Leading Millenials

By most definitions I’m not a millennial, but since I was an early adopter of their defining technologies, I share a lot of their characteristics.  I have also worked alongside, and led millennials.  It’s different from previous generations.

I can definitely appreciate the advice for leaders in Tony Morgan’s recent article, What To Stop (And Start) Doing When Leading Millennials.  I’ve worked with those who ignore these cultural differences, and with those who navigate them masterfully.  One experience was an exercise in frustration and constant conflict, and the other an exercise in creative and fruitful collaboration.

Morgan wants leaders to:

  • Stop trying to uphold outdated policies and procedures that ultimately create a rigid work environment.
  • Stop assuming that millennials don’t require affirmation.
  • Stop micromanaging the daily tasks of young leaders.
  • Stop giving millennials projects and responsibilities without clear expectations.
  • Stop making approval processes difficult.
  • Stop underestimating millennials.
  • Stop isolating millennials with solo projects.
  • Stop throwing millennials right into their tasks when they come on board.
  • Stop assuming that millennials are developing as leaders on their own.
  • Stop leading with no clear mission and vision.

It’s worth noting that (most) Millennials don’t fit the entitled label, and aren’t refusing to work with others or under authority.  They simply work differently because their formative experiences have been so different from previous generations, and will work better when those differences are recognized and leveraged for good.

But enough with the negativity (stop this, stop that), read his article to see why this is so destructive, and what to start doing instead.


New Demographic Segments in Canada – Free Lookup Tool

In starting new projects at Yonge & Bloor, then in Ajax, I’ve been known for focusing a lot of time and effort on detailed demographic research.  Nothing has been more valuable than the marketing studies I’ve conducted with Environics Analytics.  Twice they’ve provided me with critical insights that have helped me connect with people in new and creative ways.

Their studies begin by identifying a geographic area of interest, and describing the proportions that fit into each of their PRIZM “lifestyle types” or segments and where on a map they are most concentrated.  The basic demographics are already there for each segment – career types, age, home ownership, language, etc.  But then, the magic starts.  Once I’ve selected the segments I’m really hoping to understand, they drill down into the data to try and answer the questions I’m asking, like:

  • What stress are they under?
  • How do they connect and communicate?
  • Do they own a smartphone?
  • What do they read and do in their spare time?
  • Are they open to new experiences?

Each time, I found my presuppositions about people challenged, and would find myself freed to start forming new and surprising ideas for engaging with people’s actual needs.

This is why I was thrilled to read this week that Environics has updated its PRIZM categories to reflect Canada’s changing demographics.  This Macleans article describe the changes, and reasons for them.  The segments I was assigning for use in workshops were from 2008, and starting to show their age.  From their website:

With the population increasingly fragmented, PRIZM5 captures important changes in Canadian demographics, lifestyles, behaviour and values. The 68 segments reflect the increasing variety in how Canadians live today. Among the emerging lifestyles are segments that highlight the movement of Canadians to urban centres (Urban Digerati, Striving Startups), an aging population (Second City Retirees, Aging in Suburbia) and increasing cultural diversity (New World Symphony, Metro Multiculturals). The new edition of PRIZM features 16 predominantly francophone segments, another 16 with large numbers of immigrants, visible minorities or members who speak a non-official language at home and one—Enclave Multiethniques—with a significant presence of francophones and diverse groups. – Source

PetPCFor those who’d like to learn about their community without spending on a full marketing study, Environics now provides a tool that reveals the demographic segment most associated with a single postal code.  This is a perfect way for locally focused non-profits, church planters and others to get some free insights into their communities.  For example, the neighbourhood around Romeo Dallaire School in Ajax is Pets & PCs, “younger families in the new suburbs surrounding larger cities” which sounds about right!

Shifting Stats

Yes, I’m still using this blog!  Sometimes I lament not using it more, but then I realize, Redeem the Commute is technically a blog, and I’m writing, podcasting and video blogging there every day, so no wonder I have little motivation to write on the side!

That said, I do want to use this site more regularly to post ideas on missional ministry.  Here goes!

I attended a workshop last week, put on by World Vision Canada, called Shifting Stats: Shaking the Church.  In the first half of the afternoon they presented some new Canadian stats of interest to church leaders, and in the second half Bruxy Cavey spoke about how The Meeting House is trying to address our changing culture.

Without any commentary, here are some of the stats I found most interesting.  I will note some of them were presented without enough context – I’d regularly find myself questioning what population was sampled.  They provided us with a booklet outlining their sources, but it would be a lot of work to track down an individual stat’s source!

