What's in this session?

  • Misconception #1: The real ages of Millennials (8:41)
  • Misconception #2: The real population of Millennials (10:35)
  • Misconception #3: The real timeline of Millennials (22:02)
  • Misconception #4: The real reason Millennials aren’t working at churches (23:09)
  • Misconception #5: The real ramifications of Millennials being ignored (28:05)
  • Misconception #6: The real methods for reaching Millennials (33:12)
  • Misconception #7: The real desires Millennials have for church (37:00)

Show notes and resources

3 Instant Takeaways

    1. This is the now generation. It is still common to view millennials as the up and coming generation, but there there are now between 85 and 92 million millennials in America making them the largest group in the workforce. This group is larger than both Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation. This massive influx is creating  huge culture shift across the board, from workforce to church life.
    2. Younger people are qualified to serve in leadership positions. Leadership used to be based on how much knowledge you have, but now millennials can find almost anything you know, at least knowledge wise, from the internet in a very small amount of time. Knowledge sharing is actually becoming a more prevalent form of leadership.
    3. Community is not another lame event. Millennials are searching for a community that is authentic,  both in person and online, and adds value to their lives. Community is where people who are different from one another get together to pursue a higher purpose. In the case of the church, this higher purpose is the calling of God and the great commission.

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The Transcript

Brady Shearer: This is the Pro Church Podcast session number 170 – 7 misconceptions churches have about millennials with Wes Gay. Well hey Pro Church Nation. Welcome to the Pro Church Podcast you are now part of a small group of pioneering churches doing everything we can to seize the 167 hours beyond our Sunday services. Why? Because we’re live in through the biggest communication shift in the last five hundred years and what got us here won’t get us there. I’m Brady your host. This is session number 170. You can find the show notes for this session at ProChurchTools.com/170. And in this session of the podcast we’re joined by Wes Gay discussing seven misconceptions your church may have about millennials. Let’s do it.

[00:01:05] Welcome back to another session of the Pro Church Podcast. This is Brady your host thanks for joining us for this 170th session of the Pro Church Podcast. We like to start off each and every session by sharing with you a protip or a practical tool that you can begin using in your ministry right away. Today I want to share with you an app that’s on my phone that I’ve been finding exceptionally useful over the last couple of months and it’s called Amazon Prime photos and this is a free app that comes with an Amazon Prime membership. I’m not entirely sure if you can get it beyond an Amazon Prime membership but it is one of those great benefits. Prime comes with so many different little benefits and nuances and bonuses for being a part of that membership and this is one of them. It’s an app on your phone that automatically updates every single photo and video that’s in your camera roll. And what I love about this is that for the longest time I felt like every time I had to delete a photo or a video on my phone I was making this like life or death decision where I was like if I delete this photo it will perhaps be gone forever because I might have a backup of it but I might not. And so I have to make a decision do I want this photo in my life. Am I ready to sever ties with this piece of visual media photo or video. And what’s great about Amazon Prime photos is that that is no longer a decision that I have to make knowing that every single one of my videos and photos is backed up on the Amazon prime Amazon servers. And what’s great about this also is that you can free up space on your phone right. Like why am I deleting photos and videos in the first place why did I get the 256 gigabyte iPhone 7 plus with the most space possible. Well I did it so I wouldn’t have to make this decision in the first place. Well now we’re doing these Instagram stories every single day where the only way that I can get them that that they’re produced with like a Panasonic GH5 and one of our editors, Jonas, puts them together he’s Slacks me the video files and there’s usually five, six, seven, eight, different files and these are all 15 second videos I have to store them to my phone and then upload them through the camera roll on the last 24 hours on the Instagram stories platform and you know where you do this for any length of time those stories are going to fill up the space on my phone and I’m going to have to start deleting stuff. Well not only do I want those stories to exist beyond the 24 hour expiration date of Instagram stories but I want all the photos and videos that I have on my phone to exist. Ones I take my kid, ones that I take spur of the moment, whatever they might be – Amazon Prime photos allows me to do that. Now there are a variety of different apps that can do that. I think one of them was called carrousel if I remember correctly and it was by Dropbox and it would kind of upload your photos. I believe though I also think that carrousel no longer exists. In fact that is true. So Amazon Prime photos absolutely love it I don’t use this feature but you can actually organize and tag the photos that you like. They’re very easy to search and tag which maybe when I get the number of photos you know beyond what they are now that will be something that’s important. You can search by people, you can share a family vault so you can invite like up to five friends or family members and they can also have . . . the storage is unlimited and you can collect all those photos together in a family vault. So if one of you has an Amazon Prime membership I think you can share with those family and friends which is also very very cool. So Amazon Prime photos app highly recommended.

