Recently, Liberty Mutual made a series of inspiring commercials which display how doing good things can be contagious.  We Millennials love this because any little act of kindness makes us feel good because we think we are making a difference.  We want to change the world—even if it’s one little act at a time.  That’s what my generation strives for.  In short, we as Millennials are “cause-driven.”

Luke Thompson defines a cause as “any issue or subject that groups of people try to influence other people to either support or reject.  Causes include social causes (organized care for the poor or homeless, pro-life and pro-choice advocacy, etc.), environmentalism, medical research awareness and support, and virtually anything else groups have organized fundraisers for or advocated change in behavior to address” (Luke Thompson, “Rebel Without a Cause” Preach the Word, Vol. 19 No. 4).  Read Thompson’s article for more details and advice on Millennials and cause.

Here are some consumer statistics that show just how much Millennials are attracted to causes:

“90 percent of Millennials are likely to switch from one brand to another—even when price and quality are equal—if the second supports a cause…. Millennials are prepared to reward socially responsible companies; they are more likely to trust these companies, seek their employment and buy or recommend their products to others. According to a Cone study, after learning that a company is socially and/or environmentally responsible: 83 percent are likely to trust the company more, 79 percent are likely to purchase that company’s products, 44 percent are likely to actively pursue working at that company, 74 percent are more likely to pay attention to that company’s message because it has a deep commitment to a cause.” (Christie Barakat, “Cause-Related Marketing and the Millennial Mindset,” Social Times)

Millennials want to change the world

Most Millennials, including me, desire to make a difference in life.  We want to be a part of something that is bigger than us.  When the Rainers asked over 1,000 Millennials to respond to the simple statement, “I believe I can do something great,” 96% agreed.  96%!  Among those 96% who agreed with “I believe I can do something great,” 77% agreed with the statement, “I am motivated to serve others in society” (Rainers, The Millennials, p. 116-117).

One Millennial, Ashley, puts it this way: “I guess some people think that being president of the United States or CEO of a big company is a super-ambitious goal.  Not me.  That’s not how I think.  I don’t think in terms of positions or money; I really think about doing something to change the world for the better.  You know, I really believe I can do something like that.  I really believe in me.”  (Rainers, The Millennials, p. 117). 

Sure, many can argue that there is a lot of self-focus here.  Yes, many times the main reason we do things like this is a selfish reason—because they makes us feel good.  Being a part of something that makes a difference makes us feel good, accomplished, and worthwhile.  That is a sinful selfish reason that everyone struggles with.  We often do things to makes us feel good.  Yet that is not always the motivation behind these causes.

Being cause-driven is a wonderful trait Millennials have.  When Ashley said, “I really believe in me,” she expressed a positive confidence and passion

Why do Millennials have this confidence and passion?  Most Millennials have developed a close bond with their parents growing up—even if their parents were divorced.  Their parents have raised them with the attitude that if they believed in something, then they could do it.  This reminds me about the atmosphere Disney has—“Dreams come true!”  If you dream it and believe it, you can make it happen.  I grew up watching Disney movies and this is the “positive” atmosphere that is portrayed.  That attitude is brought out in many of those movies especially in the recent movie, “Tomorrowland,” where inventors are inspired to create anything they dream.  If they believe in themselves enough, they can make it happen.

The church has the greatest cause in the world

Like I mentioned before, this is one Millennial stereotype that fits me well.  I am very cause-driven.  I want to make a difference.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I realized at a very young that being a pastor was the best way I could make a difference in this world.  Why?  Because the gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest cause in the world!  It’s a message that goes beyond this world and into eternity.  When I share the gospel, I certainly feel good about it, but that is not my end goal.  I share the gospel to the glory of Christ.

The truth is…the gospel is the mother of all causes that Millennials are attracted to.  Luke Thompson explains it well:

“The real reason a person ought to care for our planet is that it was created by God for us to steward.  The real reason a person ought to care for outcasts, the poor, and those who cannot defend themselves is that God not only created them, but he loves them and died for them.  And so, for the Christian, each human has the infinite value of the blood that Christ desires to clothe them with.  This makes the Christian gospel cause the mother and logical source for tons of lesser causes.  Consider the impact Genesis 1 has on environmentalism, or Psalms 51 and 139 on the pro-life movement, Deuteronomy 15:11 and Acts 20:35 on the needy and poor, Jesus’ ministry of compassion on the sick (e.g. Mark 5:25- 29) on support for medical research and care for the sick, passages like James 1:27 on orphanages and foster care, and the list will go on until Christ comes back.  Scripture is an endless source of imperatives for earthly change (Luke Thompson, “Rebel Without a Cause” Preach the Word, Vol. 19 No. 4).

Christian Millennials want to live out the gospel especially when it comes to social issues.

How do we share a world-changing message
with a generation that wants to change the world?

1. An Attitude Check.  We as a church need to watch out that we don’t turn into “slactivists.”  A slactivist is someone who does enough for a cause to simply feel good about themselves instead of someone who legitimately make changes in their lives to better their community and world.  A Millennial can sniff out those who are fake.  Luke Thompson explains:

“It’s almost stereotypical, but it’s clearly taught that Millennials care about issues, not organizations.  In other words, Millennials don’t want to be part of a club for the sake of being part of a club.  They don’t want to just be.  They want to be about something.  If a congregation appears too self-centered and not focused externally on the community and world around it, and particularly on the issues around it, the rebel Millennial will not consider being an active member of the congregation.” (Luke Thompson, “Rebel Without a Cause” Preach the Word, Vol. 19 No. 4)

2. A Strategy Change.  There has been a great shift in the way the church needs to strategize evangelism.  From the 1950s-1980s, the unchurched were brought to Christ, then introduced to a community and then to a cause.  From the 1990s-2000s, the unchurched were brought into a community where they found Christ and then introduced to a cause.  Community attracted the Boomers and Gen X.  From the 2010s on, the unchurched are best reached when there is a cause involved.  When you have people working together for a cause, you develop a community.  Finally in that community they find Christ (White, Rise of the Nones, p. 99-100).  Cause is what attracts Millennials.  That seems like the opposite of what should happen, but this is the best way unchurched Millennials will keep the door open.  You can’t outright preach the gospel to them—they won’t listen necessarily.  You need to show that you are authentically making a difference through your cause.  Then they will be more willing to take a look at your church community.  Finally, in that community they will find Christ.  It’s a long path to Christ and I’m not saying you don’t already talk about Christ from the beginning.  I would explain to someone here and there why I am for this cause—it’s for Christ.  Yet many won’t accept it until they are brought into the community.

3. An Assimilation Change.  Millennials want to make a difference.  Allow them to do so.  When you have a Millennial who is a newer member, give him some responsibility (but not too much though, because we are not workaholics).  They want to be a part of this gospel cause in the community of your church.  Many Millennials are worried that their opportunities will be rejected.  One Millennial, Lisa, expressed this concern, “I have a lot of drive and ambition.   I hope I don’t get too frustrated of cynical though.  But it seems like those older than my generation may not give us the opportunities we want and need.  I really want to make a difference.  I hope I’m given the opportunity” (Rainers, The Millennials, p. 119).  Let’s give them the opportunities they want!  But don’t just give them opportunities, mentor them.  We Millennials love advice and guidance as we grow and learn.  Pair up a Millennial with someone in your church who has experience in that area of ministry.  As Millennials are mentored in their new opportunity of ministry, they will continue to grow in the community of Christ.

Thanks for reading. In about 3 weeks, you can expect my next post on how Millennials focus more on community than the instituation.