Archives For Millennials

It’s been estimated that 3 out of 4 laborers come straight from the college campus. The next generation of pastors and missionaries will come from college ministries. Lord willing, these laborers will see the Great Commission fulfilled.

So what’s stopping this flood of laborers from being sent out from college campuses?

Overwhelmingly, there are two barriers holding college students from being sent into full time ministry:

  1. Parents
  2. Money (student loan debt and fear related to raising financial support)

In the next two posts we’ll discuss money – student loan debt and support raising.

This post will focus on parents.


“The possibility that Christian parents are the number one hindrance to world evangelization is truer than we would like to admit.”

Dr. Todd Ahrend in the book “In This Generation” 

Over 100 years ago, John Mott led the greatest missionary mobilization the world has ever seen – the Student Volunteer Movement.

John Mott considered parents to be the primary obstacle standing in the way of missions mobilization:

’If God permit,’ not if my parents permit. There are very few of us whose parents do permit; they rather must submit. I was talking to a young man less than a week ago, and he said, ‘The moment that I speak of going as a foreign missionary it seems to me that a thousand chords are pulling me back….my parents begin to plead with me; my friends begin to plead with me.’ It is not if man permit; it is if God permit.

100 years ago, what was the parents’ chief concern? They had worked hard to send their son or daughter to college and going into full time ministry was seen as a waste of a valuable college degree. Sound familiar?

It somewhat comforting to know that this is not a new obstacle.

“If we seek for excuses to stay at home we can find plenty of them” Robert Wilder, 1898

There’s a VERY helpful article on Desiring God about how parents are the Biggest Barrier to Students Going to the Mission Field.

The article is written by a parent, Kim Ransleben, and she explains parents’ legitimate concerns:

We haven’t been with them much of the time while they’re in college, and the truth is, many of us don’t hear a lot from them while they’re gone. If they’ve grown, parents don’t necessarily hear about it. Add to that, most of us had to work hard and pay a lot of money for them to get their degree. Even if unconsciously, many parents are expecting some sort of return on that costly investment.

Then there’s the impression we get from their lives on social media . . . a lot of coffee pics, sports, and of course, selfies. And now all of a sudden, they have a passion for the unreached? Yes, some parents are skeptical, and some for good reason. How do we know our kids don’t just want to delay getting a job for a few more years?

Here’s why parents’ disapproval is crippling to today’s students.

Millennials value their parents’ opinion above anyone else. Past generations experienced growing separation of parents and kids over the teen years and into college. But the majority of millennials remain very close to their parents. The term “helicopter parent” has been widely used to describe their parents’ close involvement.

89% of Millennials receive advice from their parents, 77% on a regular basis. And 87% view their parents as a positive source of influence. Parents are more influential to Millennials than their friends. In fact, “there is nothing more important to Millennials than family” (source). 52% of emerging adults contact their parents every day or almost every day!

Heavy parental involvement is not unique to our students in college ministry. recently reported on its effects on the workplace:

Millennials’ reliance on and close contact with their parents continued even through their teen years — ages when prior generations experienced far greater intergenerational tension. Today’s young adults see the process of seeking advice from their parents as a logical, well-considered opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of trusted advisors. As millennials have entered the workplace, they continue to turn to their parents for guidance.

The Wall Street Journal reports that some Millennials are bringing their parents to job interviews. They report on how some companies are adapting to very engaged parents:

Northwestern Mutual “does everything it can to accommodate the parents of college-aged interns, including regularly inviting them to the office for open houses and some managers call or send notes to parents when interns achieve their sales goals” One intern remarked, “My parents were unsure at first, but seeing the office firsthand allowed them to be that much more confident with the company.”

Companies like Google and LinkedIn have started having an annual “Take Your Parents to Work Day.”

This is the new normal of super-engaged parents and students who really value their opinion.

So when parents are opposed to students going into full time ministry, it is no small obstacle. It is devastating to students.

So what we can do about it?

