Over the past few years, I have read several articles and reports about millennials leaving the church. This growing trend and acceptance has led to churches and leaders to aski questions like: What do the millennials want? Why are millennials leaving? Are we right in our assessments of the issue? What can we do to draw them back? At the end of the day, most of these assessments still end up being about the church structure (how we do or don’t “do church” and whether or not millennials fit into our way of doing things).
In spite of these conversations, I have seen mentoring be a great tool to draw millennials into relationships they may or may not know they need. For starters, I don’t believe the hype. Not all millennials are leaving the church. Furthermore, some believe that this mass exodus is culturally related and mostly a predicament in the “white” church. While there are always people leaving the church for any number of reasons, we must identify the danger in lumping large groups of people together and assessing them as a collective whole when their reasons for leaving or staying are probably as the diverse as the people making the decisions. Furthermore, to adequately address this issue, someone would have to clearly define “leaving” in a manner in which the rest of us can agree. Are we simply talking about church attendance? Or church membership? Or are we talking about those who faithfully commit to the fellowship of believers, even in a non-traditional way? Finally, we must individually consider: Am I called to focus energy and efforts on those who are leaving, while not paying attention to the millennials who remain?
Mentoring calls us to commit to the people who are right in front of us. Why is this important? The millennials we mentor are in the best position to reach other millennials who supposedly left or those who never came in the first place. As someone who falls outside of the millennial generation, I do not typically show-up at the spots where large groups of millennials hang out, but the millennial women that I mentor do show up in those places. They are the ones who take the wisdom and knowledge shared with them, and present it to their peers in a language that can be understood and appreciated. They make the truth relevant.
For the past two years, I have continued to meet with millennial women, sharing the truth of God’s Word with them, teaching them how to live a life that is worthy of the calling they have received in Jesus Christ, praying with and for them, breaking bread and sharing table fellowship. This intimate group of millennial women continue to show up in spite of the trends that lump them together, and say they are different than the rest of us who are in the church. They continue to show up I believe because they love Jesus and they want to love him more, because they thirst for the Word and want to understand it better, because they want to enter a space where they feel known and loved, and because they value the relationships within our Christian community. All of this takes place because God cares about people and because I decided to reject the message that “millennials are leaving.”
To begin a mentoring relationship, I didn’t believe the messages that millennials are so different—that they somehow want or need something different than what the rest of us need. We all need Jesus and we all need each other. Therefore, I simply invited the millennials that I knew into a space where they could intimately connect with Jesus and others, and they came. Together we continue to show up and embody the church, and together we grow closer to Christ and each other.
Are there millennials in your life that are disconnected from the church or do not have a personal relationship with Jesus? How might you reach out to a millennial in your life this week, and invite him or her into a conversation?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2015