Feb 13, 2017


Wanna Reach Millennials? Reach the Campus

Neil Reynolds shares a chapter of his new eBook on why you have to reach campuses if you want to reach millennials. Read on to find out how to get your copy at 50% off!

Some people are skeptical about the probability of reaching college students. They might picture a college student wearing a Dorito stained t-shirt playing video games until the early morning hours. If some think, “I’m not so sure,” I don’t blame them.

Reaching millennials (defined here as anyone born between 1984 and 2002) seems to be all the rage. Many people are desperate to reach this demographic. That’s a good thing! As a college minister, I obviously appreciate the desire to reach young adults.

But, here’s a question:

Can we really say we’re interested in reaching millennials if we neglect reaching the college campus?

The answer is obvious to me: to reach any demographic of people you’ve got to be present where that demographic gathers.

Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the generational discussion. This might surprise you coming from a college minister. There’s definitely some value in the discussion. I love learning from research as much as anyone.

Here’s my hesitation: no generation should be evaluated while they’re still in their twenties. As a general rule, the older someone gets, the more mature they become. We need to give millennials room to grow before we start defining them as a generation.

Despite the fact that I’m hesitant to define too many reasons for why it’s difficult to reach millennials, I do think there are some general reasons this demographic is resistant to faith in Christ. These reasons are part of a broader shift in our culture that are most evident among millennials.

Last year a journalism student dropped by our campus ministry house and asked to interview me for a paper he was writing. The paper was about why an increasing number of young adults don’t want to be Christians.

I’d never met this student before. I didn’t know what to expect once the conversation started rolling. You never know what someone’s previous experience with Christians has been. But, it ended up being a great conversation.

There were three, very general, big picture reasons I talked about. You can read about them all in The Need for College Ministry. For now, I’ll share the first reason I talked about.

P.R. is not good for Christians.

Many young adults view Christians negatively. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons verified this with research in their book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters.

They discovered that most young outsiders (ages 16-29) perceive Christians to be…

  • Anti homosexual — 91%
  • Judgmental — 87%
  • Hypocritical — 85%
  • Sheltered (old-fashioned, out of touch with reality) — 78%
  • Too political — 75%
  • Proselytizers (insensitive to others, not genuine) — 70%

You might think, “Why does it matter how people perceive us?” It’s a good question. I don’t think these perceptions are always accurate. But, one of the reasons it matters to me is that we often aren’t perceived the way we should be.

UnChristian was written in 2007 so it’s not new research. But, in their 2016 book, Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme, Kinnaman and Lyons point out that things haven’t gotten better.

This is one of the major challenges we face when it comes to reaching college students. The good news for us is that these perceptions aren’t consistent with the life and teachings of Jesus. We have an opportunity to model a better way.

But even if these perceptions aren’t fully true, there’s still some reason behind them. And they’ve caused some real harm. If you want to explore this more, the books UnChristian and Good Faith do a good job of that. I’d also recommend The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons.

For now I’ll leave it at this: if Christians are perceived a certain way by others — even if we don’t think we’re that way — then we have to change the reality, the perception, or both. For those of us who serve in college ministry, we have the opportunity to do just that.

This is an excerpt from a new eBook by Neil Reynolds called The Need for College Ministry: Awakening the Church to One of the Most Receptive Mission Fields in the World. Click HERE to get it. Collegiate Collective readers can enter the code “cc” at checkout to get it for $2.50 – a 50% discount!

about the author

Neil Reynolds

Neil is a campus minister with CCSC at Arkansas Tech. He lives in Russellville, AR with his wife Katie and their two daughters.