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Training millennials in ministry: make it meaningful

Equipping Christian Leaders Feature Article: Summer 2019


Entrust knows for its ministry to continue into the future, it needs to attract and retain godly, talented staff members. As younger millennials make up a larger portion of our potential talent pool, this means understanding what factors and motivations keep millennials serving long-term. With many churches showing a drop in attendance and ministry priorities shifting, other Christian leaders need to take this reality seriously, too.

In 2018, Maggie and Brigid joined Entrust as Serving To Equip People interns. They spent a year serving with Entrust staff in the Middle East. They had some good experiences and provided meaningful help to Entrust’s ministry. They are still considering their future options for ministry and at this time have not opted to continue into full-time ministry with Entrust, as they seek God for direction. Some internships may result in gaining long-term staff members, while others will not.

Maggie and Brigid are intelligent, talented, college-educated women. While we’re not assuming these women represent millions of Americans, we do think their perspectives provide a rich insight into generational trends and mentalities. The following is taken from a debrief interview in which Entrust staff asked the two women about their STEP internship experience and what they’re looking for in long-term ministry.

Young people sitting on floor listening to speaker

We sit down to chat over a cup of coffee and begin with a few comments about Maggie and Brigid’s overall Entrust experience. But just a few minutes into the interview, Maggie moved past generalities and provided a revealing look into her approach to ministry opportunities.

Maggie: I knew we were called to go back to the Middle East after we had been there in 2015 … we weren’t finished, or God wasn’t finished with us there, and so it was a matter of timing and which organization and how long or what we were doing. We didn’t go there with a specific vision of what job we would do or what we would accomplish or what organization we would go with ahead of time … so it was more about finding an organization that would let us go for the amount of time we were interested in, had projects we were interested in and would let us really immerse ourselves in the culture and study language. Entrust was a really good fit for that.

Brigid: I was looking for a long-term—at least five years, hopefully forever—opportunity for something, with building relationships for the gospel. But I was open to different ways. I also wanted to use my master’s degree in Bible translation and connect with people doing that there and see if that was a direction to go … we definitely went with the idea of looking at long-term.

These responses seem to go against the stereotypical thinking that says millennials only want short-term opportunities. This wasn’t an issue of commitment. Maggie and Brigid deeply desired a long-term position. What kept them from finding that?

Maggie: It’s really hard for me to imagine what’s not in front of me. It’s hard to envision the future, and my future in the Middle East is completely ambiguous because I have no set role there. If you could describe for me what my life would be like, if you could lay out a job description for me and say take it or leave it, then I could do that. But if you say, “Don’t you want to live there forever?” that’s not enough for me.

They show a desire for vision, purpose and a clear job description combined with aspects of the growing millennial trend toward independence and entrepreneurship. Notice how Maggie reflects on her first trip to the Middle East in 2015.

Maggie: [The children’s program] was the best part of our experience there, which was that project we were thrown into, completely over our heads, and we had to figure it out and we did! And [we had the freedom to] start another project or jump into another project.

Brigid contrasts that experience with their term of service with Entrust.

Brigid: [We enjoyed] something where we got to be involved on our own, like take a class. [Or] playing with the neighborhood kids. We came up with games and we pulled out games that we had or we got stuff to entertain them and keep them organized. It was led like one of our own little programs but there was no [external] organization to it at all.

When onboarding millennials to your own ministries, perhaps consider emphasizing ownership and leadership. Chances are, you’re attracting bright, young Christian minds. After a thorough vetting process, don’t be afraid to give them real responsibilities. And even if your millennial staff don’t stick around—Maggie and Brigid haven’t stayed with Entrust—they’ll likely speak of their experience with you from a place of grace and maturity.

Brigid: Our hope in our future isn’t supposed to be in a specific organization. Our hope is in Jesus. He doesn’t change even though the organization might. But then we knew this year was a test year. Entrust was an organization that we didn’t think much about until meeting them at that conference at Dallas Theological Seminary. So we thought, “This works out well for this year as a great opportunity for us to look at this organization and other ones.”

Maggie and Brigid are still searching for that long-term opportunity. They’ve experienced overseas ministries with two organizations. They haven’t pinned down their loyalties yet. But they are loyal to Christ and the gospel. They’re still imagining ministries based around relationships. They’re excited about children’s and women’s ministries. They want to play a role in empowering churches. But what that looks like is still up in the air.

Entrust aims to train millennials in taking the next step toward ministry in a way that gives them purpose and meaning. As the largest current workforce in the United States, millennials make a up a talent pool with the potential to change the world. Entrust hopes to guide these individuals into harnessing their passions, skills, and experiences into serving the Lord’s kingdom. By connecting with them and sharing the decades of knowledge and experience that Entrust has to offer, we can reach people of all generations who are hungry for truth.

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