    • Communicate to students that ultimately it is not the parents’ decision but a personal decision to serve God in full time ministry.  “We must deal delicately and humbly with those who love us the most; boldly pursuing His desires above all else.” Dr Todd Ahrend
    • Realize that God can use obstacles for His glory. Where parents are resistant or completely opposed to their kids going (whether on a Summer Mission or into full time ministry), in most cases I’ve seen God uses the conflict and step of faith (by the student) to radically transform both the student AND parents. This story from Ali Enos (Cru staff at LSU) is very typical of what we see happen with parents:
      • I still remember the day when I was an LSU student trying to explain to my parents why I wanted to go on a summer project with Campus Crusade for Christ—my mom thought I was involved in a cult!
      • My parent’s skepticism about summer project was only an appetizer compared to the questions and concern that came when I shared with them a few years later that I wanted to go to work with Campus Crusade for Christ full time after I graduated from LSU.
      • Now, 10 years later, my parents could not be more proud of me. They have both begun personal relationships with Christ and love what I do.  (there’s a great video of Ali’s parents sharing their journey and doubts – great to use with student’s parents who are resistant.)
    • We need to help students learn to communicate with their parents about the life change they’ve experienced. Students go home to family and friends that don’t get why they’ve changed or why they are living for Christ.
      • Do a weekly meeting talk teaching students how to communicate their life change with their parents (especially before Christmas or Summer break).
      • Do a discipleship lesson on what it looks like to “honor your father and mother” while following God’s will of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth
        • “The way to Biblically heed both of these commands simultaneously is to listen to parents’ advice, speak with them in an honorable way, but still follow God’s will over our parents’ will when the two are in contradiction.” Dr. Todd Ahrend
        • “It is true that God wants us to honor our parents and love our friends, but He has also made it clear in His Word that this honor and love must not exceed our love and obedience to Him and His calling on our lives. We should always try our best to explain God’s call to our families, lovingly and patiently, but the bottom line must be that we will obey Christ no matter what the cost (Mark 10:29). – Keith Green
      • Coach potential STINT’ers and Interns to be prepared to talk with their parents:
        • Expect your parents to have a lot of questions (whether it is a Summer Mission or internship or long term staff).
        • Your parents’ questions/grilling are a genuine expression of love and concern.
        • Do your homework and anticipate what questions they might have:
          • Will you have insurance?
          • How much money will you make? Can you live on THAT?!
          • How will you possibly raise all that support?! (“Cru offers extensive support raising training that is the best in the world…”)
      • Encourage students to keep their parents updated on their spiritual growth.
        • Kim Ransleben gives 5 really good tips on dealing with parents that are all worth reading, but her first is a brilliant insight I hadn’t thought of before: Let your parents in on the journey early and often.

Your desire to serve overseas shouldn’t be spontaneously announced like you do when you’ve decided to drive to the playoff game or change your hair color. Your parents don’t want to suddenly hear, “Mom, Dad, when I graduate I’m moving to Cambodia.” Share the journey as you walk through it, even in the earliest stages.

If you read a blog post that impacts your perspective on global missions, send it to your dad with a note about why you loved it. If you hear a sermon that stirs you, send your parents a link and tell them about it. Don’t worry about their lack of response to it. This isn’t about convincing them. It’s just showing them what you see. When you come to them about what you want to do, it should not be a surprise but simply the next step in all God has been doing in you.

And what if they’re unbelievers? Share it all anyway.

  • Invite parents into your ministry. If the parents see your ministry for themselves they are WAY more likely to let their kids go to Winter Conference, or on a Summer Mission, and even work in full time ministry.
    • Have every student leader invite their parents to your Fellowship Dinner. It’s always nice if they give, but the MUCH bigger win is them seeing what their kid is involved with. We’ve found that even non-Christian parents really appreciate Cru after they come to our dinner.
    • Florida Cru has had a Parents Weekend – They move their weekly meeting to a Friday night (on a big home game in the fall) and ask their students to invite their parents to come to the weekly meeting on Friday night. They then have a Giving Brunch the next morning. 70-100 families attend (and give a lot of money!).
  • Develop a way to communicate with parents. The easiest way would be to have a page for parents on your website. The Traveling Team has a great page of parent testimonies.