With that being said we’re going to transition into our interview for today and today we’re joined by Wes Gay. Wes is an entrepreneur. He’s a writer, he’s a marketing consultant, he’s a story brand certified copywriter and guide Storybrand of course the Donald Miller led company and branding exercise strategy. They have a variety of certified copywriters that you can work with Wes being one of them. Wes is also a contributor to Forbes discovering how millennials change the workplace. Wes writes all the time about millennials and so I brought them on the Pro Church Podcast to discuss that and what we decided to do was talk about seven misconceptions that churches have about millennials because millennials are still just like this buzz word that people don’t really know what it means. The implications that it has and so we talked about the seven misconceptions, the biggest seven that we saw, existing especially in the church world. We talk about you know the age of millennials, how big the population is, the time line, when are millennials coming, are they hear now? Spoiler alert. Yes. The real reason Millennials aren’t working at churches. The real ramifications of millennials being ignored. What happens if we don’t change course now or very soon? The real methods for reaching millennials. No you don’t need a fog machine to reach millennials. And then finally we talk about the real desires millennials have for church. When people like Wes and I, both in that millennial age group, when we are looking for a church what is it exactly that we’re looking for? So we talk about that. Seven misconceptions churches have about millennials, so with all that being said I’ll step away. We’ll be back in a moment with my interview with Wes Gay. Well hey there Pro Church Nation. Welcome back to another session of the Pro Church Podcast. Great to have you here with us. Today we are joined by Wes Gay. Wes! Welcome to the show.

Wes Gay: [00:05:55] Brady I’m glad to be here.

Brady Shearer: [00:05:57] It’s great to have you. We were just talking earlier about how people confuse your name. Of course your full name being Wesley, going by Wes and they call you West as in like that direction on a compass.

Wes Gay: [00:06:09] Yeah. I sometimes call that my “Starbucks name” because any time I go to Starbucks or basically any other drive there were they ask for your name. I’m always West. So I was like I don’t know. The original Batman was Adam West. Right. I knew some people last name West but I’ve never met a first name west so once I meet that guy he’s the one that’s ruining it for the rest of us.

Brady Shearer: [00:06:28] And we’ve got to try to take him down.

Wes Gay: [00:06:30] Track him down. Yeah.

Brady Shearer: [00:06:32] Well beyond your name and it’s curious Starbuck spelling. Tell us a little bit more about yourself for those that are unaware. Who are you. What do you do.

Wes Gay: [00:06:40] Yes I do two different things. One I’m a Forbes contributor where I write about how millennials change the workplace which means I get to cover everything from interesting millennials running interesting companies, to the way benefits are changing, the way company culture has changed. You name it I’ve gotten to talk to people from small startups all the way up to some of the biggest companies on the planet. I’m actually, there’s a couple other really big companies I hope to talk to in the last couple of weeks. Huge names. So I talk about what is this generation of folks who were born in the 80s and 90s. How is it changing corporate America. So I do that and I also am a story brand certified guide and copywriter. That means I use this story brand principles, a seven foundational principles of storytelling, with clients to help them clarify a message or whatever their business organization does and then convert that into marketing materials. So web sites, email campaigns, lead generating, PDFs all that kind of stuff. So that is actually the vast majority of what I do. Before I did that I had about 10 years working in churches, nonprofits, doing communications, media, worship production, all kinds of stuff. And my dad is a worship pastor, so I grew up in that world as well. So I feel like I’ve lived and breathed almost every aspect of church life that you can imagine.

Brady Shearer: [00:07:54] And you said, that you’re spending a lot of time talking about millennials. That’s why I brought you on. We’re going to spend the vast majority of our conversation there. I’m 26 years old. I’m fascinated to know, how old are you?

Wes Gay: [00:08:06] 30.

Brady Shearer: [00:08:06] OK great. So we’re both in obviously that millennial time frame. OK. Let let’s just dive right into it. I want to start, basically discussing some misconceptions that so many churches have about millennials because, you know, some people don’t even like don’t even prefer referring to a generation as the millennials. No these are real people. It’s a massive group, like the biggest group. You know you can’t just refer to them as this little person in the corner. This group in the corner. So let’s talk about some misconceptions if anyone knows them. You’re going to know them. So where should we start with that?

Wes Gay: [00:08:41] The first misconception is who millennials actually are. I did a workshop at a pastors conference a couple of months ago and before I started I was talking to people who would walk in the breakout. One lady was like, yeah you know I work with middle school students. So I’m thrilled to hear more about millennials, and I’m like “middle school students aren’t millennials” they were born like 12 years ago. They were born almost before the original iPhone came out. Like that’s not what a millennial is. And so what happens is most people assume millennials is just as caricature of a person that doesn’t really exist. They think it’s only people in their 20s, or as I saw on Facebook recently, and this is my favorite, a millennial is anybody under 40 that you don’t like. Right. That’s my favorite definition. The reality is pastors don’t know who millennials are and you really have to define a generation. We talk usually between 1980 and 2000 ish is a pretty good starting point. I know I’ve read some stuff you’ve written. Some people say 1980 to ’96. Really we’re talking anybody about 20 ish to their mid 30s is who the millennial generation is. That’s the first problem. Is we don’t even know who we’re talking about. So yeah.

Brady Shearer: [00:09:48] I think I saw that same Facebook post. A millennial, anyone under 40 is someone that you don’t like. And that’s how we treat. Or at least that time seeing older, especially people within the church, treat millennials. Like it’s just them kids. And you know I think this is symptomatic due to the age of the average senior leader, the average Protestant lead pastor is 54 years old which is a full ten years older than the year after I was born in 1992. And so you’ve got these senior leaders that are getting older and older, and now you’ve got this really community around them that’s getting younger and younger simply because of the massive boom of millennials. Now let’s talk about that part because, you know we hear like “millennials largest generation in the history of humankind” like what does that really mean? And what are the implications of that?

