Are You Doing Ministry Like An Angry Tourist?

  • 8 November 2016
  • Geoff Kullman

Angry TouristAre you doing ministry like an angry tourist? It’s a serious question and an important one to answer if we are to have any hope of effectively communicating to a new generation of millennials.

Let me explain:

Imagine yourself on vacation in a foreign country. Maybe your mind’s eye takes you to an urban metropolis where you take in the sights and sounds that only a place like Paris or Shanghai can offer. Or perhaps your dream destination is a nearly-secluded tropical villa serving umbrella-laden drinks all day long.

Got your vacation destination locked in? Good.

Next, imagine yourself browsing around some of the local shops. It’s probably one of those tourist trap places filled with cheesy “I went to [insert location] and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” shirts and stuffed animals embossed with whatever the city’s tourist slogan happens to be this year.

You’ve found a few items that pass the grunt test and you go to the cashier to pay—only, there’s a problem with your credit card machine. Suddenly, you and the cashier are trying to communicate with each other to solve this life-defining transaction of plush toys and tourist apparel when you realize that they don’t speak a word of English.

And that’s when it happens: you become an angry tourist.

In this moment of frustration at the inability to effectively communicate, you start to yell, scream, and insult their intelligence simply because they don’t know how to speak your language even though you are in their country.

It can be difficult news for people of faith to admit, but we now live in a post-Christian era, a time in history when the gospel narrative is no longer the story that our culture or country holds in common. In many ways, we must now consider ourselves foreigners speaking a different language even within our own country.

The millennial generation (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000) are the first generation since Constantine to be raised in a post-Christian world.

Think about that for a minute.

For the past 1,700 years, every person born in the West was raised under the Christian metanarrative. And now, suddenly—and without warning—an entire generation (one larger than the baby boomers) lacks a common core system of understanding and interpreting the world around them.

If you put yourself in their shoes, can you begin to imagine how confusing and frustrating and anxiety-ridden that must feel? 

When pastors and church leaders become angry tourists—who get inexcusably upset when the millennial generation doesn’t understand our values and leaves our churches—perhaps it’s time to admit we need to learn their language and cultural values instead of being upset they don’t understand ours. Because if we don’t take the time and invest the resources needed to reach this new generation, the future of the Church looks rather bleak.

So the question remains: are you doing ministry like an angry tourist? Or are you willing to learn the language of the millennial generation?

Geoff Kullman is the Associate Pastor at Open Door Church and co-founder of Millennial Ministry, an initiative seeking to help churches engage millennials through workshops, consulting, and curriculum. Geoff presented The Seven Core Values of Millennials at a MinistryLift event (access to his presentation and teaching video is here). To learn more about the millennial generation or to contact Geoff about bringing a workshop to your church, go to