Some Helpful Resources:


How have you helped students talk with their parents about going on summer missions or into full time ministry? Students, what has been helpful for you in talking to your parents?


photo courtesy of Petras Gagilas

Another great reason to be doing college ministry:

canaryMillennials are the canary in the religious mine. We can ignore them…but if we do that, we lose our ability to engage future generations. We need to pay attention to the millennial concerns. Not because the church needs to be hip. But because they grew up in postmodern culture. Engaging postmodern religion through the lens of the millennials will help the church of 2020 proclaim the Gospel to a complex and confusing world.      – John W. Hawthorne

We are doing ministry on the cutting edge of culture (as I posted last week re: Tim Keller’s belief that the future leaders of the church should be trained through doing College Ministry).

We are working with college students who are natives to a rapidly changing America where Christianity is no longer a moral majority. This generation will play a significant role in leading the Church into a new era of proclaiming Christ in a increasingly complex culture. Why? Because they are in their natural habitat. They know no other America than the one we are currently living in. Not that our culture is any less “complex and confusing” for Millennials – just that they are fluent in  complexity. They don’t have to “learn a new language” – the complexity is normal to them and thus easier for them to lead in.


HT: @DavidRobbinsCru

photo courtesy of Michael Sonnabend

As you start the fall of college ministry, there are three big things your staff need:

  1. Connect as a family (who) – 71% of Millennials want their coworkers to be a second family
  2. Direction and clarity of role (what) – what does it look like for me/us to succeed?
  3. Vision for reaching college students (why) – “You can pretty much assume that most staff return [in the fall] willing and able but not very motivated and with little or no vision.”

feet on dock

A few helpful starting-the-fall tips for Team Leaders:

  • Encourage staff to get all personal things done before they report back. I usually email something like this:
    • “Please have all your personal stuff done before next week (moving in, raising support, prayer letter, etc) as we will be pretty slammed starting Aug. 8 (so take advantage of the next few days to get all personal stuff done!)”
  • I highly recommend reading this short article – Orienting Your Team
  • Pick staff to fill two key roles: First Week Director and Follow Up Director. This frees the Team Leader to focus on the team/movement instead of the millions of details associated with the First 4 Weeks.
  • Don’t assume that everyone is on the same page as far as Ministry Philosophy. Communicate clearly on how we do things. We have a one page sheet called “How we do Ministry – One Page” which, as you would expect, tells our entire philosophy of ministry on one page!
  • Discuss Team Norms together (how we operate as a team)


I think it’s always interesting to see how other teams operate.

Here’s what our planning week looks like:

  • 2 days of planning 9-noon. Afternoons spent working on reserving locations, getting donations from local businesses (for door prizes for cookouts), working in smaller groups with other staff on specific tasks
  • 3 days on a staff retreat (all fun/no work)
  • 2 more days planning 9-noon. Afternoons working on team to-do’s.
  • 2 night student leadership retreat
  • First Cookout and Move in Week activities

Team Leaders- what do you do with your team before the school year begins?

Staff – what are your primary needs going into the year?


photo courtesy of  Yasin Hassan – ياسين حسن

Great insights from Tim Keller on how College Ministry is the best way to equip leaders who will impact our nation, from a post on

Keller paints a bleak picture of where America is as a culture: “This is an unprecedented time in human history…What’s new is the breadth of conviction that there is no such thing as truth. There have never been whole societies built on that idea. Never.”

“Everyone knows that younger people are far less religious than the generation before … and despite all the things that we’ve been doing for the last 30 years, we’re losing them.”

According to Keller, if you’re on a college campus, you’re on the culture’s cutting edge. It is, he says, our best leadership development pipeline. By exposing people to the cutting edge of culture where they have to deal with the modern mindset, where they have to deal with non-Christians — that, in Keller’s opinion, is the best way to develop pastors and lay leaders.

Read the whole article here – worth the read for Keller’s insights on where our culture is headed and what we need to do about it.

