So What does a meaningful life look like to millennials? Here are 4 characteristics of a meaningful life.

  1. Millennials who lead meaningful lives feel connected to others. Millennials thirst to be mentored by older people. Data has shown that while it appears that we don’t want to learn, we do. Often I get calls from people not asking for peer discipleship but discipleship from older folks. Data shows that when there is a strong connection with someone older in the church, millennials are more likely to stay. Not to mention, discipleship is a great place to help discover purpose. It was through my mentorship with an older, wiser man that I came to understand my purpose.
  2. Millennials who lead meaningful lives feel connected to work. The idea here is that millennials want to feel like a partner with the church and not just someone who gives money to the church. If the church has a vision, (which they should), millennials need to feel that it is their vision as well. Participating in church vision means including them in on the planning. It means if you have a board and they are spiritually mature enough, give them a seat. Give them a piece of the vision to carry out. If young adults don’t feel connected to your church and its vision they will not stay. Remember, meaning is what drives us and for millennials, connectedness gives meaning to the relationship. So many times I have young adults telling me that they have left a nice big church for a smaller more intimate church. The reason is the same all the time; they didn’t feel connected.
  3. Millennials who lead meaningful lives feel connected to a life purpose. This feeling of connection speaks to helping young adults understand why God created them and how their gift is needed for the health of the Church. The question a lot of young adults ask during the discovering age is “Why did God make me?” I believe that it is the job of the church to answer this question. One thing the church must do better is tearing down the idea of Christianity as compartmentalized. We must help young adults see and understand that life purpose and faith-walk drive one another. We help young adults answer “why” questions to help them connect what they are doing with their life purpose.
  4. Millennials who lead meaningful lives feel connected to the world itself. Remember, millennials care about social issues and environmental issues. These things are important to us. If a church is not relating to the world and addressing current issues surrounding the world, you will lose millennials very quickly. Millennials want to deal with the practical things of this world, and if a church refuses to address those issues and get involved, millennials don’t want anything to do with that church. If it continues to happen, they will want nothing to do with any church.

Of course, there are thousands of ways and ideas that we can explore to reach young adults, but I feel that this is a great place to start. Ultimately meaning and purpose comes from a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. If the Church doesn’t start helping young people connect purpose in life and meaning to church, it will suffer, and the young adults will suffer as they get attached to things that will pull them away from God.

Rev. Leonard Tanks, Jr.
Pastor of Young Adults
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Next Up: Purpose, Identity, and the Millennial

 

Why is it important for churches to help young adults discover purpose and meaning?

Pastor Leonard Tanks, Jr. here.  You can call me Tanks! I was born in 1985 which makes me a millennial. Finding meaning and purpose in all I do is something that has always plagued me. In fact, I could say that it wasn’t until this year really that I discovered my purpose in life. Surprising for a pastor right?  Some think that being a pastor is my purpose, but I look at being a pastor as my occupation. What God called me to be was never the question, but what type of pastor (my purpose as a pastor), I would be was always the question that left me lost and confused.

I can remember right before my ordination I told my ordination coach that I didn’t even want to go to the service.  I told him that for the longest time I thought that becoming an ordained pastor would fill all the gaps that I had in ministry and all the voids that ministry left in my life. I thought that I would finally be taken seriously in ministry, but once I passed the ordination test nothing changed.  I had a feeling of  not fitting in or belonging and so that made me feel like, “Why bother?”.  I was looking for meaning and purpose in my everyday activity.

By no means am I minimizing the office of pastor, I am simply expressing the empty feeling I had because the title alone didn’t give me any meaning.  It wasn’t until my mentor, Pastor Trent Thomas said to me over the summer that working with young adults was the area where Christ was leading me. He said this in reaction to the joy I expressed over  just being with the young adults at the basketball courts.  Once he said that I went to my job, (where I was also struggling with finding purpose and meaning), and I asked to spend more time with the teens and to focus on them. When they said yes, my work days became meaningful and I finally found what was missing in ministry to me; purpose and meaning.

One thing people, specifically the Church has to remember when dealing with millennials, is that we are more interested in living lives defined by meaning than by what some would call happiness or success.

Young adults across the world find themselves in similar struggles. After graduating high school they enter into two ages: the age of identity where they are deciding who they are and what they want out of life and the age of self-focus and discovery where their entire lives which were directed by parents and school are now self-directed. They have to decide what they want and who they want to be before their options become limited by the constraints of marriage, children, and even careers. This is the period where churches will find themselves losing their young adult members because they see church as their parent’s thing, or because they don’t see Christianity as relevant anymore when they go to college and begin to encounter diversity. However, this is also the period where we as the church can strengthen young adult attendance if we help them find their purpose. During the discovery age, often times, the relationships and groups that provide meaning and purpose to us are the ones to whom we millennials dedicate ourselves.

Over the next few months, I will be posting thoughts on how the Church can get better at engaging, including and supporting the young adult community. Join in the dialogue as we try to live and love like Jesus.

Rev. Leonard Tanks, Jr.
Pastor of Young Adults
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more about Pastor Tanks
NEXT UP: What does “Meaningful” look like to Millennials? 4 Characteristics of a Meaningful life.