MYTH OF THE MILLENNIAL: Connecting Generations in the Church. By Ted & Chelsea Doering
MYTH OF THE MILLENNIAL: Connecting Generations in the Church. By Ted & Chelsea Doering. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017. 219 pages. $14.99.
Ted and Chelsea Doering have written a helpful book titled Myth of the Millennial. They have seen all the statistics lamenting the dearth of Millennials in church and they have seen all the YouTube videos that mock Millennials for their unrealistic outlook on life, but Ted and Chelsea Doering are Millennials (and church planters) and they want you to know that things aren’t as hopeless as they appear. After all, so long as we have the gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing is hopeless.
The book is divided into two sections. The first half of the book addresses the stereotypes that are typically leveled against Millennials, such as laziness, entitlement, sensitivity, and a combative posture in relating to other generations. The second half of the book explores the ways in which people of all generations can engage with Millennials in a meaningful way, such as relationships, community, and mentoring.
The book is primarily written for people who are not Millennials. This is obvious as there are “Millennial Sidebar” paragraphs placed throughout the book where Ted and Chelsea speak to Millennials directly. These sidebars follow a typical pattern. The Doerings will gently critique an attitude or action that is off-putting for Millennials and firmly ask the non-Millennials to stop harboring the unhelpful attitude and cease the counter-productive action. Once they have firmly taken a stand on an issue they will then address the Millennials and ask them not to be hypocritical in their behavior. For example, on page ninety-six, after deftly convincing the reader that Millennials are not the enemy to a healthy and growing church community, they quickly address the Millennials and remind them that Boomers and GenXers are also not the enemy to a healthy and growing church community.
Myth of the Millennial is not a church-growth book. It does not offer a program to follow nor does it present the reader with a silver-bullet for outreach to Millennials. It often advocates for relationships over results, and there is nothing easy or quick about relationships. One of the greatest values of this book is that it gives Millennials a faithful and orthodox voice within the church at large. There really are Millennials out there who believe and confess the same Jesus Christ as the previous generations. This may be surprising to some people (hence the publication of the book), but it will become less and less surprising to people as more and more Millennials are filling pulpits throughout the country as pastors.
I stated earlier that this book does not offer programmatic advice for outreach toward and alongside Millennials, it does however provide a host of creative possibilities for such things. These possibilities are not meant to be hijacked and thoughtlessly turned into another program in your church so you can boast about trying to reach Millennials. They are intended to get you, the reader, thinking creatively about what could be done in your own area.
This book is centered on Jesus Christ. Faithful and familiar Lutheran terminology is used throughout, and it’s not put in the book in an effort to deceive the reader. This is not a church-growth book hiding under a veneer of Lutheran orthodoxy. It’s a book using Lutheran orthodoxy to destroy the sinfulness of stereotypes and accentuate the readily available truths of Scripture to engage a generation of folks who oftentimes seem unreachable by the average pewsitter.
I read this book as an old (the oldest, in fact) Millennial. I was born January 1st, 1984. This book lists Millennials as those born between 1984 and 2004. I also read this book as the pastor of a rural parish. Demographically speaking, my parish has nothing in common with the ministry context of Ted and Chelsea Doering. They live in Austin Texas, which has an estimated population of 900,000 people. I live in a town of ninety people. They are serving a church plant. I am serving a parish that was started over 125 years ago. They are surrounded by multi-ethnicity every day. The county I live in is over 98% Caucasian. They have access to micro breweries. I have access to a post-office that is open four hours a day. On nearly every conceivable level, the reading of this book should have been a giant waste of my time. But it wasn’t a waste of my time, because this book’s identity was grounded first in Jesus, and only secondarily in the Millennial mindset. For that reason, I was able to glean quite a bit of helpful information from this book, even for my own context.
The last chapter of this book is titled, “Practical Advice for Organizations.” If you belong to a congregation that does not have a church website and thinks that having a church website is not important, please purchase this book, and make the church leadership read Chapter 11. Having a church website isn’t about being “trendy” it’s about being visible. It’s the “new” Yellow Pages. A big complaint about Millennials is that they’ve always got a phone in their hand. This is true. They are holding phones, not cumbersome Yellow Pages books. So take those powers of observation, and get your congregation to carve out a spot on the internet so that these same Millennials can at least access your congregation from that phone they never seem to let go of.
All in all, this is a fine book that is written in an easy-to-read style. Because it addresses the topic of Millennials, the book’s staying power isn’t as strong as other books whose topics are more enduring, such as “masculinity” or “preaching” or “spiritual warfare” or “prayer.” I don’t see this book commanding much of an audience ten years from now…not because you couldn’t glean something from it ten years from now, but because it’ll probably feel the same as buying a copy of E-mail from God for Grads would feel today, so you should probably read this book sooner rather than later.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota.