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Reaching Millennial Men: Show, Don’t Tell

August 10th, 2017 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

FORT WORTH Ministry to Millennial men at Fort Worth’s Christ Chapel embraces a “show me” rather than a “tell me” approach, which aligns with the church’s philosophy that life in Christ is a story meant to be shared.

“We want to transplant the DNA of a missionary into the [everyday] young adult world,” young adult pastor Ben Fuqua explained.

This approach involves bringing church to unlikely places.

During the academic year, Christ Chapel’s college ministry meets on Sunday mornings in the Aardvark bar on Berry Street near Texas Christian University. Services draw more than 200 college students weekly.

The bar is closed till noon on Sundays. Its location inspired the outreach to TCU students when the church’s facilities were full during a building project. The bar owner, not connected to the church, opened his doors.

“One of my favorite parts … has been building a relationship with the owner and his bartenders,” Fuqua said.

Fuqua called the ministry the “frontline” of what Christ Chapel is doing to reach Millennials. College and young adult home groups are also available, as is mentoring by older believers.

For those beyond college, Christ Chapel began Renovate, a Wednesday night service attended by 230-240 young adults, average age 26.

Fuqua preaches three out of four Wednesday nights and said the services are designed to give Millennials a platform to reach co-workers, neighbors and friends for Christ.

“We spend a lot of time, energy and prayer trying to make Wednesday night disarming, not over anyone’s head, where the gospel is shared, where it’s relevant, really holding up the Bible and biblical preaching,” Fuqua said, voicing the church’s intention that services provide “conversation starters” at offices and neighborhoods. 

Each June, Renovate meets outside church walls with activities such as worshiping at parks, feeding the homeless at community centers and partnering with an African-American congregation. 

On June 28, Renovate sent groups to Waterside, an entertainment complex popular with Millennials and featuring a central park surrounded by restaurants. 

“The plan was to mingle and love our neighbors well, maybe buy a few people food and just eat with them,” Fuqua said. “We had a lot of great conversations. Some of our guys picked up the tab for some meals as we engaged with our city and other young adults.

“A big part of our ministry is going to them. We need to enter into [Millennials’] world, see where they hang out, where they do life, where they spend time,” Fuqua explained. “We see Jesus doing this, entering into a world of broken people. He taught at synagogues, but he didn’t only teach at synagogues.”

Even after regular Wednesday night Renovate services, groups are encouraged to go out in the city afterward, “not to huddle together” but to present gospel community where one “can belong before you believe,” Fuqua said.

The American church’s “default position” of waiting upon Millennials to return is concerning, Fuqua added, explaining that Millennials may have heard the truth as children, but they want more. They want to see “what it looks like to be a Christian, to live out the gospel.”

Fuqua admitted that Millennial women are quicker to participate in church programming, while men remain “a little more standoffish.”

“Our approach that we don’t want to just talk at you, we want to walk it out with you, has attracted more men. To tell men that they need to be on mission and they need to be missionaries is empowering.”

—Ben Fuqua, young adult pastor

“Our approach that we don’t want to just talk at you, we want to walk it out with you, has attracted more men. To tell men that they need to be on mission and they need to be missionaries is empowering,” Fuqua said.

This philosophy has led to an unusually high participation rate at Christ Chapel of young men who thrive on community and challenge. In fact, more men than women signed up for a recent coed mission trip to Belize. The missionary with whom the group worked remarked that in more than 20 years, he had never seen men outnumber women on a coed trip.

Chase Distasio, a 24-year-old marketer for a private equity firm who attends Christ Chapel, agreed that reaching young adults is “tough for a lot of churches.” 

Distasio became a Christian in college, afterwards spending a year in Residency, Christ Chapel’s discipleship program.

“Millennials struggle with pride,” Distasio said, adding that he once found church “intimidating,” assuming “everyone inside was perfect.”

“I wanted to have it figured out,” he added, praising Renovate’s commitment to meet Millennials “where they are.”

Christ Chapel has learned that with Millennials, if you challenge them to go, they will respond. 

“We tell our people, ‘You are in the community. You are living in the world that God has put you in. See yourself as a missionary,’” Fuqua said.