HT: @stephenlutz

hbrSome interesting insights on leading Millennials from Harvard Business Review:

They share well with others (and expect to be shared with):

They are adept at finding information and expect it to be readily available. They are comfortable reaching out directly to people in a way that can be disconcerting to older employees whose workplace relationships have traditionally been constrained by the organization’s hierarchy.

As Nilofer Merchant has observed, social technology is changing the nature of power in organizations.

When you are accustomed to and skilled at finding and freely sharing information, it makes no sense to have information locked up in various parts of an organizational structure. In fact, it feels frustratingly antiquated. What this means for older managers: they must shift from being controllers of information to facilitators of its sharing and collaborative use towards achieving organizational goals.

I love this and think it’s extremely encouraging for the future of world-changing enterprises. Sharing and collaboration FTW.


What motivates Millennials is what motivates all employees:

It’s crucial to understand what motivates Millennials. The most powerful tool to build Millennials’ commitment to the organization is this: offering regular opportunities to learn and develop — not just through training, but through a variety of challenging tasks, the opportunity to work with people who impart valuable knowledge, and regular developmental feedback. As it turns out, this is how you build commitment in employees of all ages.

Despite what the stereotype might suggest, effectively engaging Millennials is not about letting employees wear jeans and bring their dogs to work, dude. The key is providing challenging, meaningful work, communicating, helping employees to see their contribution, and making sure they have opportunities to learn and grow.


In college ministry, I think we provide ample opportunities for:

  • Challenging, meaningful work
  • Opportunities to learn and develop

I think what we could improve on is “helping them see their contribution”.

Whether this is student leaders or Interns/Staff – we could improve at clearing communicating:

  • “THIS is the meaningful, challenging work that you are doing.”
  • “Here are 4 ways you are going to learn and develop this year.”
  • “Through doing _____ you made a unique contribution and lives were changed eternally.”

A little intentional communication could help Millennials connect the dots in realizing that they actually ARE doing challenging, meaningful work that is making a difference.


What are your favorite takeaways from the HBR excerpts?


gay pride on campus

This is a fascinating read to understand the minds/hearts of many college students:

An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation – a blog post by Dannika Nash, a college student in South Dakota.

The post contains many insights on Millennials, including:

  • How deeply they are influenced and shaped by media (music, TV, Twitter) – especially in the new flat world

“So many of us were brought up in churches and Christian homes, and even if we weren’t, we’ve experienced the traditional Christian culture that just resonates from South Dakota’s prairie land. We know conservatism; we know tradition. But we also have Twitter, we watch SNL, we listen to Macklemore, and we read Tina Fey. We’re more in touch with the rest of the country than the Midwest has ever been.”

  • Their aversion to the culture wars (and hollow rhetoric)

“We want to hear about equality and love in a gentle way. We’re sick of the harsh words of both sides. Say what you want about my generation, but we can smell fake from a mile away.”


The bulk of the post deals with Dannika’s plea to the church to not make Millennials choose between God and equality for gay people.

“I was forced to choose between the love I had for my gay friends and so-called biblical authority. I chose gay people, and I’m willing to wager I’m not the only one.

So, my advice to you, the Church: You CAN have a conservative view on gay marriage, or gay ordination. You can. But I want you to have some serious conversations with God, your friends that disagree with you, and maybe even some gay people, Christians or not, before you decide that this one view is worth marginalizing my generation.

We want to stay in your churches, we want to hear about your Jesus, but it’s hard to hear about love from a God who doesn’t love our gay friends (and we all have gay friends).


A College Kid Who Misses You”


I know Dannika doesn’t speak for every college student. But I would venture to guess that she speaks for a majority of them.

Over the last year (really since the uproar over Chick-fil-A last summer) I’ve been intrigued by the rapid shift in public opinion on gay marriage, especially among college students. The latest polls show that, among young people, support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high of 70 percent.


I agree with Matt Morton: “Most of us aren’t eager to go to war over moral, political, or cultural issues, when our primary purpose is to make disciples of Jesus.” But for those of us in college ministry, we NEED to be thinking through how we respond to this colossal shift in the audience that we serve.

