The millennial generation, people born between 1982 and 2004, is a key demographic that many churches seek to attract and maintain. But, the group may be more receptive than you know.
Despite reports that millennials are “spiritual, not religious,” ministries such as Greater Zion Church Family in Compton, led by Pastor Michael J. Fisher, contain a significant number of young adults among its multi-generational congregation and his ministerial staff includes Elder Aquyla Walker, who is assigned as Young Adult Overseer.
Walker, who is the first female to be ordained an elder in the church’s 60-year history, just happens to be a millennial as well. Accepting her call to preach in 2010, she was appointed to the position in January 2012, licensed in December 2012 and ordained last July.
Outlining her ministerial duties, Walker said, “My role is to help young adults grow and reach their fullest potential in God. Our ministry focuses on modeling and exemplifying a walk with God that is a healthy balance of a spiritual life that prioritizes God and a young life that experiences the world around us. We try to be intentional about changing a narrative that suggests that being young and saved equates a boring life.”
Since Walker’s profession is teaching, she is able to apply strategies and techniques she has learned as an instructor to her role as Young Adult Overseer. Still, she admitted that it can sometimes be challenging to lead those in your peer group.
“It is often difficult to have to assert authority over those that are your age and those that have watched you grow and even make mistakes during your growth process. Millennials, especially, tend to be more relationship-oriented, so I’ve learned the importance of establishing and maintaining relationships to curtail this particular challenge,” she said.
Another hurdle that Walker faces is being a female in a male-dominated field. Many believers of both genders are resistant to accepting preachers who happen to be women. To counter those attitudes, Walker credits her unshakable faith as well as the “affirming” support of her pastor throughout her ministry.
“I persist because I am sure of the calling of God on my life; and there are other women in ministry who need to see models of women in ministry,” said Walker.
Firmly committed to her calling, Walker works hard to mentor, teach and lead young adults in her church and she shared three recommendations that other ministries should consider in their outreach to millennials – be authentic, include them and be willing to evolve.
“I was raised in church and I think church taught us to cover things up. We’re taught the same thing, culturally. We’re raised with ‘people don’t need to know your business’ and ‘what happens in this house stays in the house’ and that created generations of people that showed up to church with masks on.
“Rather than pretending all is well in the name of trusting God, millennials prefer an environment that allows for truth about their faults and idiosyncrasies, knowing that God will handle it. I’m willing to suggest that it’s a James 5:16 mindset. Be honest, be authentic, and know God’s will,” noted Walker.
She also suggested that churches involve millennials in all aspects of church planning, operations and activities to ensure that their concerns and ideas are heard. In addition, she urged leaders to be receptive to change.
“Millennials are probably the last generation that was ‘raised in church.’ Thus, we know how to ‘do’ church. We know the traditions and routines and we know that we’ve been doing it the same way for years. And we also know that a lot of what is done isn’t rooted in Biblical principle and we’re tired of it,” insisted Walker.
“We want to be a part of ministries that are changing the way church is done, but without compromising the integrity of the Word and the name of Jesus. It’s possible.”
Hear more from Elder Walker on the Young Adult Takeover on “What’s Up With That” show that airs every second Sunday on KJLH (102.3 or kjlhradio.com) at 11 p.m. Follow her on social media: @MsAquyla or @KINCMinistry.