Reaching the Millennials: A Conversation with Jess Rainer (Part 2)

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Yesterday, I began a conversation with Jess Rainer, co-author of the new book, The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation. For a limited time, the Kindle version of The Millennials is available for free download. Today, we talk about how the Millennial generation views technology, and how churches can effectively minister to this generation.

Trevin Wax: Jess, an interesting feature of your research was the statistical data that demonstrated this generation’s interweaving of relationships and technology. The world is certainly changing.

You and I are both Millennials, and neither of us have ever owned a landline phone and answering machine. We live and relate through our cell phones and social media outlets. Right now, the research shows that technology serves the millennial desire to foster strong relationships.

Jess Rainer: Technology has indeed driven relationships to closer levels, especially within family units. As older generations began to embrace social media more, they were immediately opened to a world with heavy Millennial use. With the desire for stronger traditional family values, Millennials quickly allowed family access to their social media world.

Trevin Wax: Do you see technology also becoming a hindrance to close friendships? I’ve seen some research that shows younger millennials reticent to use Twitter. Many teens are admitting fewer and fewer friends to their FaceBook accounts, as they have decided they don’t want their lives on full display to a large number of people. Do you anticipate a technological backlash of sorts with the generation that is 10 years behind us?

Jess Rainer: There is certainly another side to allowing family, friends, and co-workers access to a virtual diary with pictures. Stories about people not getting hired or even fired from a job for what was found on social media sites are abundant. The Millennials have quickly learned that technology can have a positive and negative affect for the present and future.

We mentioned in our book that we interviewed the Millennials born between 1980 and 1991. These older Millennials already indicated a shift in technology use even in this 12 year gap. Of this group, younger Millennials text 19 percent more than their counterparts. Additionally, email is dropping as a primary form of communication. The research shows a clear change in technology, especially how it is used as communication.

Despite the risks, I do not see Millennials shying away from technology. Twitter for example, tends to not fill a need in a generation that heavily uses Facebook (Facebook already has a built in status update). Although I use it frequently, I have very few close friends on twitter.

I believe our generation will always embrace the newest technology, especially if it has an apple on it. Although, Millennials will continue to learn and to demonstrate wisdom on how this technology will be used. Relationships will still be driven by technology. Millennials will just need to determine their own unspoken criteria about what will be put on public display and who will gets to see it.

Trevin Wax: I’d like us to end this conversation the way the book does – with insights that church leaders can take away regarding the Millennial generation. How should churches consider reaching millennials?

Jess Rainer: There are two different groups of Millennials that churches need to be aware of: the 85 percent group and the 15 percent group. As mentioned previously, 85 percent of Millennials are not Christians. And its these non-Christian Millennials that are indifferent to the church. Churches need to understand that they are not on the radar of non-Christian Millennials. It will take an intentional effort to reach our generation.

A great place to start to reach non-Christian Millennials is to simply invite them. When asked, these Millennials will attend church with a friend.

Also try to find a way to connect the Millennials to their Christian parents. Millennials are seeking advice and guidance from their parents on a regular basis.

Additionally, leaders must be transparent, humble, and have integrity. It’s these leaders that need to demonstrate the deep meaning of following Christ.

Trevin Wax: What about ministry among the Christian Millennials? What suggestions do you have for evangelical churches seeking to engage this generation?

Jess Rainer: The Christian Millennials want to see churches challenge themselves. “Church-as-usual” is no longer effective in retaining Christian Millennials. Churches need to start with deep biblical teaching. Watering down scriptural truth will only cause Christian Millennials to look for another church. There has to be an outward focus as well. Churches need to commit to investing in their communities, love the nations, and direct revenue outwardly. Christian Millennials, like their counterpart, want to see leaders who demonstrate transparency, humility, and integrity.

It’s not an easy task to reach the Millennial generation. I am experiencing these difficulties first hand as I reach out to our generation with my church plant. At the same time, I am seeing a small group of younger believers start to desire deeper teaching and community involvement. One of the biggest misconceptions is Millennials are unwilling to commit themselves to the church. It’s this small group that is becoming more committed each week. Millennials want to radically commit themselves to something. There is nothing more radical than a true follower of Christ.

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