Gen Y Pastors Starting New Churches

My post brain-candy reflections from a Strategic Leadership classJay West
have me wondering about the next generation of New Church Planters
. According to Pew, most Gen Y-ers (ages 18-33)  can be characterized this way:

  • More connected to friends than traditional political or religious institutions
  • More in debt but hopeful about their financial futures
  • Less likely to be married, often because of financial concerns
  • More racially diverse

And although 16% of Gen Y-ers are outliers (and these characteristics do not describe them) the other 84% of this generation – according to Professor Rich Honack – are known for:

  • Being less career motivated than their Gen X siblings and Boomer parents
  • Serving an average of 1 1/2 years on each of their first four jobs after college
  • Being globally connected
  • Being short-term planners with no long-term vision
  • Oversharing
  • Inventing Gap Years
  • Being disinterested in having a driver’s license or a mortgage
  • Being financially at-risk (42% live with their parents for financial reasons)

Again, this does not describe all Gen Y’ers, of course, but sociologists seem to believe they’ve tracked some commonalities among most of them.

So here’s my question:  How will Gen Y-ers impact the establishment of new worshipping communities in the coming years?

Note:  words like “establishment” and “worshipping communities” are not often typed beside words like “Generation Y.”  But as I work with students preparing for professional ministry, many of them are interested in – and perhaps called to – starting new congregations.   What will that look like?

  • Will Gen Y pastors want to leave after 1 ½ years on the job?
  • Will the transience of twenty-somethings allow a new church to become stable?
  • Will Gen Y-led congregations always struggle financially?
  • Will older generations want to be part of such a different kind of church?

I find these questions more exciting than anxiety-inducing but they mostly speak to the changing landscape of our churches.  What are your thoughts about Gen Y-ers in spiritual leadership?  What do you look forward to as batons are passed?

Image of artist Justin West who – at age 23 – is considered one of the most talented in his generation.

4 responses to “Gen Y Pastors Starting New Churches

  1. I feel like you left out some of “Gen Yers” most important qualities in this post. Also as a “Gen Yer” I prefer the term Millennial.
    One of the things that Millennials are all about is service. We think that giving back to our community is huge. So one option for churches is to get involved with your communities needs. Once you start organizing events millennials will show up and help with the doing.
    Another thing that matters to us more than anything is authenticity. Be who you really are not who you think we want you to be. We have a big BS meter and we know when you are being fake.
    Finally, I want to address the issue of work. We are looking for jobs that make us feel like we are making a difference. Many of us are working for the church (so stop talking about us like we aren’t there when we are some of the ones serving you). We want a job that means something. In case you hadn’t noticed most of those kinds of jobs don’t pay very well. So the reason we aren’t giving the church any money is because most of us don’t have it to give.
    Additionally, we are convinced that due to the economy we will never be able to retire. So in the here and now we strive for a work-life balance. Most of us (minus the workaholics) aren’t interested in a position that will has 80 hour work weeks. We want to live the life we’ve always wanted, now, as opposed to when we retire. I think many of these factors are the reasons we change jobs so much.
    In the end, I think it really comes down to the authenticity. We want to live a life that means something. We want to truly help others. We want to make a difference in the world. I hope that this helps the many people out there that feel confused by what Millennials think, do and want.


  2. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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