For many college students this is a defeater belief – a “consensus belief that automatically makes Christianity seem implausible” – Tim Keller.


I haven’t formulated many answers yet. I think Matt’s response is a good start: asking students “would you be willing to first consider Jesus Himself before asking me about homosexuality?”


What are your thoughts?

How do we affirm an orthodox Biblical view of marriage and homosexuality while still loving gay students (and the majority of students that have gay friends)?

How do we address this issue without making it THE issue?


photo courtesy of UMaineStudentAffairs

This TED talk is a must watch for College Ministry and Cru City staff (or much quicker: read the transcript – TED has a great feature where you can read the transcript and click on a phrase to play the video at that point).

Some great insights:

  • As a culture we have trivialized what is actually the defining decade of adulthood
  • 80% of life defining moments happen by the time you’re 35
  • Your personality changes more in your 20’s than any other time in your life
  • So what do you think happens when you pat a twentysomething on the head and you say, “You have 10 extra years to start your life”? Nothing happens. You have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens.
  • The post-millennial midlife crisis isn’t buying a red sports car. It’s…many thirtysomethings and fortysomethings say[ing] about their 20s, “What was I doing? What was I thinking?”
  • I want to change what twentysomethings are doing and thinking.

And how about this vision for reaching college students and twentysomethings:

What I love about working with twentysomethings. They are so easy to help. Twentysomethings are like airplanes just leaving LAX, bound for somewhere west. Right after takeoff, a slight change in course is the difference between landing in Alaska or Fiji. Likewise, at 21 or 25 or even 29, one good conversation… can have an enormous effect across years and even generations to come.

Watch here or click to watch on TED (and to be able to read the transcript):

HT: @guychmieleski for tweeting about it!

Many are bemoaning the Millennial Generation’s inability to focus and think deeply.

But what if their Internet induced ADD is actually a good thing and possibly even a catalyst for fulfilling the Great Commission?

“Perry Hewitt, director of digital communications and communications services at Harvard University, says this evolution is positive. “It seems easy to decry the attention span of the young and to mourn the attendant loss of long form content—who will watch Citizen Kane with rapt attention when your Android tells you Rosebud was a sled? On consideration, though, the Internet has brought forward not only education, but thinking. While we still want to cultivate in youth the intellectual rigor to solve problems both quantitatively and qualitatively, we have gotten them out of the business of memorizing facts and rules, and into the business of applying those facts and rules to complex problems. In particular, I have hope for improved collaboration from these new differently ‘wired’ brains, for these teens and young adults are learning in online environments where working together and developing team skills allows them to advance.”

Technology by 2020 will enable the youth to ignore political limitations, including country borders, and especially ignore time and distance as an inhibitor to communications.” – Pew Internet Findings



You can see the potential through existing tools like Skype.

Take two of my least Tech-savvy friends for example:

One is 33 years old. Not exactly a digital native (he still doesn’t have a facebook account) but he walks into a staff meeting last week on the phone with a STINT’er in China. A free phone call. On his cell. Via Skype. With someone in China.

That wouldn’t have been possible 2 years ago.

A call on a land line (the only possible way) just 15 years ago would have cost $15.

In 1930 a 15 minute international phone call would have cost $1500.

In 2012 it’s free. With video. On a mobile device.

Another friend, who is 62, every week uses Skype to have 10 separate video Bible study appointments with friends in East Asia (with non-Christians and Christians).


If this is how old folks are using technology for the glory of God, imagine the potential for Digital Natives.