Wes Gay: [00:10:35] Yeah. Whenever people ask me that question – how have millennials changed things. And my first answer always is, the sheer numbers. So depending on who you read, there’s anybody anywhere between 85 and 92 million millennials in the United States alone. And the numbers globally for people 30 and under over all, so even out even younger millennials. But the numbers globally for people 30 under are unbelievable. But if you look at millennials in the U.S. you’re talking 85 to 92 million. So let’s break that down the generation before, you’re talking generation X. There’s like 60 to 65 million, so off the bat were 20 to 25 million more than our last generation. So the baby boomers, so typically are our parents. We’re still about 15 to 20 million more than they were. So you’re talking 10, 15, 20, 25 million more than the last two generations where are you even getting earlier than that and the silence and the traditional and all that. So there’s just this massive influx of people what happens, just like you have anytime you have a lot of people or a lot of things happening at once – it magnifies the problem. Right. So when it rains really hard all at one time, you instantly see where you’re going to have leaks. But if it’s a slow drip over time you may not know it. What millennials are, it’s kind of like this just a flood of people that have hit the marketplace, that have hit the workplace, and then have hit churches and so it’s changed everything and nobody really knows how to keep up. Nobody really knows what’s going on, because so much has hit so fast.

Brady Shearer: [00:11:58] I think the stat that I often go back to, and I believe it’s from from from Barna, that’s where I got it from. I’ll double check on that. Is that one in three American workers are already millennials. And that’s the biggest cohort of the biggest demographic already. And so like that’s I think a third misconception. We run into all the time, like “look the millennials are almost here.” No no no that’s not true. We’re not 16 anymore like we’re not on Myspace.This is now.

Wes Gay: [00:12:28] A lot of pastors talk about millennials today the way they talked about millennials when we were in student ministry. I grew up in Southern Baptist churches in, and I don’t know where you are Brady, but the students always sit together on Sunday mornings.

Brady Shearer: [00:12:41] Of course, yep. Same.

Wes Gay: [00:12:41] And so it was like the youth sermon. The pastor would look at that section “this is the next generation, this is the next generation. Well this is the now generation. The guy who runs the company that has two billion active monthly users is 32 years old. Mark Zuckerberg. I talked to a CEO back earlier this year who runs a company they launched in February of last year by the end of the year. They did $10 million in revenue with a brand with a new product. And their head of global marketing is 23 and she’s now opening stores all over Western Europe for their product. It’s unbelievable. But the problem is people are saying “this is the next generation”, it is the now generation. If Millennials can lead million and billion dollar companies, they can serve in leadership capacities in your church. You know. Brady I know you see this all the time. So a lot of times the only millennial that you’ll see on stage at a church is the youth leader, is the worship leader or the female vocalist. Or somebody in the band. And that’s it. You don’t see a 34 year old, who maybe is married and has a couple of kids, but who’s like a senior V.P. at his company. Or you don’t see a head of a marketing team and you don’t see her involved in leadership decisions either. What you see are people in their 50s and 60s, and in some cases an older church’s 70s and 80s, still running the church the way they did 40 years ago and that just doesn’t work.

Brady Shearer: [00:14:00] Yeah. And what I like to always tell churches is that this isn’t the apex of the pervasiveness of millennials in the work place, in your church, in your community. You know it’s at one in three right now, and I double checked, it’s from Pew it’s now from Barna. This stat it’s at one at three now, but that’s only going to continue to go up. And like globally it’s going up and it’s going up in America obviously. And so if there’s any time now to embrace what younger people are really passionate about, and the way they see church going, and the way that they can serve it’s now. It was fascinating and I saw this earlier, Fortune released their update on the best 100 places for millennials to work at. And the only church I think on the list, it came in around 91 or something, was Elevation church.

Wes Gay: [00:14:46] Yeah. I saw that.

Brady Shearer: [00:14:46] In kind of the breakdown of Elevation it said okay there are hundred and sixty five millennials that are on staff at Elevation. Eight out of every 10.

Wes Gay: [00:14:56] That’s crazy.

Brady Shearer: [00:14:57] Eighty percent of their church staff is millennials. And so I tweeted this, and so I’m looking at some of the responses like “what’s the point” or like “what are you getting at.” I was like, I’m not necessarily getting at anything. You know maybe you don’t like Elevation, maybe you do. Maybe you think that’s good, or it’s bad. The point is is that that’s fascinating that one of the fastest growing and most influential churches, both you know within their community but also within the church community. Eighty percent of their staff is millennials.

Wes Gay: [00:15:25] And the thing is, I mean this is something that said in the workplace, I did an interview in the fall with the chief H.R. officer for Hilton. They have like 13 brands under their overall umbrella. 35,0000 employees globally. And he told me based on their projections, Hilton is expected to have 75 percent of their employees be millennials in the next three years which is way ahead of the industry average. You’re talking two hundred eighty, two hundred ninety thousand out of their entire chain across the world. He also told me that in Southeast Asia they’re expecting 90 percent of their employees to be millennials in the next three years. 90. So that’s obviously outside of the church space, but it goes back to this idea that millennials are more and more because there’s so many of us and the youngest ones are finally getting out of college in the next year or two. We’re all going to be in the workplace at the same time. But the problem is you’re not seeing that change happen as fast in the church space. And I’ve got some theories on why that is, but I think the reality is you’ve got a lot of people, who I know who are in their 20s and 30s, who so want to serve the church but they can’t because there’s simply no opportunities for them. There’s no spaces for them to do that.

