In the past year, we’ve had a huge influx of millennials into our church. What’s the best way to recruit these individuals for service?
— a reader
It’s a great blessing when the family of God includes people of all generations. It’s also a great challenge when the younger generation has differing values, habits, and expectations.
The best answer to your question is to ask to a millennial. Talk to the millennials in your family or in the next pew. Take some out for a latte. Ask where they’ve volunteered and why; what moves them to give their time; and what signals a place as somewhere they don’t want to volunteer. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been seeing and reading:
While their grandparents volunteer out of loyalty to an organization, millennials volunteer to a cause they believe in. They also need to know what difference their contribution will make.
We tend to take the value of church volunteering for granted. What could be more important than working for God’s church! But evaluating impact not only motivates volunteers, it can help leaders as they make decisions in support of the church’s mission. How does our children’s ministry impact the children? How many families receive supplies for how many meals each month from your food pantry? What’s the impact of that board that needs new volunteers? Some ministry impact can be measured in numbers of meals or participants. The impact of other ministries is shown when participants talk about its impact on their lives. The effort involved in gathering this information is outweighed by the value of knowing and sharing real evidence of ministry impact.
Relationships matter to millennials. Volunteer opportunities with a social aspect, or connected to their social circles, will be more attractive. For example,
- Encourage serving with their friends. Ministries that serve the community, like a food pantry, will also be attractive to their unchurched friends.
- Millennials also enjoy inter-generational serving, where they can serve alongside kids and seniors.
- Publicize your volunteer opportunities on social media.
Be flexible and spontaneous.
Let the millennials do things their own way.
- Rather than ask them to do the Christmas baskets for needy families the way it’s always been done, let them design their own method.
- When you hear that a couple millennials texted friends on Friday night to join them on a Saturday morning serving project, celebrate it! Encourage both formal and informal networks of people who want to be notified when something comes up.
- Social media is perfect for last-minute serving opportunities: “Show up tomorrow night to unload a delivery for the food pantry.” “Join us this weekend as we walk the neighborhood with flyers about the food drive.”
- Embrace technology. If Sunday school attendance can be entered on any computer at any time, a millennial is more likely to volunteer.
Is it hard to think about changing the way we’ve always volunteered? Yes, it is. Get used to it. At the speed our world is changing, once we get things figured out for now, it won’t be ‘now’ any more!