8 Ways To Lead Your Millennial Employees Well


The workplace is changing. The influx of millennials in the workforce is only going to continue, and effective leaders are figuring out how to lead them well. It's no different for churches and ministries.

More millennials are on your church staff or volunteering in your organization than ever before, and they are starting to step into high levels of leadership. There are now CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and Senior Pastors of megachurches who are barely in their thirties.

In our work here at Vanderbloemen Search Group helping hundreds of faith-based organizations build their teams, we are seeing significant shifts in organizational structure. Long gone are the days of hierarchical leadership where the senior leader makes every decision from the top down. In fact, this type of leadership is one of the reasons we hear church staff members leave an organization.

Organizational culture itself is shifting to a more collaborative and dynamic framework. Many churches we work with are moving toward a team approach for their teaching, family ministry, and leadership.

Here are some leadership principles that will get you started on the road to better engagement with your millennial church staff members and volunteers, while at the same time developing a stronger and more attractive staff culture.

1. Move out of the way.

You’ve recruited and hired good people (I hope). After a short time in the nest letting them learn the essentials, it is time to let them fly.

Leaders need to empower those who report to them and then move out of the way.Tweet: Leaders need to empower those who report to them and then move out of the way. https://bit.ly/1sECPhs via @VanderbloemenSG

Innovation and improvement do not happen by always doing the same things the same way. Policing or micromanaging are great ways to encourage millennials to produce mediocre work.

2. Become a professional listener.

There is no better way to get new ideas for improvements and change than by receiving feedback from those who are in the trenches with you. Create consistent opportunities for feedback from the millennials who you are serving and those who are serving with you. Sometimes course correction is needed, so these feedback sessions can serve also as an opportunity to correct and encourage. Make sure you are doing everything in your power to create and maintain an open environment where blue sky thinking is encouraged.

3. Lead by example.

This has never been more important than it is now. The truth is, there are other places your millennial staff members and volunteers could be serving. Whether you realize it or not, they are looking to follow leaders who model what they teach.

To give a quick example, one summer when I was volunteering at a camp, the camp director gave us a long talk about picking up trash wherever we saw it. Some people brushed it off. About four days later, I watched from a distance as the camp director went out of his way to pick up trash without anyone around to notice. I was sold. This guy did what he asked me to do. Integrity makes an impact - I’m still telling this story fifteen years later.

4. Collaborate for success.

Team, Team, TEAM! Many organizations hire great people with great ideas while unintentionally keeping people in silos to get their work done. This does not leverage their greatest resource – their collective creativity and brain-power. I’m fortunate enough to get to work with some amazing people every day. Once a week, at minimum, we have brainstorming sessions which greatly benefit our teams and our clients. Everybody wins, and our team is better because we join collective experience and brainpower.

5. Measure the important things.

Most of us need goals - something attainable to shoot for and to find reward in achieving. The problem is that when we are so desperate for goals, we often set them on what is easily measurable, not what is truly important. For example, don’t just measure how many people you have come in the door, measure your net promoter score.

Double check your goals. Make sure that you are reaching for what is important to your organization’s overall vision and mission. Remember, millennials want to work for an organization that has a strong mission and values, so make sure your goals are focused around that collective vision.

6. Create an encouraging environment.

If all the cylinders of your organization are firing like they should be, your team is running really fast. Make sure that they know that you know how hard they are working.

Take time each day or each week to highlight excellence you’ve seen in your team.Tweet: Take time each day or each week to highlight excellence you’ve seen in your team. https://bit.ly/1sECPhs via @VanderbloemenSG

Set the example by magnifying others successes. A great time to do this is during your staff meetings where all can see and then replicate this positive effect on others. (And if there is a bad apple spoiling the bunch, it might be time to send it packing.)

7. Listen & adapt.

Let’s be honest, the oldest idea is not always the best idea. If you are doing the same thing you were 20 years ago with the same tools, you are probably obsolete. Kodak learned this the hard way, as did Atari, Blockbuster, and Borders Books. They were all industry leaders who failed to see the changes coming or adapt when they arrived.

Keep the door open to conversation about changing landscape in the world you work in.Tweet: Keep the door open to conversation about changing landscape in the world you work in. https://bit.ly/1sECPhs via @VanderbloemenSG

You know who may be paying attention to these changes and have great ideas about how to adapt for them? The millennials on your church staff.

8. Remind them of individual & group value. 

As you continue to grow and change, it crucial that you remind your team of how the organization is making a difference and how they, as individuals, are a part of that change. Gone are the days where people get excited just to be a cog in the wheel. Millennials want to be a part of something greater than themselves.

As Samuel Johnson famously said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” Continually remind your church staff of your mission and why they are important to that mission.

The landscape of the workplace, including in church staffing, is shifting, and talented people have options. It is up to you as church leaders to shape your workplace into a place those people want to be.

How can you use these keys to more effectively lead millennials on your team? 

How churches should engage millennials webinar recording