Interview: Esther Fleece
This week, we interviewed Esther Fleece, who works at Focus on the Family as the Assistant to the President for Millennial Relations. Esther talked with us about what makes Millennials’ faith journeys unique and where this generation fits into the church as a whole. Whether you’re a Millennial, Generation X or a Baby Boomer, you’ll want to read on.
4word: Based on your observations of your own generation, what are some differences you’ve noticed in the way that Millennials approach faith, career and relationships as opposed to older generations?
Esther: Millennials are globally focused and are a cause-oriented generation. Just last week 45,000 of them gathered at the Georgia Dome at the Passion conference. Not only did they gather to study the scriptures and passionately worship God, but also in just a few days, these Millennials gave more than $3,000,000 to organizations that fight human trafficking.
Millennials want to make a difference and see causes and their calling as more important than advancing themselves in just any corporate structure. We do not define greatness the way many others from previous generations perceive it. Having a work-life balance is the number one factor in our job selection, and this has a lot to do with wanting to maintain healthy relationships with family and friends outside of work.
4word: What is it about the millennial generation that makes them so difficult/different to talk to about issues of faith?
Esther: Relationships are of the utmost importance to Millennials. We value people, our family and friends, and enjoy being connected to them. We are also the most networked generation. Because Millennials put such an emphasis on relationships, we can quickly become overly sensitive when it comes to matters that are black and white.
Topics like Jesus being the only way to heaven and God creating marriage as a life-long union between one man and one woman, can cost us relationships. This is why it is important for Millennials to be involved in a local church community and to have mentors that help them navigate through difficult topics and questions. We can be winsome and truthful in the same breath!
4word: In a culture that places so much emphasis on tolerance and relativity, how can our readers be effective witnesses for Christ without compromising their moral consciences?
Esther: My good friend taught me that Christianity is caught and not taught. While both methods are necessary, I believe people are watching our actions. As young women, we have more influence than we realize. We are independent, relationally strong and well educated.
It should not take much for a woman of God to stand out because our culture is giving a platform to women for being entitled, promiscuous and self-focused. We have the opportunity to counter this notion in the way we dress, the language we use and in our actions both in and out of the workplace. There are more of us out there than we realize, and I think encouraging one another in community is key to having an uncompromising faith.
4word: Something that is being discussed more frequently within Christian circles (the Barna Group, for example) is the fact that so many young people are leaving the church. Have you noticed this trend among your peers? Why do you think this is happening?
Esther: While I am aware of these statistics, they do not alarm me. The twenties are a time of transition. We ask questions, we change majors, and we move for jobs; we are getting to know ourselves. The skeptical pattern of twenty-somethings has been consistent for generations.
I am concerned with how skeptical we are with institutions, including the church. I would encourage churches to let Millennials be involved in action-oriented programs like missions. We want to make a difference, but we are also looking to be discipled and mentored in the process. Millennial Christians are serious about the Bible and their faith, and I hope the church sees this as an opportunity to embrace us and walk along side of us during these impressionable years.
So what do you think, ladies? Do you agree with Esther’s assessment of the Millennial generation? Why/why not? Let us know in the comments!
If you’d like to hear more from Esther, you can follow her on Twitter @EstherFleece. You can also find Focus on the Family on Facebook and Twitter.