Keegan is a Lead Pastor in the same state as yours truly. He isn’t a millennial, but in his own words, he doesn’t really fit into any generation exclusively. Still, he is a bit older than me so I had to give him a hard time for posting on his behalf. Being a millennial and being tech savvy supposedly go hand in hand so we help our elders…
Despite our age difference, which I am going to guess is somewhere around ten years give or take, Keegan may be the Pastor on this district who is closest in age with me. Before I was on the district he may have been considered the youngin. Anyways, I asked him to share some perspective. He cares deeply about intergenerational engagement, especially in his church. He also practices what he preaches. Here is his story:
Let’s Learn Together – Keegan Lenker
I confess to being a generational mutt. I was born in a window at the tail-end of the Gen Xer’s and the beginning of the Millennials. There are ideologies, passions, thoughts, and actions I both love and look at with an expression of wonder.
I do think language matters too. Language can both be helpful and really destructive. My experience with the Millennial generation is they are tired of the baggage associated with that title. So, for the remainder of this article, I’ll refer to them as Emerging Adults and reference them as EA.
When I travel around and speak in different venues asking about the labels that are placed upon EA, about 90% of the time there are no positive labels given. The problem we can immediately run into is that our experiences or messages we hear about EA shape our perception. My experience with some of the labels are affirmed, but a small group doesn’t speak on behalf of an entire generation. Each person must be seen in his/her humanity. We have a choice here though: we can nod in agreement, be angry about what we see, or seek to do something helpful. So here’s a few things I’ve learned about working alongside EA:
You can learn a lot when you listen. In fact, EA have a lot to offer. Their worldview is different than most and that’s okay actually. Seek to understand the world as they see it. In your listening, try to avoid talking at and learn to talk with. An EA already feels bad enough about themselves whether it’s personal or because of the labels slapped upon them, so work to talk with them. In so doing, you’ll earn the right to be heard. Relationship matters.
Ask Good Questions
So often in a conversation we have a thought pop into our mind about something the other person is saying and we go from listening to hearing and only wait for a pause to interject our newfound thought. Slowing down and working to ask good questions to an EA invites them to look inwardly at how they see the world. You’ll learn a by doing it too.
Meet Them Where They Are
Too often we’re disappointed by what we “see” in an EA. There have been times I’ve carried unrealistic expectations of an EA and quickly realized they didn’t know how to do some of the “adulting” things I’d been doing for a long time. Don’t belittle there, but offer assistance to help walk them through. They often feel paralyzed by “adulting” and really hope it will just go away and just ignore it. That may be true, but your relationship and willingness to be present as they navigate decision-making could be just what they need.
We tend to ignore what we don’t understand. That’s true in many facets of our lives including our engagement with other generations. If the local church won’t do the work of navigating generations before and generations coming, we will miss out greatly on many opportunities.
The church community needs EA. EA need the church community. If there’s one piece of advice I’d offer to the church community moving forward, quit SAYING they have a seat at the table when in practice you put their chair 6 feet away from the table. Be intentionally inclusive in all areas of your church community.
Through innovation and imagination, EA are going to help the church both now and into the future be what we aren’t even thinking about right now. The first step is to give them an actual voice at the table in practice.
If we won’t do that, we can rest assured our church communities will continue to age and we’ll have a significant gap in our church communities in the not too distant future.
We’re in this together. Let our togetherness be all ages.
Thanks again Keegan, and thanks to everyone for reading and joining in on the conversation. Let’s keep it going!
Stay tuned for updates on the book and more discussions on how the church can engage productively with culture.
Until next time…