In a conversation recently with one of our Launching Leaders friends who works with pastors and religious leaders to engage the Millennial world, a pastor said “I can’t figure them out, I’m done with em.”
“Really?” our friend said in reply. “You’re just gonna give up on connecting to 77 million people?”
I found this conversation very intriguing. I wonder how many religious leaders feel the same way, that their ability to connect to the 20- to 30-somethings is difficult and perhaps the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
I am fully aware that many in the Boomer era (for example) have mischaracterized the Millennials and are at odds with their emerging lifestyles and practices. What I hope you have discovered by now, however, is that I celebrate this wonderful generation, and have determined that any lack of positive connection is due to an inability to learn, love, and appreciate them.
There is a growing disconnect between millennials and the stereotypes many people hold about them. I have researched enough studies to simply say that those who label this generation are usually as wrong as chocolate syrup on steak. This blog makes an effort to clear up the air surrounding misinformation and replace it with the truth; with relevant information that can be used to sew the fabric of generations and faith together.
As I pondered the statement of “giving up on em,” I boiled down my thoughts to these reasons to stay engaged.
- LOVE. For millennials, so much of their DNA is relational. That is, they are enlivened by relationships that engage and empower, not demean and judge. Loving this generation is really natural and easy IF you first take a step back and admire the lives they are leading. If you are a boomer reading this, do you remember how rebellious your parents thought you were when you just had to wear bell bottom pants and platform shoes? Now the trends include piercings, tattoos, hair designs of all types, apparel (or not), and so on. What I am saying is that when one looks upon the heart and love people for their unique nature FIRST (without judgment), then the anecdotal stuff evaporates like dew in the sun and is replaced with holistic respect and genuine care.
- LEARN about them. Personal engagement is the best source of knowledge. I became a pilot once, and when I actually took my first solo, my hands-on learning took on a whole new meaning. No longer was I watching someone else fly a plane on video or in the passenger’s seat. You can study the Millennials by various means in all of their forms; but you can only authenticate that knowledge by spending time with them. As you learn more about them, it becomes much easier to connect. Why? Because they make sense. The package they came in is as unique as a snowflake, and by learning more about them, it is easier to love them. As I said in a previous blog post, “3 keys to working with Millennials,” you need to learn their language. Take the time to learn about them and really know them.
- APPRECIATE. You might again refer to my blog about “3 keys to working with Millennials.” The number one key is don’t try to fix them. Part of the appreciation we ought to have for them is centered in recognizing the amazing things they are teaching us and appreciating the authentic lives they are living. Appreciation is most often communicated in the eyes and by expressing gratitude. This real time generation is motivated by feedback and recognition. Appreciate them enough to communicate with gratitude—and mean it.
I believe any frustrations in establishing a positive connection with Millennials is based in these three reasons to stay engaged. They have taught us great lessons in questioning the status quo, not judging, seeking understanding, and in living lives with purpose. I for one want to establish deep community with the 20- to 30-somethings, sincerely love them without an agenda, learn about them and from them, and appreciate their value and worth by authentically celebrating who they are.
As we stay engaged, the timeless lessons that cross generational lines will be embraced with enthusiasm; but first, we need to LOVE, LEARN, and APPRECIATE.