By Edgar Sandoval Sr., President and CEO, World Vision U.S.
My life has provided plenty of opportunities to push past assumptions and differences. When I moved back to the U.S. at the age of 18, I spoke only Spanish after having spent most of my childhood in Latin America. In my career, I’ve known the feeling of being the only executive at the conference table with an accent. I’ve sensed the weight of bias—and my own has gotten in the way, too. Raising two daughters with special needs, I’m always discovering new limitations I have unconsciously placed on them.
But I wholeheartedly believe that we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), and that our faith should compel us to reach beyond stereotypes and work toward mutual understanding.
Millennials are one group that is often misunderstood and all too easy to judge—especially with regard to their faith. Although cynicism toward this generation abounds, I do not share it. I believe Jesus is lighting fires in the hearts of young people, just as he has done with all generations since he walked on this earth. World Vision wants to engage them in striving to realize God’s plan for the world, particularly in fragile places where even a small act can make a huge impact.
That’s why we commissioned this study from Barna Group. Understanding 18–35-year-olds and separating fact from assumption enables World Vision, and the Church at large, to help unleash young people’s passion for Jesus. We want to equip faith leaders to connect and collaborate with this generation. The good news is that these young adults have great potential to change the world.
They are globally minded and quick to embrace causes they believe in. Driven by a sense of humanitarian responsibility, they are personally invested in what’s happening beyond their communities.
However, many are dissatisfied with their church experiences, longing for congregations to do more to fight injustice and make a significant impact on poverty.
When we understand these perspectives, we can reach across the gap. I see a tremendous opportunity to authentically connect with this generation and their passion to live Jesus’ calling in Matthew 25 to care for the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and those in need of clothing, the sick and imprisoned.
Engaging this generation within the body of Christ is an urgent assignment. The Church is the greatest God-ordained force for holistic transformation, able to penetrate cultural barriers and bring the hope of Jesus to all nations. And the Church’s strength is its diversity, uniting people of all backgrounds and ages in bearing witness to Christ. Intergenerational and intercultural understanding strengthens churches for this mission. We need each other. Instead of dismissing Millennials for their perceived differences, let’s believe in them and learn from them as together we realize our purpose in the kingdom of God.