Mentoring that Usually Won’t Work with Christian Millennials

I believe in mentoring, and I’ve written about the topic in a book conveniently titled, Mentor. Most of my mentoring relates to millennials, so I’ve learned some of what works and doesn’t work with this generation. At least based on my experience, here’s what doesn’t work:

  1. Superficial discussions. This generation isn’t interested in surface-level conversations. They want to get deep; in fact, they sometimes go deeper than mentors are ready to handle.
  2. Structured meetings. They’re not opposed to structure, but they don’t want mentoring that reduces them to a project to be “completed.” They can schedule structured meetings with someone else if needed.
  3. Inconsistent times together. Again, they’re not always looking for a weekly, one-hour session, but nor do they want to feel like they’re a bother to the mentor. Consistency matters to them, especially because many other adults in their lives have been inconsistent.
  4. Watered-down theological discussions. Not every millennial is gung-ho for theology, but this generation is much more interested in this topic than my generation ever was. Their heroes are often well-known theologians and preachers, even if the millennials don’t feel called to ministry.
  5. No life-on-life experiences. These young leaders are okay with discussions, Q & A times, and one-on-one conversations, but they also want somebody to walk with them through life. They want to see models of Christian living, godly marriages, and wise parenting—and that can happen only with life-on-life time.
  6. Shallow vulnerability. Mentors have to be careful at times in being vulnerable with this generation (because they sometimes aren’t wise in what they share with others), but they see through false, simple, insincere vulnerability. They’re looking for authenticity in the people who walk with them.
  7. Cultural Christianity. They’ve seen what it looks like, and they don’t want any part of it. To be Christian means much more to them than carrying the title because it’s the expected thing to do.
  8. Denominational positioning. I’m a denominational employee who still believes in my denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention), but the millennials I work with don’t always carry that loyalty or interest. They’re willing to partner, but they don’t have much patience for ineffectiveness or inefficiency.
  9. Lifestyle hypocrisy. We may not always agree about what are the wisest choices, but this generation longs to see men and women who truly walk with God. They want to see what genuine faith looks like.

We who are older believers have the privilege and the responsibility to invest in younger believers. Let’s do it well! 


  • Mark says:

    Please do not tell or insinuate that your mentee is a second or lower class Christian. Please do not ignore them or belittle them when you are around your friends.

  • Emilio says:

    Let your life be one where the Gospel is seen. From the house to the world and back.

  • Alicia Hein says:

    YES YES YES. As a millennial, this is absolutely, totally, 100% accurate. We’re not looking for pat answers; we’re looking for people who will recognize that the pat answers don’t always work. We’re looking for people who will walk with us through the tension of realities in paradox. We need you to be real – don’t leave us to figure out the struggles by ourselves. Your experience and faith often mirrors what we’re desperately looking for!

  • Craig Giddens says:

    So exactly what do “millennials” want/need. It seems like Christianity is on the verge of collapsing if we don’t everything just perfectly right for the “millennials” .

  • M. M. Black says:

    As a Gen X with Gen Y kids, I am relieved to find this post; it’s the only time I’ve ever seen this issue addressed aside from my own writing. Bringing it up in church has only resulted in attack. And this applies very much to Gen X as well; we were not mentored, save for kids who were someone’s “favorite” or part of someone’s clique.

    My “Silent Gen” parents were wonderful personal mentors , but after my father passed away, the absence of adults who cared about kids and mentoring was astonishing. Both in and out of Church. No one even stepped in to support my siblings and I with grieving, never mind mentoring after that, except for my Aunt & Uncle three states away. (He was fired for taking time off to be with us for a week). Gen X was not mentored as a generation, we were mostly treated as either living burdens or as ego threats by boomer generation adults around us; again with a few exceptions .

    I thank the Lord for the Silents and older generations who were still alive in my childhood, at least I got to be around them sometimes. But our kids didn’t get to experience much of their presence, as they were elderly when Gen Y came along.

    I have had zero boomer or gen X adults in my life who did anything to mentor my kids, save my one brother for a short time who was struggling himself, and least of all anyone from Church. In fact it was pretty much the opposite of mentoring from them. Before my father died people pretended to be there, but the day after there was no one for us, and no one later on for our kids.

    I tried to make up for all that but it’s just not possible to “substitute” for all those other people who were willfully avoidant and missing from my children’s life.

    If anyone wonders what happened to this society, the extreme absence of mentoring of young people since at least the 70’s and 80’s, (but I believe it started before that), is one of the most impactful factors.

    So thank you for addressing this extremely important, severely AVOIDED issue. No idea how to fix this, I believe it would take a miracle.

  • Fiona says:

    This scares me to death. I have nothing to offer as a new Christian, mature person. I think I need mentoring.

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