I have the best job on earth. I partner with millennials to bring Jesus’ love to our world, and I must say they are my hands-down favourite people. The prevailing narrative is that they are lazy and entitled, but every generation has the potential to be misunderstood. The Holy Spirit is stronger than every brush anyone is painted with, and I refuse to vilify them. Like the generations before them, God says they are set apart, powerful and—with the Holy Spirit—unstoppable.
In October 2016 I launched The Movement, a young adult ministry, at Bethel Church Ottawa. A small group attended the church when we arrived in May of that year. Over the summer, I gathered contact information and connected with every young adult who entered our doors. The next step was to introduce them to another young adult in a similar life stage. I still do this every time a new young adult comes to Bethel.
With a leadership team of six young adults, each with a role and the responsibility of building a team under them, we planned, dreamed, and prepared for our launch. I believe excellence reflects the glory of God, so I made sure everything was planned and as gorgeous as we could afford. (The dollar store is my friend.)
On our launch night, I set up 60 chairs. I almost took some away because it seemed enthusiastic, if not crazy, but I felt the Holy Spirit whisper, “Keep them.” Seventy-six young adults showed up. So began Bethel’s young adult ministry. Amazing Jesus, right? After our first service, we had food and hangs. As I watched them connect with one another, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper again, “They need this.” As a generation that mainly lives disconnected, they are craving community.
At the launch I outlined our hopes and plans, starting with our theme verses. Matthew 10:6-8 (The Message) says, “Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.”
I laid out our vision and explained how the Holy Spirit could help them accomplish the impossible. I described plans for how we wanted to impact the city and the world. In 2017, we went on a mission trip to India so we could see God and ourselves through a different lens. In 2019 I am planning to take a team to Thailand.
When I got home the night of the launch, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and prayed, “How will I get to know them with only one service a month?” I heard His reply as soon as I finished the sentence: “Face to face.” That month I started having coffee with every young adult who makes Bethel home, and I still do.
Over coffee, we discuss God, their gifts, their studies or work, their passion. I want to know their life story. I ask them how they want to be involved, give them some options, and set up the process of serving at Bethel when our coffee is finished.
Two and a half years later, we have over 145 young adults at Bethel. When someone doesn’t show up, I reach out and tell them I missed them. They need to be loved, noticed and valued—who among us doesn’t? Statistics show young adults are leaving the church in droves, so I must do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen while I pastor them. My fight is not for a large crowd, although there are many young adults in our city who need Jesus. My fight is for beautiful lives, sold out to Jesus and killing it!
Approximately 80 of them are now serving somewhere in the church, either on the greeting team, creative team, prayer team, social team, in kids ministry, or ushering. One is a board member, and many are tithing. We meet four times a month, and we still have our monthly celebration service. Twice a month we have small groups, both professional and student groups, led by young adults.
With depression and anxiety at an all-time high, belonging helps keep us whole. No podcast or book can wrap its arms around you when life sucks or celebrate with you when you succeed. Instead, a community of loving, accepting, inspirational peers can.
Our fourth meeting each month is dedicated to outreach. I’m convinced we need to “put feet to their faith” and get in the trenches and out of the pew or, like anyone, they will get overfed and become useless and faithless. Jesus called us to go to the lost and confused in our neighbourhoods, so we do.
I worked with victims of human trafficking in Thailand and prepared young adults there to serve among those most often overlooked. God has asked me to do the same here. Every month, we partner with other organizations and build the kingdom together. A team of young women go into a strip club with gifts while another group of men and women pray. In the summer of 2018, a lady from the club started coming to our church with her kids. She doesn’t know Jesus yet, but we believe she will. We also give away free breakfasts during exams at Carleton University, and we provide Ubers to our celebration service. We also do street ministry in downtown Ottawa, which I envision to be all over the city one day.
Our faith stays fresh and alive when we partner with Jesus. Many young adults have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and several are new Christians. As of this year, worship is rising, the community is tight, and involvement at Bethel continues to grow. The church is in good hands with the millennials. I have no doubt Jesus will continue to be lifted high, and they will accomplish the unprecedented.
Sandra McIntosh is a wife, mom, and the young adult pastor at Bethel Church in Ottawa. She loves to see young adults live their lives with passion and believes they have the potential and power to start a spiritual revolution in the nation of Canada. This article appeared in the July/August/September 2019 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos courtesy Sandra McIntosh.
1. James Penner, Rachael Harder, Erika Anderson, Bruno Déscorcy, and Rick Hiemstra, Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church, 2012, http://faithformationlearningexchange.net/uploads/5/2/4/6/5246709/hemorrhaging-faith-april-4-2013.pdf; Daniel Burke, “Millennials leaving church in droves, study finds,” CNN, May 14, 2015, https://www.cnn.com/2015/05/12/living/pew-religion-study/index.html.
2. “Poor Mental Health Among Millennials At All Time High,” February 27, 2018, Inspiring Interns, http://www.inspiringinterns.com/blog/2018/02/mental-health-among-millennials-at-all-time-high.