Teaching Millennials: Part 1
While working with college students was never what I expected out of my ministry journey, I’ve found that I really enjoy them. One of the unexpected blessings out of the particular route down which the Lord led me to get to this point was the privilege of working closely with several folks who were well read on millennials, education, and the church’s response. As a result, I’ve become pretty well read on the subject. It doesn’t hurt that I don’t mind trying new things, failing miserably, and saying, “Welp, that didn’t go how I had hoped,” dusting myself off and moving on.
If you’ve ever attempted to work with college students/young adults one thing quickly becomes strikingly clear: they don’t learn like you do. A caffeinated squirrel in the spring probably has a longer attention span. They seem awfully contrarian. They ask a lot of questions. A well-placed question can blow up an entire Bible study, small group, and, occasionally, a worship service from someone who doesn’t know that when the preacher is preaching the congregation stays silent. Yes, teaching college students and young adults is a completely different ballgame that requires a new skill set and some adapted methodology in order to effectively accomplish the task.
Dr. Christy Price, a psychology professor at Dalton State University in Dalton, GA has developed what she termed “The 5 R’s of Engaging Millennial Students” that is currently making its way around universities. A helpful summation of the article can be found here. In short, the 5 R’s are as follows:
- Research-based methods
Dr. Price’s work is more than likely very helpful in a university setting, but what about in a church setting? After reflecting on Dr. Price’s work as well as the tremendous resources published in the last few years on Millennials by The Pew Research Center and by The Barna Group I propose 8 principles for engaging millennials in a faith setting. I will briefly outline these principles in this post and elaborate on them in forthcoming posts. The 8 “Be’s” are as follows:
- Be online: it’s more than just having a website
- Be social media savvy: it may be news to you, but Facebook is “for old people” now
- Be educated: Their professors and people they respect know why they disagree with you. Are you familiar with why skeptics disagree with you?
- Be application-minded: Help them connect the dots between truth and real life
- Be personally available: Spend time with them with no set agenda
- Be “big picture”: Avoid an approach that will lead them to be unable to see the forest for the trees
- Be connecting: Help them make real life relationships and not just digital ones
- Be interesting: Refine your craft, try new approaches, and get millennials involved in active learning environments