Brady Shearer: [00:16:30] And there was another interesting study from Barna, they have a great book on millennials, if you want to read that one.

Wes Gay: [00:16:34] I’ve got that one – Making Space for Millennials. That one?

Brady Shearer: [00:16:36] That’s the one, yeah, it’s great. I have it too. And it’s a paid book, you’ll have to buy it, I had to wait for it to come in person. Like it came in as a physical book. But trust me it is well worth it. For those listening we’ll have it linked in the show notes. I think that in there it’s said, when they looked for commonalities between churches that were doing well with millennials. The only like commonality they could find. Not like where they were located. Not like the coolness of their worship experience, was they were disproportionately making decisions based on what millennials were saying. And disproportionately meaning more than what their church makeup already was, or more than what their community around them was. That was just interesting again. Single data points don’t provide the full picture, but it just is fascinating to think about because you were talking about, here’s what I think might be the real reason why the church staff makeup does not reflect kind of, or professional workplaces, or even like the demographics of a community. Do you want to dive into what you think your suspicions are.

Wes Gay: [00:17:37] Yeah I got a couple of suspicions. And one of those is, and this is a whole separate podcast, so I don’t wanna dig into this now, but I think when you go multi-site and you’re video driven, you take away opportunities for people to lead, and to speak, and to teach in churches. And so instead of having one church with 12 locations and you know 12 individual preachers, you now have one church with 12 locations with one preacher, and I have got 11 people who were called to preach you can’t serve because there’s no space there. I think that’s one problem. I think another problem is you’re not seeing people, you’re not seeing churches really keep up in the sense of how they’re doing some of their staffing. So you’ve got people who are extraordinarily gifted who could serve in the local church but they’re not given opportunities to do that outside of what? Children’s ministries, student ministry, maybe worship ministry, communications or whatever other ambiguous title you want to give the younger folks. But I know people again, in their 20s and 30s who have doctorates from seminaries, who were incredibly bright people who still struggle to find church jobs and they could serve but a lot of it goes back to their age. And it’s funny to me to watch people who are, I’ve been at a church where there were guys in their 80s making all these leadership decisions. The funny thing was they started leading in this church 50 years ago when they were in their 30s, but they didn’t like anybody really under 50 being involved in any kind of lay leadership decisions. Well you do realize 40 years ago you were on the boat that you’re criticizing everybody else for being and now. At some point for the future of the church. We’ve got to have this off and realize millennials are not students anymore they’re adults. They’ve got jobs, they’ve got kids, they’re having more and more mortgages. They have, as those of us who live in the suburbs and have kids, we have more minivans. We’re in a different phase of life than we were 10 or 15 years ago and this whole conversation started. So it’s time to shift our mindset and start thinking, OK who actually is this generation, like we said. How many of them are there in our community. And then what do we actually do to reach the ones that are here. Because I think another misconception or churches is that they’ll read a data point like that and Barna and they’ll see Elevation has, 80 percent their staffs millennials and they do a great job reaching that community in their area, and they try to apply what Elevation does to their church but they forget they’re a church of 400 in the suburbs of Atlanta. Or their church of, you know, 800 an hour outside of Dallas Texas. They forget their context.

So I preach this all the time. You can see what other churches are doing. You can see what other companies are doing. But at the end of the day if you don’t know what your local context is you’re going to fail 100 out of 100 times. I use my parent’s church as an example. My dad’s been a worship pastor for 35 years and is still serving in a church. They live in a small town in southeast Alabama. Their church runs about 600. So it’s a smaller community and it’s the biggest church in town. But it is wildly popular with people my age. A lot of people I went to high school with, who still live down there, go to church there. And they’re growing in kind of that young family space but they’re not, you know they don’t have the smoke and the lasers and the moving lights. It’s kind of a blended musical style. Everybody’s dressed up a little bit more on Sundays. My dad wear a coat and tie because that’s just part of what they do. But it’s still hugely popular because, this is what it was boils back to, everybody on staff and everyone in leadership knows who they are and they’re comfortable with it and they just care about people. Like I wish it was more complicated than that with millennials. But it’s not. Some of the people I know who are most effective at engaging this generation visually are the least cool people you could imagine but they just care deeply about people and they’re super comfortable who they are. You know one example I use too, there’s a guy named Larry. He’s been a student pastor for like 45 years. His grandkids are older than some of the kids in his student ministry and he looks like the before picture of a Just For Men commercial you know, heavy salt and pepper, really neatly trimmed beard. I’ve been to him at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida. He wears cargo shorts with the braided belt, his ironed T-shirt tucked in, his sandals with socks man. But I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen kids rally around a student pastor like I’ve seen. And his student ministry is the healthiest most active part of their church. Because he cares about people and he wants to meet their needs and meet them where they’re at and not try to be somebody he isn’t. So it’s fascinating that it really boils down to what are unsexy principles to talk about. But it’s just the reality of how it works and what’s effective.

