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Navy Chaplains Adapt Training to Get Millennials Excited About God


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The US Navy is looking for ways to adapt its training for Millennials, including getting them excited about something bigger than themselves, like God.

But how do you get Millennials, or those who've never step foot inside of a church, excited about Jesus?

It's a common problem facing many churches across the country.

"We grew up in the cookie cutter 80s and therefore everything has to look the same," said US Navy Chaplain Erik Young. "Our new generations are going, 'No, God made us all unique.'"

Chaplain Young sees that response on a regular basis in his other life as a senior pastor in Pennsylvania.

Young says learning their language is key – not just how Millennials speak to each other, but where they communicate, such as online.

"That's what Jesus did," he explained. "He didn't hang out in the synagogue office waiting for people to show up. He went out to them and hung around those people to where they were at. He loved them as they were, right then and right there."

Young and hundreds of other Navy and Marine Corps chaplains learned how to better do that during a three-day training session in Norfolk, Virginia.

They learned cultural differences and how technology, if used correctly, can enhance experiences.

Navy sailor Charles Greer said, "I notice that a lot of people coming through our pipeline are younger. They are hip to what social media aspects are, so it's great that the military is changing just like the rest of the world. Adapting is always great news."

Experts say Millennials will be turned off if you don't post engaging content or if you don't know how to use hashtags.

Dr. Kate Ott is a Christian ethics professor at Drew University.

"While Millennials and Gen Z are less religiously affiliated, it doesn't mean that they aren't spiritual," she said.

A recent Pew Research survey found more than one-third of Millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith, up 10 percent since 2007.

Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben, chief of Navy chaplains, says it's her group's responsibility to let those who serve know they are not in this by themselves.

"If they understand what surrounds them and who surrounds them, and they can put their roots down just a little bit deeper into something that is grounding them – a sense of faith, a sense of purpose, a sense of value – then they will be better off," she said.

The bottom line – you have to know the people, know their language and understand their culture.

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