Pastor Mary, Keynote Speaker at Conference in Hawaii

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

As Pastor Mary walked on stage adorned in a beautiful puakinkini flower lei, she was greeted with a fragrant breeze, a clear blue sky, and an excited audience’s applause. This past week, our own Pastor Mary Hulst was a keynote speaker at the Hawaiian Islands Ministries Conference, a “gathering of believers from across denominations, generations, and cultures around Jesus to be the Body of Christ.”

The conference has boasted impressive keynote speakers in the past such as Kirk Cousins, Louie Giglio, Lecrae, Chris Tomlin, Victor Marx, Beth Moore, Don Piper and Ravi Zacharias.

In her session entitled “Why millennials and Gen Z are the hope of the church,” Pastor Mary informs the audience of the realities facing millennials and Gen Z, how these realities have shaped their interaction with the church, and how the Church should seek to grow for and with them.

The audience ranged from age 19-94, with the majority in attendance from the Gen X and baby boomers generation (39-73 years old).

Pastor Mary explained that many realities have shifted since the Gen X and boomers were adolescents and young adults. millennials are the first generation to earn less over their lifetime than their parents. They are more likely to live in poverty and average $40,000 in student loans. With these seemingly hopeless prospects, Gen Z’s are statistically more worried and pressured about their future at a younger age.

Marriage and parenthood has been delayed by 5-10 years and culture has shifted from pro-Christian to neutral to anti-Christian. Pastor Mary herself advocates for how challenging the modern connotations of being “Christian” has made it for young Christians today to want to claim that title.

In fact, our society is saturated in loneliness. Pastor Mary sites data published by the American Sociological Association from the General Social Survey saying the number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985. Yet, these generations exhibit unique qualities.

Pastor Mary continues to bring up statistical data pertaining to Millennials. According to Forbes, 75 percent of millennials say it is important for a company to give back to society. The Washington Post cites Millennials generosity through an Impact Report that found 84 percent of millennials make charitable donations and 70% volunteer. Millennials are driven and want to make an impact.

There are many ways that they can too says Pastor Mary. “They are entrepreneurial. They seek to constantly improve. Millennials are also adaptive and radically hospitable and tolerant. They are ready to invest in what they believe in.” They are ready to give these gifts of characteristics and serve the church.

Pastor Mary explains that these realities shape how they interact with the church. Millennials seek substance, authenticity and mentors. They crave relationships and honestly. Millennials also seek a church that engages the world and welcomes their friends. As a college chaplain, Pastor Mary offers a unique perspective into today’s young adults and seeks to inform the older generations. By understanding the new generations, we can shape the church to adjust and grow with them.

In her closing, Pastor Mary calls the older generations to involve the millennials who are eager to learn and lead. She calls on the older generations to establish relationships with millennials who crave being wanted and needed.

Millennials bring a new challenge to the church: “show us what following Jesus really looks like,” and Pastor Mary calls on the church to answer it.