Fact: There are more slaves today than at any point in human history.
Fact: Sex trafficking has become a multi-billion dollar industry around the world and endangers the lives of countless young women, young men, and children.
Those are the facts. No doubt, some troubling issues are at hand in our world. Millennials are asking, “What are we going to do about it?”
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been posing the question of how the church can be engaging with young adults and college students. The absence of Millennials in churches has been the source of countless recent conversations. I’m not convinced it has to be that way. Millennials are considering spiritual/faith questions and desiring to make an impact in our world. What better place for them to find clear purpose for their lives than within the church?
We continue the conversation concerning four key markers that are important to young adults and college students (See other posts HERE and HERE and HERE). No matter the size of your ministry, here’s an important question to consider: Is the ministry that I lead helping young adults understand and engage a culture that is truly in need of the hope of Jesus?
The third maker is Responsibility – because my choices make a difference.
One of the aspects I love about Millennials is their genuine heart for a good cause. Never before in history have we been able to have such instant access to horrendous conditions and situations around the world. Social media has made suffering and news immediately available. Millennials look at many of these situations and say, “What are we going to do about that?” And they genuinely believe that they CAN do something about it.
Many young adults and college students look at the church and hear the words we speak about taking care of the orphans and widows, loving our neighbor, and feeding the poor but don’t see the action behind our words. Therefore, they’ve become frustrated because they see the church thinking inward. So the question remains: Do you REALLY want to speak directly to the heart of Millennials? If so, then start caring for some of the things they care for.
Here are some thoughts on how Responsibility could fit into the life of your young adult or college ministry.
1. Talk to Millennials in your community about what some of the main concerns are among their peers when it comes to social injustice.
I wouldn’t advise you to simply pick a cause. Do some research. Talk to young adults in your ministry and in your community about things that concern them. Many colleges and universities have causes which are promoted on campus where awareness is raised. They may already be familiar with raising money for wells in Africa. Find some areas that they may already know about in order to begin an awareness in your church. If you begin to speak about things that are important to Millennials, you’ll eventually gain credibility in being concerned about some of the things they’re concerned about. It will generate conversation. It will give you the chance to connect on topics that are much more relevant and genuine than the latest movie.
Once you find a cause that’s important to young adults and college students in your community, begin to think about how your ministry will engage with that conversation. You may live in a large city where sex trafficking is a reality. How will your ministry begin to take a stand for something that may be happening a few blocks away from the front doors of your church.
On a side note, you may have an issue that’s near to your heart. Don’t be afraid to begin to introduce Millennials to a need you’ve been stirred for. That’s the beautiful thing about working with Millennials; when they see that you are genuine about something, they will put their energy into helping you with that cause.
2. Find others in your community who are concerned about the same cause.
One of the frustrating things for many young adults is that the church never seems to want to work with others. Many issues that are of concern for Millennials are world issues that one church or group could never solve on their own. However, when groups begin to work together, there’s power in numbers.
Find other churches in your community you could partner with to raise awareness, generate funds, or go on a trip together to address a genuine need for responsibility. Millennials see the opportunity to partner alongside others who have similar hearts and passions. The willingness they see in you to do cross denominational or social lines will speak volumes about how genuine you are about the cause.
This is a good opportunity to partner with a campus group that may not have any Christian ties to it. Organizations exist on campuses that address issues of slavery, the environment, or racism. I cannot imagine any better way of joining with a group to say that what is important to them is also important to you. The opportunity for conversation is endless.
3. The gospel must be at the center of your cause.
This is the most important aspect of the area of responsibility. What is the reason we’re motivated to be a part of a movement? It’s ultimately because of the hope that comes through Jesus alone. Otherwise our efforts are nothing but good things done in the name of good things. There has to be more than putting a “red X” on our hands or raising money for clean water. The motivation behind all of it is that Jesus said this is what a follower of Him looks like. Jesus’ heart was stirred for the poor, the broken, and the lost. Taking a stand for a cause brings about valuable conversation concerning the connection between the cause and the gospel. Where is Jesus in the midst of doing good?
The Millennials are stirred for a world that is not fair. What an incredible gift the church could give Millennials if we began to give them a place where they could take these stirrings and find the heart of Christ in the middle of serving a cup of water.
Mark Whitt is the Collegiate and Young Adult Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources. Before joining LifeWay, he spent many years on the campus of Murray State University as a campus minister. Connect with Mark via Twitter.