Brady Shearer: [00:21:58] Well what do you think about it like the perception within church, within church staffs, about why they think millennials aren’t like picking up the mantle, because I got in this like Twitter discussion with a couple of different people when I posted about that statistic I said about lead pastors earlier. About how like, you know, they’re 10 years older now than they were 15 years ago, on average. And like just reading responses I’m looking at right now is like ‘do you think it’s because there are fewer young pastors, or because pastors are staying in ministry longer’ and someone else is like, “I wonder if this is because of the whole, in quotes, extended adolescence issue. I was like interesting, what you have is people immediately saying, oh there’s no one that’s a millennial on staff. Clearly it’s their fault. Those punk, entitled losers. You know, which is putting words in those Twitter users mouth.

Wes Gay: [00:22:43] But is it putting words in their mouth? is it?

Brady Shearer: [00:22:46] And that’s what we immediately say, well there’s no one on staff millennials because like they are all entitled. There’s more of us than anyone! Even if it was our fault. You’d think there’d be at least the same number of people. It would be equal. Like it is so disproportionate because there’s so many millennials and then so little serving in churches. That’s not because they’re not looking for work.

Wes Gay: [00:23:09] Yeah. Seminary enrolment’s not down. You know, like if you look at and again I’m Southern Baptist, so you look at the Southern Baptists seminaries. They’re not tracking year over year declines in enrollment. In fact you’re looking at some of them now who are opening new programs to reach even more people. They’re growing in some of these cases. They’re maybe entering into building projects. They’re reaching or exceeding their enrollment numbers in both the undergraduate and graduate level. So it’s not for lack of individuals, millennials, who are trained formally to go serve with a theological education, to serve a local church. I do think it’s interesting. I know a lot of, guys in particular, who tried to serve in churches and couldn’t because there were no spaces and they went to go be church planters. And so now you have a huge wave of millennial church planters. I don’t know. I think some of it is they feel called, and some of it is, there’s just no opportunities. Pastors are hanging on a little bit longer. This is a problem across the board in corporate America too, as people, your life expectancy is a little longer. People are serving longer. Churches, as they had to cut their budgets in the recession, they couldn’t hire as many people.

But the people who say, oh it’s the millennial’s fault for not being on staff at a church. That’s completely bogus. I know people who have applied to literally hundreds of churches and could not even get an interview. Part of it is the church hiring process and then part of it is, they’re just not hiring. They’re looking for these unicorns for these roles that don’t exist. And when they find somebody who’s 32 or 28, who could do it, all they see is this piece of paper and go ‘oh that’s how we want. We can’t do that. Sorry.’ It’s just a broken system, and it’s not the millennials fault. The same people who complain about ‘it’s the millennials fault’ are the ones who call us entitled for getting participation trophies, but they’re the ones who gave us that participation trophies. You know I’ve never seen a team of seven year olds on a little league baseball team take their allowance money, go to the trophy shop, buy their own trophies, order them, and then give them out to themselves at the local pizza buffet at the end of the season party. It was all of our parents did that. You know. And then it was all of our parents who led the building committee to build the big fancy children’s ministry buildings in our churches. And we were the first generation to have that. It’s like, well of course we have high expectations because we had former Walt Disney World employees building and designing our kids’ space 20 years ago. Of course we have high expectations. What do you . . . Yeah I could go on, but . . . I think a lot of it is it’s churches are not opening up opportunities to these younger folks. I don’t know if I think they can’t handle it, or what it is, at the end of the day it’s a broken system. And again if a millennial can lead a billion dollar company or start a million dollar company in a year. I’m pretty sure they can serve as a deacon or an elder or a pastor on staff or not at your church.

Brady Shearer: [00:25:46] So does this come down to just the older leaders that are listening to this podcast prioritizing hiring younger people? Does it require them to kind of look internally and say, OK what what biases and maybe prejudices I kind of have that I haven’t noticed before towards younger people. And how do I kind of get over them? Or is there another thing that we can change.

Wes Gay: [00:26:07] Yeah. I think older leaders first have to say, You first have to start with, OK what actually is our context? And who are the young people who live here? Who are the people in their 20s and 30s, they’re probably young families now, who live here? And then are we meeting their needs overall as a church? Not are we adding more lights, are we adding a young adult service. Are we wearing certain kinds of jeans. It’s not any of that stuff. It’s simply are we trying to meet the needs of the people in this generation. A. B. We have to look at older leaders have to say, OK I legitimately do I make a face, or do I feel something different internally when a 29 year old staff member gives me an idea versus when the 45 year old staff member gives me the same idea. But I like it when the older guy says it, and the younger guy says that I think he’s a young punk. But they literally said the same thing. Why. Why does the younger thing bother me so bad. I do think there’s some prejudice there and some … I think there’s this idea of, well you’re not smart until your old. You’ve got to live a little bit longer to be smarter. And again, the chief HR guy at Hilton told me, he’s in his 50s and has been in human resource 30 years. He said that leadership used to be built on how much knowledge you had because knowledge was the power. But now, leaders have to know Millennials can find out anything you know, from a knowledge standpoint, in seconds on their phone. They obviously don’t have the experience, and some of the wisdom that brings. But from a sheer knowledge perspective, we can know it in minutes or seconds, if our internet connection is good. We can know it like that. Right. So the knowledge thing is no longer an advantage. In fact what he said was, people who share knowledge more are actually the ones who have a greater advantage in leadership to be able to serve . . . At some point we have to prioritize it and we have to recognize that young people are actually gifted and called to not only to be on staff in our churches but also to serve and these elder/Deacon/ lay leader type roles too.