  • 88% of Canadians profess belief in God
  • 32% attended a Christian church at Christmas
  • Average Sunday attendance at Christian Churches is about half that number
  • ~25% of Canadians claim No Religious Affiliation.  That is up from 16.5% in the previous census.
  • Stats Canada measures with a Religiosity index that includes:* Affiliation
    * Attendance
    * Personal Practice
    * How Important They Consider Religion
  • 40% of Canadians score low on the Religiosity Index
  • 31% score moderately
  • 29% score highly
  • The lowest scores are held by young people
  • 43% of immigrants attend religious services monthly versus 22% of native born Canadians
  • There has been a 25% drop in married families, from 92% to 67% in the last few decades
  • Those who claim No Religious Affiliation:29% of those born between 1967 to 1986
    20% of baby boomers
    12% pre 1946
  • 1/3 of those aged 15-24 have never visited a religious service
    Many teens have parents who have never been in church, have only a vague idea of church meaning
  • Canadians spent 1.5 Billion on Christmas in 2011
    Canadians gave an average of $123 in charitable gifts in 2010
  • Median net worth of a family headed by a single female parent is $14,000 – lowest of any family type

There is obviously lots to ponder here, and I’m doing that actively.  I’m just sharing the numbers for now so you can consider it yourself.

Here is a friend of mine, Connie den Bok, discussing with others some of the stats:

What are the implications for the church here?  Good, bad, or neutral?

Almost 400 Attend Outdoor Movie Night in Ajax

Since launching last November, our app Redeem the Commutehas been installed on mobile phones and tablets almost 1,000 times, and our course content is accessed hundreds of times a month.  We’re thrilled about these numbers, since they are great indicators of potential for a local Christian community to form in Ajax.

Our next step was to begin hosting some community-building events to assess our users’ interest in face-to-face gatherings, and to connect with new people. On Sept. 27, Redeem the Commute hosted a free Outdoor Family Movie Night at Lakeside Amphitheatre on the Ajax waterfront, surrounded by commuting households. The event offered scattered mobile users a chance to gather and meet other members of Redeem the Commute’s online community. It was also an opportunity for Redeemer to share what it does with an entire neighbourhood.

IMG_4809The team of volunteers expected about 100 people to attend, and had popcorn donated from the local theatre to feed 200, just in case people were hungry. By the end of the evening, almost 400 people came out. Admission was free, and we collected hundreds of non-perishable food items for a local foodbank whose staff lit up with joy when the saw such a big delivery.

Everyone who came enjoyed a great movie, free popcorn, cheap refreshments and learned what Redeem the Commute is all about from a short video before the film began, and while meeting the snack bar volunteers.  Movie-goers donated hundreds of items for the local foodbank.  The leadership team heard great reviews of the evening, both in person and on social media. “We hope they do this next year!” wrote one, while another wrote, “We’ve lived here 11 years and never seen this amphitheatre used. Thanks!”

Our favourite quote was when a child asked his father why we’d give such a generous gift when if we’d just charged $2 per person, we could have “made a lot of money.”  His father’s response, “I don’t think they’re interested in our money” showed that the event had communicated something very important about our values as a missional Christian community.

support-iPadThis event was worth every dollar we spent, and if you agree, we’d love your help!  We’ve already had personal and business sponsors cover around 50% of the evening’s costs, and the rest has come from our hospitality budget.  But with a gift of $100, or any donation, you will help offset the costs of advertising, film rights, equipment rental and more and can give us the confidence to make this an annual event.

Can you help?   Click here to make a financial gift, and email Ryan if you can help in other ways, or you have specific requests.

Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery

Resources for the Synod of the Diocese of Saskatoon

I had the opportunity to speak to the Diocese of Saskatoon this week, and share the Reimagining Church course with them.

First, if you were there, please tell us how we can improve the course by completing a survey. – The survey is now closed.

Here are all the resources you need to teach the course in your home context:

Videos you saw:

Session 1: Brave New World

  1. Little Mosque on the Prairie
  2. Church on Tap
  3. Fam Jam (New, not in course notes)

Session 2: What in the World is God up to?

  1. Tony Campolo on church for prostitutes
  2. Skater Church
  3. Night Shift * (Instead of in Session 3)

Session 3: The School of Jesus

  1. Sentamu baptisms
  2. Destination Church
  3. reconnect (Not in notes)

Session 4: Changing world, changing church

  1. Cameron House
  2. Somewhere Else *
  3. Zac’s Place (Normally optional)
  4. Building Planes in the Air (Not shown this time)

Session 5: Where do we go from here?

  1. fresh expressions of church: a medieval video
  2. Redeem the Commute – Password is redeemthecommute (Not in notes)
  3. Listening for Mission *
  4. Change the World (Instead of the Colour Purple)

Exact Slides Shown

Please download the whole course package from the link above, and make your own modifications.  But if you’re trying to find or remember something I showed that isn’t normally in the course, go ahead and look over these slides as they are exactly what was shown in Saskatoon.

Church Plants, Concerts & Crowds

I have a friend who is a great musician.  I love hearing his music – I can’t hit play quickly enough when he posts a new YouTube video of his latest experiment.  I’ve been to a couple of his shows, but then one day he carefully said, “It’s been so awesome to have you at my shows. You know…it’s okay if you don’t come anymore.”  You are probably wondering what grievous error I committed – was I too old for the venue?  Did I try to sing along and ruin the mood?  Did I mosh when I should have waved my cell phone?

