At the 2018 National Festival of Young Preachers, Rev. Melanie Jones, one of the many experts in their fields who preach and teach at the National Festival, presented a Master Class titled Womanist Preaching in a Millenial Age. She discussed what Womanist Theology is, the challenges of preaching to millennials, and how Womanist preaching connects with millennials.
Did you know Rev. Melanie Jones is the Plenary Preacher for the upcoming Texas Regional Festival of Young Preachers on October 6? Click here to learn more and register!
Melanie started with an informative overview of Womanist Theology, discussing influential leaders and influencers in Womanist theology and preaching, including fellow 2018 NFYP Master Class Faculty Teresa Fry Brown. If you are unfamiliar with Womanist Theology, the first half of Jones’ Master Class is a great introduction. Click here to watch it!
Later in the class, Melanie talks about Millennials, now the largest generation in the country. She says that though Millennials are also the highest educated generation, “unfortunately many of the millennials, though they are educated, are not working jobs or are not equally compensated for their skills,” which has led to many being highly educated while being burdened with both un/underemployment and significant student debt. This affects how Millennials approach and hear preaching. “These are the pews we are preaching to every Sunday, who have questions about tithing when they have student loan debt, who want an educated word because they have degrees.” Jones says that preaching needs to be informed by who is hearing it. “What is important is the pews, and who is in the pews. Our preaching has to be connected to the pews.” So she identified how to preach to what she calls the S.M.A.R.T. Pews.
Millennials want a sermon with structure. “They won’t sit through a sermon that doesn’t have a clear end. A clear journey, and a clear end. They are willing to walk the journey with you if they are sure you are going somewhere.” If you want to preach to Millennials, know how you are going to effectively take them from beginning to end in a way that makes sense.
“Always try to connect with, ‘How does this matter for myself and for my future? How does this fit with the kind of balance of faith, life, and work?'” Simply put: make sure your sermon has something to say that still means something once they walk out of the sanctuary.
“They want to be able to navigate their faith in ways in which they are led down a journey but they can go through their own tunnels and roads and doors. They want to know they are going somewhere but have the curiosity to chart their own course as they go the distance.” As a preacher, you may guide and lead millennial listeners., but never forget in your preaching that you do not have the authority to make their decisions for them.
A millennials world is filled with reading, just not necessarily books. Twitter, Facebook, other social media, and blogs have created a constant flow of written content to millennials. “Millennials are the generation that reads the most!”
“How can I tweet what you said? If you don’t have at least one tweetable moment, make sure you have one. Not only will it help your thesis sharper and stronger, but it will also help folks connect with it and extend the message beyond the Sunday morning sermon.” For great practical advice and insight on how to do this, here is Dominique Robinson’s article on her iHomiletic method.
If you want to see how Melanie connects these characteristics of Preaching in a Millennial Age with the themes central to Womanist Preaching (Radically Loving, Justice Seeking, Wisdom Bearing, Truth Telling) watch below:
*The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author(s) or speaker(s) and do not represent the beliefs or positions of the Academy of Preachers. The distribution of content by Academy of Preachers is an effort to fulfill our mission to Identify, Network, Support, and Inspire young people in their call to gospel preaching. Our network and participants are widely diverse in geography, ethnicity, culture, gender, theology, tradition, and practice. We give space for those in our network to contribute their unique voices to a global conversation on gospel preaching and Christian ministry.
Melanie is a womanist ethicist, millennial preacher, and intellectual activist. She earned a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Howard University and a Master of Divinity with a certificate in Black Church Studies from Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Currently, she is a Doctor of Philosophy candidate at Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) studying ethics, theology, and culture. Her doctoral dissertation entitled “Up Against a Crooked Gospel: Black Women’s Bodies and the Politics of Character in Religion and Society” interrogates Black women’s body politics and moral formation engaging approaches in womanist theological ethics, African American religious history and Black aesthetics. For her research, Melanie has received distinguished fellowships and awards including Villanova University Church Management Research Fellowship (2018-19), Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship (2017-18), Forum for Theological Exploration (2012-14) and CTS Presidential and C. Shelby Rooks Scholarships.