth Ministry,” states, “It means working together to better evangelize the entire parish community. It means not doing youth ministry in an adolescent vacuum. Instead of building disciple-making youth ministries, we need to work collaboratively to grow a disciple-making parish community.” (Mercadante, 2008, p. 8) His point is that the whole church, and not the youth or young adult ministries, must make discipleship a priority. While speaking for the Catholic faith, his statement holds great validity for Protestant Evangelicals as well.
Excerpts from my research paper, The Millennials, will be posted August 26th-31st as a seven-part series. This paper was written in partial fulfillment of course work for the Masters of Theology program at Campbellsville University, June 2013. All rights reserved.
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