I, for one, am excited about the future of Missions led by complex-problem solving, hyper-connected, borderless Millennials.


photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon

Craig Groeschel spoke on intergenerational leadership – how older leaders can work with younger leaders. I mostly took notes on the part that applied to me as a relatively young leader. 🙂

A few abridged notes:

  • When you delegate tasks you create followers
  • When you delegate responsibility you produce leaders
  • Tim Elmore: told emerging generation to pick one word that starts with the letter ‘E’ to describe themselves. Most common answers:


  • Number one word employers used of this generation: Entitled
  • You can’t speed up maturity
  • We tend to overestimate what God intends to do in the short run
  • We grossly underestimate what God will do in the long run if we remain faithful
  • Most common question from 20-somethings: How do I lead up
  • Craig asked his pastor: Why did you let me lead up?
  • Answer? Because you showed me honor
  • Honor publicly results in influence privately
  • The emerging generation often doesn’t show honor
  • Our leaders have been chosen and equipped by God
  • Honor – to treat as valuable, esteem
  • The lack of honor for the older generation in the ministry limits what God can do
  • If you want to be over, you need to learn to be under with integrity
  • I have great hope for this younger generation
  • This generation is the most cause driven, mission minded generation in the history of the world
  • They ache to make a difference in this world
  • You see something you don’t like and it disturbs your soul and it lights a fire under you
  • And you’re willing to say “not on my watch. I am not OK with this”
  • You’re willing to walk away from the so many materialistic traps that my generation got caught up in
  • But you feel entitled: You need to understand what you deserve – you deserve hell
  • When you understand that, it frees you from entitlement

There are three things that will define ministry over the next decade:

  1. Unprecedented Access – to products, services, ideas, and worldviews

  2. Alienation – New levels of isolation from family, from community, from each other

  3. Authority – New questions about who to believe and why – what has claim on our lives?

I’m at Catalyst Dallas this week. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed today by the content at the Labs. I’m sure it will improve as the real conference starts tomorrow.

Here’s my notes from what I thought was the most insightful Speaker today: Dave Kinnaman, President of The Barna Group (author of unChristian).

His main question: Are we a Post-Christian Culture?

  • 83% self-identify themselves as Christians in America
  • 8% of Americans are evangelical (based on correct answers to 8 theological questions)
  • Most Americans have a broadly Christian perspective
  • 75% have made a personal commitment to Christ
  • 3 out of 4 Americans believe the resurrection is literally true
  • We are a very Christianized culture but not a Christ-following ones
  • Are we post-Christian – yes and no

Our role in ministry: to introduce them to the God they think they know

1. Unprecedented Access to products, services, ideas, and worldviews

  • His 6 year old son doesn’t even know how to spell but yet knows that Google has all the answers to any question (I wonder if. . . – we go right to the internet)
  • Does your church feel in tune with the times when it comes to access?
  • Have students twitter or text in questions and answer them in the service
  • You Lost Me – new book. Young people feel that science is very accessible but the church is not
  • University of Phoenix is largest University in the U.S. – around 500,000 students
  • Whether it’s legit or not, online is where people are going

2. Alienation – New levels of isolation from family, from community, from each other

  • % of people born with unwed mothers:

1960 – 5%
Today – 42%

  • % who have completed major life transitions by 30 (leaving home, finishing school, financially independent, getting married, and having a child)

77% of men
65% of women
46% of women
31% of men

  • It’s a different cultural reality today than it was 50 years ago
  • Who’s working with these people who are starting “adulthood” later?


3. Authority – New questions about who to believe and why – what has claim on our lives?

  • Confidence in Leaders 1966 vs 2007

Congress – 42% vs 10%
Major Companies – 55% vs 16%

  • How can we as a church thrive as an authority-centered institution in an anti-authority culture?


Three Takeaways:

1)    Authority – The response to that is one of revelation

  • Do we really have a sense of God speaking to us?
  • The Bible is more than a textbook, or an owner’s manual
  • It’s a living breathing document, a revelation from the Living God instructing us in how to be on Mission with Him

2)    Access – response is one of vocation

  • Young people are leaving the church because they don’t feel that the church is giving them a calling
  • They never connected how the Bible applies to their major, their vocation
  • Reconnecting the idea of our vocation to the bible
  • Our faith matters outside of Sunday AM

3)    Alienation – the response is our presence

  • Presence can be facilitated via technology (not always being physically present) – twitter, email, etc
  • We can respond to their questions quickly and be more accessible


What do you think about those three: Unprecedented Access, Authority, and Alienation?

What will it look like for us to minister to college students in light of these three?