Fog machines. Loud music. Skinny jeans. This is what kids want these days, the pastors were told. In an earnest desire to reach Millennials the historic downtown church in my hometown has been transformed into a hipster’s paradise.
Sometimes this approach works. More often times, it doesn’t.
I have been studying my generation for ten years, authoring my first book about how the Church can become relevant to Millennials when I was 17. At 27, I have made a career out of generational reconciliation.
I rarely meet an individual who doesn’t want to reach Millennials (although it’s happened). More often, CEOs and parents don’t know where to start. I want to empower you with truths and tools to reach my generation. We need leaders like you to take the first steps in bridging the generation gap at work and in the Church. You will be amazed at how quickly we will meet you half way.
There are three words that Millennials love, and if you embody these principles, they will love you too.
Millennials love authenticity. You’ve heard the adage, “They don’t care what you know until the know that you care.” Even if we don’t agree with you, we will respect you because you are unapologetically yourself and you genuinely care about our wellbeing. Despite this generation’s appreciation for virtual connections, we crave authentic conversations where others can know us.
The second word Millennials love is transparency. I’ve found working with corporate leadership on their Millennial engagement strategies how quickly two people can misinterpret the word why. Many (not all) Boomers hear why and assume the individual asking the question is challenging their authority. They get defensive and begin to reestablish their place as the leader. These managers rarely realize that when a Millennial is asking why we are voicing our interest in being a part of the solution. We ask why to learn about our company culture. We ask why to discover our future at the company. We ask why to learn how you think so we can better work with you, not just for you.
The third word Millennials love is disruption. Before you start to get turned off, let me explain what I mean by disruption. Millennials disrupting an industry does not mean disassembling it or disrespecting those who build it. It means we want to be a part of improving it, growing it an expanding its impact. Millennials disrupt because we want to leave our fingerprints on projects and build a legacy.
There are three options Christian leaders have when it comes to this next generation. You can ignore us. You can tolerate us. Or, you can engage us.
The choice is yours. Leaders who choose to engage us see higher levels of fulfillment and productivity across their entire company, not just Millennials. It’s not about creating a workplace, a church or even a community that is so Millennial friendly that it offends everyone over 35. The features that make it a great place for Millennials are the very same factors every one of us is searching for.
Rather than trying too hard to make yourself hip and relevant for a new generation, try spending more time being authentic, transparent and yes, even a little disruptive.