Brady Shearer: [00:28:00] Yeah I 100 percent agree. It’s not like it’s a quick fix, but here’s the alternative the way that I see it. I’ve been doing a new podcast every single week, Wes, called the Pro Church Podcast coaching edition. So it gets released every Thursday and I’ve just sent out like on Instagram was the first time I did it. I was like, hey do you want to get a free one hour of coaching with me. I don’t normally do coaching, but if you’re willing to have it recorded and shared with everyone in Pro Church Nation then let’s do it. So we had like, you know, 50 sign ups and so I think we’ve done 20 of them so far, and it’s so interesting speaking with these churches like right before we jumped on a podcast. I did one and the church of, like you were saying, like you know, not in an area where maybe the Elevation model would work. So there in like, you know, backwoods Indiana. Churches like 400. They’re like my pastor’s 70 and I’m trying to change things but it’s hard and this stuff takes a really long time and it’s not an easy fix, but the alternative is – you mentioned. I love this metaphor. I never thought of it this way. The one where like this torrential downpour of rain happens. What happens when that takes place. Yeah maybe you have some leaks and you notice them. But as the torrential downpour continues to intensify. And like I said, we’re not at the apex of millennials pervasiveness in culture and in the workplace. It’s only becoming more and more and more. 50 percent. Two thirds. As that torrential downpour continues to intensify. Sometimes those leaks turn into bigger leaks and then you have a flood and then the house is like condemned. And this is what I think is going to happen with churches if they’re not able to make the change, and maybe you can push back on this if you don’t think it’s that dramatic. But I just don’t see how if we don’t begin making changes – you can resist it but then eventually things are going to become very drastic and, you know, change is going to have to happen either super aggressively in an uncomfortable, poorly planned, kind of forced way, or you just have to shut down the doors altogether because you have no one left to kind of take over.

Wes Gay: [00:29:50] Yeah I think you’re right, and I think a lot of the stuff that we’re experiencing now from a, to use the analogy of the leaks that are getting bigger and bigger, part of the challenge these days is the fact that we’re actually living in what happened 20 years ago. And here’s what I mean. You think about this as Church Growth movement so the aggressive building facilities and all this other stuff that was happening with children’s facilities and the Seeker movement, and church so drastically changed in the 80s and 90s. A lot of different models, and a lot heavier production is that stuff got cheaper. We grew up in the middle of all that. Right. We grew up in an age where student ministry was more about how many warheads, remember the warhead candies? How many warheads could you stick in your mouth and still say a Bible verse. Who could do the most of that. Not hey here’s this verse and here’s what it means and here’s what it really says about Jesus and how should change your life. But you know I had a friend who could put thirty five in his mouth and still talk, like that’s all I remember in some seasons. So we grew up in the middle of all that. And so now those leaks. We actually started the puncture years ago have started to expand and now is this torrential downpour of us entering adulthood and we’re kind of the target market for everybody, not just church. There going, wait a second.

I think in someways we’re living out the consequences of what we did 20 years ago. I think we’re living out the consequences and some of the expectations. Matt Chandler in his book The Explicit Gospel talks about. He writes. He heard story after story after story during their baptisms on Sundays of people who said, hey when I was a kid I went to church I got baptized but it didn’t mean anything and then I actually realized what the Gospel was now and that I’m in my 20s and now Jesus has taken hold of my life and I’m saved. It’s like this is also the generation we’re talking about. it’s kind of the generation within the generation. The people who grew up, a ton of people who interacted with church at some level whether they are fully involved or just a friend of somebody who went. Then we had this image that the church is now having to undo and it’s exposing some of the problems that we inadvertently created 20 years ago, 25 years ago. And so these leaks are becoming massive and it’s a little bit embarrassing, and it’s a little bit humbling, to realize we need to make some changes, but it’s time to make a change. And the generational changes is go all back to the old testament. This is not a new phenomenon right. It’s just we talk about it more because of the Internet and everybody talking about the millennial thing. You know one other thing too, I want to talk about this. Nobody talks about the fact that millennials were the first generation, a decade ago, to be given an iPhone in their teens and 20s, which is what? That time of your life when you’re living your adolescence. And not only were we handed an iPhone, we were handed Facebook and Twitter, which were still very new at that point and said, hey tell the world about your life. Right now. Right. So this time of your life, when you’re figuring out your identity, you’re wrestling with all these physical and emotional and mental and spiritual changes you go through. Everybody goes through that stage of life. We lived that out in front of the world because they told us to. And then we got in trouble for it because they’re like, oh they’re entitled. They’re lazy. They’re this that and the other. We’re like everybody else who’s ever been in their teens and twenties. We just actually told the world about it as it was happening. Nobody else did that. Nobody else has had that to do. And even the generation after us, this Gen Z, they’ve learned from us and they’re not doing it. They’re going more to the private networks and the one on one interaction and not so much the let me broadcast everything to the world. Let me create and curate my personal brand. Even at 13, 14 because I saw what the 20 somethings did and how it was such a fiasco.

Brady Shearer: [00:33:09] Can we transition a bit and talk about ways to reach millennials. You’ve talked about the way that church is kind of set up now and the way that we’ve been, you know, running ministry for the last decade or so. Can we talk about reaching millennials and actually you know we’ve transitioned from internally, in our staff to externally, millennials in our community.

