Millennials in Ministry
by Jolene Cassellius Erlacher
Judson Press. 2014.
—Reviewed by Cory Seibel, pastor, Central Baptist Church, Edmonton, Alberta; adjunct instructor, Tabor College School of Adult and Graduate Studies.
Many young ministry graduates today can be found working at coffee shops or starting their own businesses. They have often transitioned into these roles after a brief period of serving in ministry. Jolene Cassellius Erlacher wondered what was causing these young adults to leave their ministry positions so quickly. At the same time Erlacher recognized that many other Millennials seem to be thriving in ministry. She was curious to discover what was making the difference for them. Yet none of the existing books about the Millennial generation seemed to speak directly to the questions she was asking about their experiences in ministry.
In writing this book Erlacher’s aim was to explore “what factors contributed to the job satisfaction and retention of Millennials serving in churches and other ministry settings” (p. xii). She desired to provide a resource that could help ministry leaders effectively equip, support, and empower the next generation of leaders. In Millennials in Ministry, she succeeds at this goal.
While many of the themes explored in this book have been covered extensively elsewhere, Erlacher breaks new ground by placing this exploration of Millennials squarely within the ministry staff context. She carefully addresses the difficulties that Millennials experience within multigenerational staff teams. She encourages older leaders to develop a posture of openness and understanding toward Millennials, and calls Millennials to do the same toward their elders. She also repeatedly emphasizes the importance of good intergenerational communication.
This book is infused with thought-provoking anecdotes from interviews Erlacher conducted among Millennials who have spent time in ministry. In addition, each chapter concludes with a brief section that speaks directly “To Millennial Readers.” Erlacher does a great job of affirming the members of this generation while also challenging them to continue growing.
Erlacher’s reflections on the challenges global mission agencies face in working with Millennials are invaluable. Her final chapter also provides excellent tools to help ministry teams assess how “Millennial-friendly” they are.
There are just a few critiques worthy of note. First, in describing any generation, one must be careful to differentiate between the influence of that generation’s culture, its current stage of life, and broader cultural changes impacting people of all generations. Erlacher is aware of this distinction (p. 37). However, at a few points she seems to confuse these categories.
Second, Erlacher largely succeeds at describing this generation in a way that faithfully reflects its complexity and diversity. Yet in a few instances she offers an overgeneralized account of what “Millennials” think. Finally, Erlacher’s reliance upon the generational writings of Strauss and Howe could be perceived as a shortcoming. These authors’ methodology has been widely critiqued and their works are somewhat outdated at this point. It would have been good to see Erlacher draw more fully upon the broader body of generational studies available today.
Millennials in Ministry is a practical, accessible, and insightful book. It deserves to be recommended for anyone involved in training, mentoring, supervising, or working with members of the Millennial generation.
Check these titles:
Espinoza, Chip, Mick Ukleja, and Craig Rusch. 2010. Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
Rainer, Thom S. and Jess W. Rainer. 2010. The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman and Holman.
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EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 3 pp. 348-349. Copyright © 2015 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.