6 things for Churches to be mindful of when communicating with millennials
Simon Barrington, Founder and Director of Forge Leadership spent a year undertaking detailed research into the lives of nearly 500 Christian millennial leaders. These are leaders in Churches, in businesses, in the health service, in schools and in charities.
Here, Simon pulls out some of the key salient messages that we need to be aware of when communicating with millennials inside and outside the Church.
Simon has recently co-written with Rachel Luetchford (the researcher and millennial leader) a book called Leading the Millennial Way, which is published by SPCK and which pulls together all the insights from the research together with practical tools to use when working with millennials.
6 key things
Firstly, there was some really good news for the Church as practically every leader we interviewed, wherever they were leading across society all mentioned the vital role that their Church had played in giving them early leadership opportunities – opportunities where they could learn and fail and improve.
Secondly, we found Millennials love to be led by leaders who are full of integrity, have humility and passion – these were the three words that they use to describe leaders. In our communications therefore these three qualities need to shine through. Don’t over-egg the pudding, make sure your actions line up with your words and be passionate about your cause.
Thirdly, millennials describe the best and worst places to work by the quality of their relationships – the best places have great relationships, the worst there is no sense of community. Communications should therefore emphasize relationship and community and be done in a relational way.
What we see in Millennial leaders – especially within Churches – is a desire to create authentic, real community. They are not as interested in performance and definitely not interested in new programmes. They are therefore creating raw, real community groups where the Bible is wrestled with, tensions are held and where their friends can be invited into.
Fourthly, the most important thing to millennials in looking for a place to work or worship is aligning their own sense of purpose with the purpose of the organisation. They talk about having a personal brand that already exists and how important it is for that personal sense of purpose to be at one with the purpose of the organisation. So millennials who are passionate about the planet will look for organisations and Churches that take preserving the planet very seriously. Therefore Churches should be clear about their purpose and answering the Why? question in all of their communications.
Fifthly, millennials think that the best think about leadership is raising up the next generation. This was really surprising. Aged mid-twenties I would have talked about the best thing about leadership being winning and making a difference. But no, millennials are spending large amounts of time investing in the next generation already. They are a discipling generation – and that is good news of the Church. In Church communications the ability to pass on your faith, to pass on skills to mentor and coach should be emphasized.
Finally, millennials see their faith as being holistic across the whole of society. They are determined to see corporate structures, government, health and education transformed so that their work is meaningful – wherever that work is taking place. Therefore, Churches should communicate how they are impacting wider society in their communications, on how Christians are impacting the workplace and use language that elevates work.
Having worked as a Programme Director for BT and within the Cabinet Office, Simon Barrington then spent 13 years as CEO of Samaritan’s Purse (during which time he also studied for a Master’s in Global Leadership). He left in 2017 to found Forge Leadership Consultancy Ltd.
Rachel Luetchford is a millennial with a first class degree in International Development. She is interested in issues of social justice and passionate about enabling her generation to tackle injustice by raising up leaders. She was a key researcher on the Forge Leadership research report.
ISBN 9780281080779/SPCK/Published April 209/£9.99 (correct at time of publishing)