Hearts Knit Together: What Leaders Can Learn from Millennials

group of women standing on porch

Leadership is a beautiful thing. It encourages our hearts, yet it challenges us in ways that call us to be aware of the ever-changing ways of our culture and generations.

One of the hurdles facing our culture is leading the generations. We all have our own perception of the current generation that has swept our communities—millennials.

Millennials are the current young adults born between 1981 and 1996, according to Pew Research Center. I have had the sweet opportunity to establish relationships with millennials not only as a mentor and friend but also as someone who has had to put her follower skills into practice. My desire to be a lifelong learner reminds me that I must stop and take note of what I can learn from millennials.

During my 16 years of full-time ministry—from working with youth to family and student ministries to leading women and now as a church planter’s wife—there are a few things I have learned from millennials:
 

Be Available

In his book Love Does, Bob Goff said, “I’ve found that people in my life who have actually been the most influential have also been the ones who were the most available.” The greatest gift we can give someone is availability. Simple yet powerful. We can be so quick to go with our agenda that we don’t allow beautiful and sweet moments to connect with these young people.

Millennials, who have grown up in a technology-driven society, use social media to share their thoughts, the places they visit, the foods they eat, and so on. Why not take the time to be available through social media? A lot of good comes from it, and it begins to open the door for a face-to-face coffee date.
 

Be Authentic

Millennials are an open book. They tell you how they are feeling, and they open their hearts. They are transparent. I have admired this about them because we can be closed up, always waiting for the right moment when it’s right in front of us. Millennials have shown me the importance of sharing my life journey—the struggles, the heartache, the encouragements and discouragement, and how I have experienced God. They want to know my story, that I understand where they are. By sharing, something happens to strengthen the relationship.
 

Listen

I can be quick to chime in and share my thoughts and advice. I have noticed that sometimes, I need to stay quiet. Be a listening ear. It goes a long way because it invites us to go to the next level of sharing.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Nashville for the LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum with a young woman. From traveling to rooming together to attending the conference and driving around, it gave me insight about the heart of this young adult who was open to sharing her life. It connected us to do life together.
 

Be Open to New Ideas and Ways of Doing Things

Tradition is a great thing; however, it can limit us and hinder us from changing our methods. Before we know it, we are on a hamster wheel doing the same thing, the same way, getting the same results. As times change, we must adjust and refresh our approaches. When we are set in our ways, we don’t allow new ideas to be developed and introduced. When we are adamant that “this is the way we do it,” we are quenching someone’s spirit. Perhaps we are setting aside something that God placed on someone’s heart.

Being a part of developing relationships to grow leaders, one must allow the individual to grow and utilize the passion the Lord has given him or her. Working with millennials in ministry, when I’ve empowered them, I’ve seen that their fresh ideas are something I needed.
 

Be Hospitable

Open up your home. Invite millennials in, not with an agenda but to “just be.” Let them see how you live. It’s not about the presentation, but about being present.

A few months ago, our family hosted 18 Baptist Collegiate Ministry students from Honolulu. They asked if they could come to help us out with any needs; we quickly said yes. Our home was where they gathered, cooked, did their group devotions, watched movies, and played games. They had things figured out and planned, so we just said, “Come in; make yourselves at home.” That’s what they did. Our living room filled up with college students and young adults doing life, connecting, and getting to know each other. It was pretty amazing!

I still have much to learn from my millennial friends. I am constantly reminded to pay attention and observe how they do life and ministry. Their heart for the Lord is no different from my own heart. They are indeed missions-minded. It may look different from what I know, but if I pay close attention and continue to cultivate my relationships with them, then I may just keep learning something new.

My family-style friendship with millennials will continue. While connecting, I will ask the Lord to knit our hearts together so we can be the light of Jesus in our world.


Diana Ventura is currently church planting on Kauai with her husband and 13-year-old daughter. Diana’s heart is to see women encouraged and challenged as they dig into God’s Word. Diana has served on the Hawaii WMU Council for a few years, disciples and leads women in various ways, and is excited about Christian Women’s Leadership Center training as it has been part of her discipleship initiative.

 

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