I’m going to save you $5,000. That’s how much 27-year-old consultant Gabrielle Jackson Bosche charges to translate the world of millennials into concepts older people can understand. Most of what she has to say, however, is common sense.
Decoding the millennial generation
Bosche frames her insights for the business world, but it is easy enough to apply her points to institutional religion.
- Millennials are not going to be workaholics. They’ve seen how their parents try to do too much and burn out from stress and over-commitment. If you invite them into a church community where the staff and volunteers are constantly overworked, millennials are going to look elsewhere to fulfill their spiritual needs.
- Millennials want to disrupt the status quo. They thrive on change. This is the exact opposite character of most of our parishes. However, disrupting the status quo is very Christ-like. Jesus railed against institutional norms that reinforced the status of a few and ignored the needs of the poor.
- Millennials interview their potential employers as much as they are interviewed by them. They do the same thing when they come to your church. If you thought of the precatechumenate or new parishioner intake as processes in which the parish itself was being interviewed, how would that change what you do?
- Millennials are on a mission. They don’t just want to make the world better, they plan on doing it. If your parish isn’t clearly alleviating suffering, healing the environment, and working for justice, then you don’t fit into their plans.
- Millennials want to be coached. They don’t want to be lectured to. They don’t want to be talked down to. They want to be on a team.
- Millennials don’t trust institutions. Institutions have let them down. They were children during the government scandals around Bill Clinton’s affair and George Bush’s mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. They lived through the business implosions of Enron and the subprime mortgage debacle that led to the Great Recession. And they, like all of us, grieved over the church’s handling of the pedophile scandal. We have to seriously consider what we are doing as parishes to rebuild and be worthy of their trust.
Two important characteristics
These are considerations we should be making for all generations, not just millennials. The reason that millennials cause us to take these common sense notions more seriously is two-fold. First, the millennial generation (ages 18-35) is the largest in history. Just as the world had to conform to the needs of the previous record holder — the baby boom generation — we will have to come to terms with the 75 million young adults (soon to be 81 million) who live in the United States.
It’s not just that the millennials are populous, however. They are also different because they are used to having a say. Both at the dinner table and in the online world, these young folks have, almost since birth, been able to influence the world(s) they live in.
You probably don’t need to spend $5,000 to learn how to attract millennials to your parish. You probably won’t need to go to the workshop your diocese is having about it. You probably didn’t even need to read this article. All we really need to do to attract millennials is use a little common sense.
What do you do to attract millennials?
What has your parish done to involve young adults? What are some success stories you can share with us?
(To read more about Gabrielle Jackson Bosche’s insights into millennials, click here and here.)