And Why This is Great News for Your Congregationby Elizabeth Mount Well, you can’t have missed all the articles about the Millennial generation. I hear we’re entitled, arrogant, narcissistic, selfish, lazy, politically disengaged, gullible, technology absorbed, and isolated... oh, and we talk funny too. Now we’ve grown up and keep coming to church, and what do you know, we want it to be a church that serves our needs! Here’s why having Millennials involved in your church is going to be completely awful: Entitlement. Millennials want the church to be about them. They’ve grown up with the idea that people with many different needs should be included through diverse programming. Sometimes that means changing in ways that make the established majority uncomfortable. They may ask the choir to sing music that was written in their own lifetime, or insist that you redesign the pulpit so that people with mobility needs can speak from a position of ministerial authority just as easily as anyone else. Horrible, really.
- See, it turns out that the Millenial generation isn’t entitled or selfish so much as aware that difference exists and unwilling to leave people out when there’s a way to include more diversity. We are most aware of issues of social justice that affect us or our friends, but we can extrapolate and think through how things that make us uncomfortable affect others as well. We volunteer more than any other age group in the country, so if you can work with us, you might find a great deal of new energy to benefit our congregation. We have a choice: to see Millennials as whiny and needy or to invite their insightful critique to make the building plans, social justice initiatives, and worship models of the congregation more inclusive.
- Ugh, turns out a lot of those lazy Millennials are buried under a mountain of student loan debt, and many of us are working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet. We don’t cook much because of all that time we spend at work and shuttling between jobs. The idea of locking in an obligation to the church several weeks in advance when our schedules at work rely on the whims of ever shifting management is ludicrous. With limited free time, Saturday nights are usually either a high paying shift at a service job or one of the few times we get to see friends, so early Sunday church services aren’t our favorite.
PS. We’re really sorry about the covered dish, but if we could put in $5 for pizza instead, you might find us at church for dinner events more often. We like seeing you, and we’d love to be on a text loop for a day–before and day–of reminder about the next church event.
Political apathy. You try to talk up the Clinton campaign during coffee hour with your local Millennials, but they just roll their eyes. Why are we so cynical?
- Believe it or not, research confirms that Millennials are passionately engaged on political issues. However, having grown-up during a time of ever-expanding advertising markets and ever-present sales pitches on the Internet targeted to our search terms and writing, we are very sensitive to campaigning strategy, insincere staging, and marketing ploys. And, hey, this isn't a ding on Hillary per se, but our mistrust of candidates and politicians who seem overly polished or willing to change position for votes is at an all time high. Ask us if we'll join you on a march, a covenant group examining identity and privilege, or a direct action justice project, and you might get a very different – and very engaged – response.
- My advice on this potentially divisive issue? Don’t get mad, get even! Put a Young Adult (YA) in charge of your church’s official twitter page – if they’re willing. (Hint: ask that YA like it really matters and their skills have real value, not like you can’t think of anything else that you’d trust them to do.)
The Millennial generation can be an eternal plague to your congregation or an amazing opportunity for growth – it really just depends on your point-of-view and what you want for our faith and congregation. Instead of calling us the future of the church, recognize us as the present day church and a valued group of energetic but busy people who have lives and many commitments competing for our time and efforts.
We’d love to build the beloved community with you... if you’re willing to build with us.
Elizabeth Mount is a seminarian at Meadville Lombard and a community organizer for environmental and racial justice. Elizabeth is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist(UU) who believes in the power of intergenerational communities to make a better world takes action as a UU in the public sphere.