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Reaching Millennials with Authentic Storytelling

In Articles, Discipleship & Mentoring, Men’s Ministry by Steven Sukkau

The Next Gen

Reaching the next generation has never been more difficult or more important.

The consequence of technology’s accelerated advancement, the gap between generations is widening. More teens and youth are growing up with vastly different questions and challenges when it comes to how they see the world and faith.

With the passion to reach the increasingly disenfranchised youth leaving church and God behind, Impactus | Promise Keepers Canada has found connecting with young men comes down to speaking their language in an honest, authentic way.

“Every two years there’s a generational gap, men 2-3 years younger than me consider me old,” explains Dave McSporran of Bottled Media and the creator of This Is Me TV. “We’re all very different.”

Despite the gap, the online series is finding a growing audience of young men, encouraged and empowered to live unashamed for God through interviews and testimonies of popular artists and athletes who have found tremendous success while living a life for Christ.

However, the millennial generation has adapted to the unending stream of online content and honed the sharpest ears and eyes for advertising and in-authenticity.

“The only way we can connect with people is when we’re honest,” McSporran says. “When we’re real and not fake, when we truly look at our lives and recognize we’re not perfect and we admit that… it’s through the struggle, we’re real about the struggle.”

Every single episode, he explains, gets real at some point and stops candy-coating faith. “We’re way more attractive as broken people because we’re relatable,” he says.

Seeing the success of This Is Me TV, Youth Breakout sessions were created at the National Conference to likewise provide a place for teens and 20-year-olds.

While many are eager to write millennials off as lazy or entitled, [former staffer] Jeff Stearns explains they see the phenomenal untapped potential.

“Equipped with information and communication technology beyond the imagination of past generations, the opportunity to influence the world for the gospel is greater than ever before. Passionate about social justice issues they can drive change for justice and the hope of Jesus.”

One dad shared the story of trying to invite his teenage son to the conference. There was no interest at all. However, as the dad looked through the event brochure he told his son about the youth session featuring “some guy named Manafest”.

“The son jumped up, grabbed the brochure and said, “Let me see that!” His son was a fan of Manafest’s music and came to the event to for the youth session,” Stearns explains. “The dad excitedly told us how great it was to go to the conference as a father and son. That experience was replicated over and over.”

Together, the sessions create a unique multi-generational experience for fathers and sons, even grandparents.

“We need to be equipping the next generation to live in grace and truth. The breakout sessions give us an opportunity to do that,” Stearns explains. “We need to see generations learning from each other and worshiping together. The breakout sessions provide men with an opportunity to invite younger men to join them. “

The sessions, inspired by This Is Me TV, feature speakers who’ve appeared in the video series. The first year included Manafest and graffiti artist Jeff Goring.

This past year the youth breakout sessions explored love, sex and dating. Andrew Thompson, National Music Leader, walked the youth through a discussion of what biblical purity and godly relationships look like. In an age of confusion and promiscuity, Stearns says it was a topic that was greatly needed.

“We weren’t sure how it would go without the celebrity speakers. We know the topic was relevant and engaging but would guys still come if they didn’t know the speaker? Turnout was excellent and when you sat in on the sessions you could see the guys engaged,” he explains.

“We need to be equipping the next generation to live in grace and truth. The breakout sessions give us an opportunity to do that.”

Meanwhile, between conferences This Is Me TV continues to find viewers. The Trip Lee “My Joy Cannot Be Stolen” episode has reached 105,000 views.

Since the age of 15, McSporran has been making films. Now at 32, he says finding an audience revolves around compelling interviews and the craft of filmmaking.

“Great content, great interviews, told in a transparent way, with the production of today’s video content platforms,” he explains. “Whether you’re a Christian or not you’re going to appreciate what you see.”

However, it’s through God’s Spirit at work that connection happens. Continually they see comments, people taking the time to share how they’ve been impacted.

McSporran says he’s struck by how people are taking the time not only to watch the video but reach out to the creators to say thank-you and explain how they’ve been inspired.

“It shows we have connected.”

“How many times have you or I watched a YouTube video and never commented or gave a thumbs up? When someone goes out of their way to be open about it and share their thoughts we’ve made a connection and that’s invaluable.”

McSporran and his team also make sure to respond back and be available to viewers who comment and ask questions or want to know more.

“It’s just by quality, the content, the intentionality, God and really working at this craft. We love this, we love telling stories.”

It’s why he wanted to start this series. He says there was no way to see behind the scenes of people that are successful and call themselves Christian.

“Someone like Lecrae is put on a pedestal, everyone sees his success but don’t see what he’s going through with God, he struggled with his parents splitting up, it’s affecting him to this day.”

“These are digital mentors… people can say I’ve screwed up but I’ve made it to this point only by the grace of Jesus.”

And youth today have big questions; “How can I be a Christian in this world? How am I supposed to do this? There is so much temptation out there, I don’t see anyone living it.”

While they see their parents living their faith, McSporran says, “they haven’t seen Christianity done by someone like them. There is a generational divide; they haven’t seen someone they can relate to doing Christianity well.”

He says the deeper question is, why Christianity? Why God? How will this affect my friendships? And is it ok to lose friendships over my faith?

“They need to be told everything will be ok even if they lose friends, even if they aren’t as popular because it’s worth it.”

Watch This Is Me TV episodes here.

Steven Sukkau
Steven Sukkau is a writer, journalist and radio broadcaster living on the Canadian prairies with his wife, two daughters and hyperactive terrier.
Steven Sukkau
Steven Sukkau is a writer, journalist and radio broadcaster living on the Canadian prairies with his wife, two daughters and hyperactive terrier.