Partnering for “Now” Success
– F. Douglas Powe, Jr., and Jasmine Rose Smothers
We have all heard those famous words, “the children are our future.” In Not Safe for Church: Ten Commandments for Reaching New Generations, we argue that, for Millennials (young people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s ), the future is now! One of the reasons that many religious organizations and some nonprofits struggle to connect with the world is that they continue to see Millennials as the future, not as the present. Many organizations that seek to foster and engage in partnership with Millennials now, instead of having them “wait their turn,” benefit in ways that their counterparts who ignore Millennials struggle.
Millennials are interested in mission. They are watching our organizations to see if we are faithful to our mission. Some organizational leaders have forsaken the mission for quick fixes. Millennials are more interested in authenticity than quick fixes. When religious and nonprofit organizations develop an authentic mission that they live out daily, it not only will help them to connect with Millennials, but strengthen their outreach to others. Partnering with Millennials to shape your mission may be a good way to expand your audience and authentically connect with younger generations.
Organizations constantly send explicit and implicit messages to Millennials. Explicit messages are straightforward and easy to spot. For example, organizations may state that they are looking for individuals with 7 years of experience in the field for a certain position, sending a clear message that the organization is not interested in younger Millennials. Implicit messages are not as straightforward, but still communicate volumes: an organization may explicitly state that it is committed to connecting with younger generations, yet everyone in leadership is over 50. Both explicit and implicit messages communicate to Millennials how serious we are about including them in what we do.
Interestingly, too many organizations seek to correct the messaging issue internally, meaning they talk among themselves and leave out the very individuals they are seeking to reach. It is important to partner with Millennials if an organization is serious about transformation. Partnering means listening to what Millennials have to share so that the message we are promoting is inclusive of their perspective. Many organizations spend hours bemoaning the fact that Millennials are not connecting with them, but they never actually partner with the Millennials themselves. Partnering with Millennials can help us to transform our messages to the public for the better.
Those who are afraid of change usually become stagnant and may eventually die. One of the main reasons many organizations do not like to be inclusive of Millennials is they like the status quo and do not want it to change. In writing about religious organizations we said, “Congregational resistance to change is a resistance to the reality that the future that it has been told to wait for, is now.” This quote could also apply to nonprofit organizations. Many organizations are moving toward the future, while trying to backpedal so they can stay in the past.
Embracing the reality of moving toward the future requires understanding the need for constant innovation. We strongly believe partnering with Millennials will help all organizations to innovate. Millennials will bring new ideas that do not necessarily dismiss the past, but help us to move creatively into the future. The key is movement always happens either forward or backward. Partnering with Millennials offers another perspective for organizations to move toward something new and exciting.
The future is now! We believe organizations that focus on mission, message and movement in partnering with Millennials will start reaping the benefits immediately. In our book, we share practical ideas that will help organizations to make better connections with Millennials and, thus, the world.
Douglas Powe, Jr., co-author of Not Safe For Church, is the James C. Logan Professor of Evangelism and Professor of Urban Ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @fdpjr (twitter).
Jasmine Rose Smothers, co-author of Not Safe For Church, is a Millennial United Methodist clergywoman and consultant who seeks to connect church and community for transformation. She can be reached at email@example.com
This article is reprinted from Vol. 2, No. 1, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today!
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