Wes Gay: [00:33:29] Yeah. The first thing is you have to define who they are. And then once you do that, not only do you find who they are you define what they need. Like what are their needs. Some of those felt needs that just happened at this live stage. For example, I think it’s Eighty five percent of births in the U.S. in the last several years have been to millennial moms. One million millennial women become first time moms every year, for the last few years. There’s like 15 to 20 million moms who are millennials right now. So I think the next phase of churches is, if you want to reach millennials you’ve got to start in your preschool and children’s ministry. So all right what does that mean. I said a minute ago, our technology. We’re the first digital natives. So I’m not telling you specifically what to use or how to use it. What I’m saying is, use technology to make things as easy as possible. If I can go on my phone and, there is this startup called Carvana, have a brand new car or a used car delivered to my house in 24 hours from an app on my phone that I can buy and never go to a car dealer. It shouldn’t be so hard for me to give online to your church. Find out where small groups are. Find out your event stuff. Register for events pay for it like it shouldn’t be that hard. So make it easy. And then I’d say too – I’m going to say the authenticity word. Which I hate using, but there’s no better word for it. What I mean by all this authenticity is – authenticity is not a style. Right. There’s no said thing, if you do this, this, and this you’re authentic, that’s not true. It is if you know your identity and your identity in Christ and you live that out. That’s authenticity. That’s what compels people. Again I’ve met people who are about as uncool as it comes when it comes to like style and just whatever but they are like a magnet for people. I’ve seen them just draw people and make people feel comfortable and engaged and get involved in church because they simply know who they are and they’re comfortable with it. You know a lot of people, even older leaders I’ve heard it said are really just middle schoolers who got older. I still have the same insecurities and awkwardness of a middle schooler. So we’ve got to just be comfortable with who we are and stop trying to be Elevation stop trying to be Northpoint, stop trying to be a Life church. Stop trying to be whatever the next church is that you saw on YouTube yesterday. Like just stop. Just realize it’s OK to be who you are and be what God has called you to be in your city and in your context. So be comfortable with that. And then also realize there may be some some tactical changes you need to make to engage millennials. So it might mean a music style shift but it’s probably a music style shift that should have happened 20 years ago anyways to reflect more of what your community is like. It might mean you do more things online. You finally move to better online giving solution. You have a better web site. You do whatever engagement. But I’m not saying that online giving is the way to reach millennials. I’m giving you, and I’m giving Pro Church Nation an example. You have to do the hard work as a church leader to decide what those things are for your community. But it goes back to what are the needs and what are ways that people in our community engage and interact and connect with each other.

Brady Shearer: [00:36:29] Perfect’s OK. Final. Anything that we haven’t covered. Final misconception about millennials. I’ve got six right now and I really want to get to a seven.

Wes Gay: [00:36:38] OK. Seven like the number of super completion.

Brady Shearer: [00:36:42] Exactly right. Like I can’t just give them that title six misconceptions about millennials. It’s got to be seven. And this one has to be the best one Wes. It’s the final one. People have like not considered.

Wes Gay: [00:36:53] Cue the song The Final Countdown. This is hard.

Brady Shearer: [00:36:58] Let me ask you this then. What are churches – sorry what are millennials looking for in a church. Because I know that you just said like the changes you know and starting with like what a millennial would value and hey maybe you need to introduce some more like digital things and change that. What have you heard. What do millennials care about. Do they care about big lights and fog machines, which would be what I think is the misconception. Millennials thinking about church what do they care about most.

Wes Gay: [00:37:25] Here’s where I think it was down to and Mark Zuckerberg is proving my point. And it’s all about community. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg is touring the United States and visiting churches in every state, let’s not underestimate this point here. He went to Waco, Texas and met with religious leaders. He attended church services in Charleston, South Carolina and Mobile, Alabama. He’s met with other religious leaders around the country. And what did he say a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking to the church to determine how to build a better community on Facebook. What millennials want is a sense of strong community. The ability to connect with these people both online, cause we’re used to that, but also in person. One of the things I’ve seen in the workplace side, with Forbes, is that companies that win with millennials are creating spaces and creating opportunities to build community in the office. You know so you think about originally we used to call church a third space. You know it’s like you have work, you have home, you have church. That was that third space that you interact with. The show Cheers was built on the bar being the third place. But the problem is the church’s has fallen away and the workplace is stepping in to do that. So companies now are creating opportunities for millennials and their are people to build community with each other, to build connection. I talked to a senior vice president of Linkedin in California a few months ago and she said here we were really intentional on creating spaces and creating ways for our employees to connect with each other because we know it’s a very transient community. People are moving in and out. They’re coming from out of state. Sometimes out of country to join our team. We want to make sure they feel comfortable and connected with each other here. This is Linkedin. This is not a church. So be really intentional on how can you help people engage and interact with each other and build a sense of community. Because I do think community is the thing that is a hallmark of this generation. We’ve built communities online. Sometimes it’s like niche forums. It’s the social networks. But ultimately we need to have that community in person with each other in a way that brings value to our life. Community is not another lame event. If I hear about another man’s event it’s like 6 a.m. on Saturday morning where you’re having bad coffee and terrible biscuits.

Brady Shearer: [00:39:35] But they have bacon Wes. So it’s irrelevant.

