A Climate Where All Generations Can Grow
By Al Reimche
Do you know someone that thinks differently than you? Okay, we all can think of some. Could you name someone who has never experienced life without a cell phone, or known a world without the internet? That should be pretty easy to find. How about someone who sees church differently than you? You need look no further than down the street where you live. What about someone who doesn’t seem to value what you hold to be important? Again, just look around. That’s the world we live in. But what if they're not just the people across town or down the road – what if they're family? Does that change how you look at them?
Who are the people I’m referring to? They are likely the youth and young adults in your life and/or in your church. They are students or kids that have grown up and may not be living at home anymore. They are the children you taught in Sabbath School, but who may or may not attend your church anymore.
Millennials are an interesting and diverse group of people who were born between 1980 and 2000. They include everyone from students still in academy, to young marrieds getting into their first, of possibly several, careers. Most have never known a time when dialing a number with a bunch of zeros could cause hand fatigue. In fact, texting and instant communication with their friends has been a given, not a novel idea. Travel has been limited only by the depth of the pocketbook and so their resulting worldview is way beyond the experiences of their parents. Their experience with church as described by the research organization, Barna, is that they love a cathedral and enjoy contemporary worship. They want to be married but, if given a choice, would rather provide a healthy parenting environment for their children.
Demographics tell us that this is the largest people segment since the “baby-boomers.” In fact, 16% of our church membership is composed of young adults while our communities have over 32%. But, though 16% of our membership are Millennials, we realize that this group is not well represented each Sabbath. Does this mean we should focus our attention on Millennials to the exclusion of others? I would say instead, that our mission is to all people, which includes understanding and a vision for how to open our church doors to each group including this missing segment.
A few of our pastors met late last fall and began dreaming of what it would look like to have churches that accepted, reached out, and loved as Christ did. As the vision grew, six of our churches indicated an interest in beginning a journey of discovery. Both in understanding the Millennial generation, and providing a loving climate where all the generations could grow.
As a result, a group of young adults and leaders from our conference spend a couple of days in California, not on the beaches, but in a seminar focused on beginning that journey. The intent of the seminar and discussions was not to generate a new program or drive a new initiative in the conference, but rather to understand how to provide a healthy, loving climate where Millennials and, in fact, all people experience the love of Christ through His followers.
Currently, all six churches along with our conference have taken on this vision of healthy, loving “bodies of Christ” reaching and embracing the whole family, including Millennials.
I think I hear Jesus saying, “Suffer the little children, the Millennials, the Gen Xers, the Baby-boomers, and the Elders to come unto me. For of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” Do you hear Him too?