Authors: Ted & Chelsey Doering
Publisher: Concordia Publishing House, 2017
Rating: 5/5 stars
Dear Millennials, Boomers, and Gen Xers who desire to see more Millennials (and Gen Zs) in the Church: Pick up this book and read it! Whether you are Lutheran or not, this book offers great insights—both practical and theological—into how we can begin seeing more younger generations in the Church.
However, as the authors themselves warn, the goal of this book and your goal is not solely to bring more youth into the Church just for the sake of having more youth in the Church. Rather, it is focused on relationship building through authenticity, community, forgiveness, and mentorship, all of which Millennials are eagerly searching for in a church body.
This book does not offer a silver bullet programme. To quote from Ted: silver bullets are for Lone Rangers and werewolves (p. 122); they’re not for the Church. Instead, Ted and Chelsey challenge all generations who read this book to overcome the stereotypes of our generational differences.
Although there is some truth to every stereotype, Ted and Chelsey help bring you to begin seeing others as actual people rather than being limited down to stereotypes and statistics. (Extra note for Boomers and Gen Xers: You are not experts on the Millennial generation despite what you might have read in that news article or blog site. Millennials are the experts on the Millennial generation. And Millennials, the same goes for you about Boomers and Gen Xers.)
Whether you are a Millennial, Boomer, or Gen Xer, you are more than the stereotypes people label you with: you are a human being created in the image of God, whom the Father dearly loves. Again, although there is some truth to stereotypes, these stereotypes are not representative of the whole.
One of the stereotypes of Millennials the authors explore, for example, is that all Millennials have an unhealthy sense of entitlement. While this is true for some, it is not true of all Millennials. As a Millennial myself, I don’t feel entitled to anything (because of how I was raised) and I have many Millennial friends who feel the same. While Ted and Chelsey challenge you to move past these stereotypes and instead get to know Millennials as unique individuals, they also invite you to see the good our generational differences bring.
For example, Millennials have grown up in a highly technological age whereas Boomers and Gen Xers did not. Older generations often highly criticise Millennials for spending a lot of time on their smartphones and social media (even though I often see more Boomers and Gen Xers staring at their smartphones in public settings more than I do Millennials, as well as spam posting on Facebook a lot more than Millennials do).
While this may be true for some Millennials and it has had its negative effects, it is not true for all, and many Millennials have a lot of practical expertise to bring into the Church that will bring the Gospel to the world and your local community. Remember that thing I said about stereotypes? Boomers and Gen Xers, how do you feel when Millennials limit you to a stereotype of your generation that is not true of you, the individual? It doesn’t feel so good, does it? So, why do the same toward Millennials (and Gen Zs)? Fighting fire with fire is stupid. Stop it.
Again, the goal of this book is not to develop some silver bullet programme that will bring more Millennials back into the Church because there is none. For example, whatever your opinion, screens and contemporary worship music are not bound to bring in Millennials. We can smell marketing and fakeness from miles away.
As Ted and Chelsey point out, we Millennials were raised on commercialism, marketing, and programmes. The cartoons we grew up watching were all about this. As we ate our breakfast every morning before jumping on the bus to school, we were inundated with marketing as we watched our morning cartoons. I can recalls dozens of these commercials as I watched Pokémon before going to school.
We don’t want to be marketed to. We can spot a program from a hundred miles away and we’ll stay as far away from it as we can.
Rather, the focus is on being the Body of Christ. That is, how can you, as an individual member of Christ’s body, develop a mentoring relationship with a Millennial to pass on your wisdom and talents to the next generation? (And likewise for Millennials who will be mentoring Gen Zs.) Believe it or not, we Millennials are looking for mentorship. (And we Millennials can be more intentional with seeking these relationships.)
Also, how can your congregation be the best authentic version of you rather than trying to be like the next church down the road? Just as we can spot a programme from a hundred miles away, we also know when something is fake as soon as we see it.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you read this book, which Ted and Chelsey bring up right away, is that the problem we’re seeing with generations in the Church is not a generational issue. It is a sin issue. The sins that are common amongst Millennials are the same sins that are common amongst older generations—sins that have been around since the Fall of Man. They are simply manifested in different ways as each generation passes.
Also, a common theme Ted and Chelsey have in this book with the practical ways in which the generations lovingly engage with one another is that these ways are simple but hard. It’s simple to do these things they cover in the book, but they’re hard. That is, the concept is really simple, but actually doing them as we continue our road down sanctification is hard and complex.
For example, the concept of building a mentoring relationship with a Millennial is simple, but actually doing it is hard. It will be challenging. You will encounter sin along the way. And it will require a lot of your stewardship of time.
Yet the Church is in the business of spending time with others for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus spent a lot of time with people, even in mentoring (think about the disciples). Why shouldn’t we adopt His teaching method? God’s Word does not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11). Jesus is always at work wherever His Word is preached.
What’s really great about this book is that Ted and Chelsey provide discussion questions at the end of each chapter as well as a “Do It” section, kind of like an easy homework assignment to begin putting these things into practice. So, this book can easily be turned into a Bible study/workshop of some sort at your congregation (be sure to have all generations present!). This is something I plan on doing while I’m on vicarage this year and once more when I receive my first call to my first congregation.