Wes Gay: [00:39:38] If they have bacon. I bless the Lord. He declared all things clean. Right. So we’re good. If they have bacon. I’m good. But other than that I don’t want to get up at 6 o’clock on Saturday morning or 7:00 on Saturday morning go to another bad event. That’s not community. Community is where people can get together, of really different backgrounds, different walks of life, can come together and say you know what we’re actually going to join together to pursue this higher calling, this higher purpose, of taking the gospel to the nations. Of making Jesus known around the world. In the corporate world they do it to expand their company’s mission which is usually to make more money and do something else. But we have the greatest mission and the greatest opportunity to build and expand community of anybody. So let’s focus on building really solid community first. So tactically make sure you have really healthy, really good small groups. Are you just going through some lame book. Or . . .

Brady Shearer: [00:40:27] Please do not go through some lame book! OK. I’m sorry to interrupt you Wes but as a millennial – Please do not send me to a small group where you turn on Right Now Media and say, nice we’ve got community. I will not attend that and it drives me crazy.

Wes Gay: [00:40:43] Yeah. Or hey there’s a best selling book we found at Lifeway. We’re going to go through that in our small group. That’s great in a book club but we’re not Oprah. Like I want to go to a Bible study to study the Bible. Let’s talk about what the Bible says. What it actually means, not what it makes us feel, and say this is how it changes your life. And this is how it ought to change the lives of those around you. Start in your small groups. I promise if churches would do this more and focus on building strong biblical meeting their small groups it will drastically change every other phase of what they do.

Brady Shearer: [00:41:15] Yeah absolutely. OK great. Well I think we’ve covered a ton of stuff here. Wes we made it to seven misconceptions churches have about millennials. Which is perfect because if we left it at 6 this podcast wouldn’t have even been able to be published. It just would have been useless.

Wes Gay: [00:41:28] Totally useless.

Brady Shearer: [00:41:30] You’re doing a lot of writing on Forbes about millennials and a lot of other great things, where can people find more about you and read what you’re, you know sharing with the world.

Wes Gay: [00:41:38] Sure. Yeah. The easiest place is just WesGay.com. So W E S G A Y.com is my website. It’s got my blog. It’s got a link to my Forbes stuff and also link to my work with story brand. And then you can also interact with me on Twitter. I know Brady you and I have gotten into quite a few conversations over there so I’d love for other people to jump in and join a conversation with us.

Brady Shearer: [00:41:57] Awesome. Well thanks again Wes for coming by and making the time and sharing what I think is one of the most important things to discuss right now in churches which is, hey look we’ve got this biggest generation in the history of humankind coupled with one of the biggest communication shifts in the last 500 years. And they’re all coming together. OK wait what else is happening. Oh right our lead pastors are older than they’ve ever been in the last you know three decades, so a lot of things that are happening. And if we don’t talk about them, you know there’s no easy answers. But if we don’t talk about them and attempt to make change and move forward. Well that’s when the torrential downpour leaks can get bigger and turn to flooding and turn to who knows what so. Thanks for coming on with us it’s been overdue and I had a blast.

Wes Gay: [00:42:38] Thanks Brady I appreciate it.

Brady Shearer: [00:42:40] All right. There you have it my interview with Wes Gay talking about seven misconceptions churches have about millennials. We talk about the real age of millennials. The real population of millennials. The timeline. The real reason Millennials aren’t working at churches. The ramifications, what’s going to happen if we continue to ignore this generation and continue to not hire them and not try to reach them. We talk about those real methods for reaching them. And finally the real desires that millennials have for church. What are we looking for. What do we truly care about. And again why, it’s probably not what you think or thought. Hopefully this session of the podcast brought to light some misconceptions that you may have had maybe just laying dormant just things that you didn’t really consider but are very very true about millennials and so important. A big thanks to Wes for stopping by and sharing all that valuable expertise that he has spending so much time writing about and working alongside millennials both in big brands, within churches and then of course the work that he does over at Forbes. With all that being said it’s time for our review of the week. This one comes from Suze from the USA. Five stars it says “I never miss a show. Thank you Brady your podcasts are well worth the effort. As an over 60 year old serving in North Africa. Your podcasts keep me up to date with social media and video techniques I might not learn about anywhere else. I make an effort to put into practice all of your tips that apply to our situation. God bless you Pastor Mike.” Well thank you Pastor Mike. Hello from north Canada. I guess the north side of North America really about as south in Canada as you can get where we live. But hello from North Africa to the north side of North America. Great to have you listening to the Pro Church podcast. Thank you so much for leaving that review. It does mean the world to us and the entire team. Me and the entire team here at Pro Church tools. If you go to Pro Church podcast dot com you can subscribe to the show if you haven’t already. That is the most important thing. OK. Go to ProChurchPodcast dot com and subscribe to the show and go ahead and leave a review while you’re there. It means the world to me, it’s going to be sent directly to me through e-mail. I’ll get an e-mail and I’ll have your review there. I’ll put it in the queue. And who knows your review might get read in the queue, review, in a future episode of the Pro Church podcast. Thanks for listening. We publish an interview session every single Tuesday, a new real time coaching call every single Thursday, and the Ask Brady Show where we answer four questions from the people of Pro Church nation every Saturday. So three new episodes of the Pro Church podcast coming to each and every week. Thanks for listening. Thanks for subscribing. If you haven’t already, go to Pro Church Podcast dot com and we’ll talk to you real soon.



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