The following are excerpts from the sermon “It’s Not About the Lattes: And Other Things Millennial Parents Want UU Congregations to Know” offered on May 14, 2023, co-written by Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe and Rev. Sharon Wylie.
This past March, we attended a gathering of UU ministers, a time for us to rest together, to worship together, and to learn together. During a collegial discussion about the future of church in an increasingly secular world, the idea arose that the work for our congregations—not just those of us in the room, but the work for Unitarian Universalism as a whole—that the work for our UU congregations to ensure our survival is to make the transition from the leadership of the Baby Boomer generation (those who are around the ages of 60 to 80) to the Millennial generation (those who are between the ages of the late 20s to early 40s).
Why isn’t the work to transfer leadership to GenX (those who are in their 40s and 50s), the generation in between Baby Boomers and Millennials? Just in terms of numbers, GenX is much, much smaller than the generations that come before and after them. According to Pew Research, the population of Generation X is about 70% of the size of Baby Boomers. GenX CAN’T step into all the roles and positions that Baby Boomers have filled because there just aren’t enough of them.
On top of that, there are some BIG cultural differences between Baby Boomers and Millennials. We know this, right? Social media likes to exaggerate the so-called “fights” between Baby Boomers and Millennials. But the world HAS changed pretty dramatically in just a couple of generations, and the world that Millennials grew up in included the internet, email, and cell phones, along with the harsh realities of the climate crisis, economic volatility, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Their lives and how they see the world are very different from those of the generations that precede them.
For us to transition the leadership of our congregations to Millennial-age people, then first and foremost, we need to have Millennial-age people in our congregations. We don’t have data about the ages of our congregants across all of Unitarian Universalism, but at Sharon’s congregation, they estimate that just 6% of their congregants are Millennials, compared with almost HALF who are Baby Boomers, and 25% who are Generation X.
If congregations like this are to survive and thrive, we need to do much, much more to reach and serve people of the Millennial generation….
To hear the ten things Millennial parents want our UU congregations to know, watch the full sermon on Chalice’s YouTube channel. You can also read the text as a blog post at www.sharonwylie.com.
Blessings and love to you,