It’s not because I embarrassed him (I hope), but it’s because he is a disciplined and honest musician with a plan to grow his fan base beyond his friends.  He suggested I stay away because he knew if he kept filling small cafés and pubs with friends, there’d be no room for the venue’s regulars and walk-in traffic, and no way for them to become fans and evangelists for his music.  I respect him for that, even though it means I can only enjoy his latest work through YouTube while he plays for strangers.

I know of too many church planters who fill a room with Christian friends, even fellow planters, and report their “growing” community is a raging success.  The strategy is often to get a critical mass of people in the room, in hopes that visitors will perceive a growing, vibrant community before it really is one.  I believe, from observation and personal experience, that this is a sign that a church plant has rented a room for the familiar and comfortable act of worship much too early.

Why is this a problem?   Followers of Jesus are experienced worshippers, who speak, move and respond in ways a novice would not.  When the majority of those in the room are imported from other communities, any pretence of missional and contextual ministry quickly disappears in favour of familiar forms of church, as all but the most exceptional of our supposed guests of honour find themselves excluded.

rcxltfrontChristians leaders are critical to doing this work, but as those who are committed to serving sacrificially.  With reconnect, launch team members were asked for a high commitment including starting, serving, sharing, and staying.  When Christians attend for other reasons, their expectations for teaching, pastoral care and programming at the level to which they’re accustomed will quickly outclass the needs of any novice or potential followers of Jesus.  A church plant that begins with worship very often draws the disaffected from other churches, rather than helping them work through the frustrations of Christian community.  Few planters will turn such people away, knowing they need to feed their new service with givers, volunteers and easy growth.  Worship attendance is a common, but poor substitute for the kind of daily, ongoing, transformative discipleship that we find in scripture and the early church, and that takes time and focus.  A plant that skips these risky, messy, difficult early steps hasn’t had the opportunity to grow steadily and sustainably by making new followers of Jesus – it’s been given a bucket of Red Bull, and although it’s exciting, an artificial high always wears off in due course.

In musician’s terms, the fan base isn’t growing.  Friends have filled the room, but they already own the album, all want to hang with the artist afterwards, and the musician goes home with a temporary ego boost but no sales.  It’s one thing to invite friends to a special occasion in a larger venue, or to a living room jam session, but this just isn’t a sustainable practice for weekly or monthly gigs – and the same goes for worship services.

So if you’re one of those generous and kind friends who has said, “Let me know when you start services, I’ll come and support you” what I need most are your prayers and encouragement, and for some of you, your offers to join our team and do whatever it takes to serve and disciple others.  We also need your shares, likes and plain English comments on social media, introductions to local friends, and financial support.  Oh, and we need your patience in waiting for that special celebration when our new disciples fill a room and we need a little extra help, or simply want to celebrate the gifts and contributions of our supporters.  Our dream is to focus on the beautiful music of making disciples, enough of them to fill a room all on their own, before we ever rent one to fill for worship.

April Update for Redeemer, Ajax

Redeem the Commute continues to grow, in many exciting ways!

Are you “interested people”?

1054745_bricks_1I’ve been reflecting on a chance encounter with some local church members.  When they asked what Redeemer, Ajax was all about, I shared the 30-second vision.  They said, with the best of intentions, “Call us when you have bricks and mortar – we’ll be interested then.”  I shared with them that we need lots of interested people long before there are ever bricks and mortar – in fact, interested people are the bricks and mortar!

Are you “interested people”?  Will you help build something with great potential to make disciples, even if they don’t yet gather in one place at one time?  This is the kind of gathering together that Paul describes when he writes to the Christians in Epehsus, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”   Ephesians 2:19-22

Please continue to pray that God is using Redeem the Commute to help people under stress, and that we will not be strangers for long, but that he will gather us together in his time.  If you hear God calling you to be involved in building this new community online and in person, i.e. if you are his bricks and mortar, please get in touch.

We need all “interested people” – those with gifts to lead small groups, lead worship music, as well as those gifted in sound technology, projection technology, hospitality, social media, communications and more.

We also need financial gifts – that can enable us to help more marriages, families and individuals, as we learn, grow and explore deep questions of life.  Please consider making a regular gift to Redeem the Commute here.

Our Team is Growing


New Videographer

David is Redeem the Commute’s videographer.  From his background in youth ministry, he brings experience in blending Christian ministry and the creative arts, and with experience in sound production he brings a technical background that is improving our video production values every week.

Report from the Durham Baby & Kids Show


We had a great time at The Baby & Kid Show.   Thanks to our volunteers, Alyssa and Jane, for helping to staff the booth.  I know my time there meeting people was equally exhausting and exciting all at the same time. We gained new users and interest, and several other vendors agreed to hand out cards at their businesses and daycares. We gave out hundreds of cards and enjoyed getting to know those who paused at our booth to watch a clip of the parenting course, sign up for our mailing list or ask questions.   I trust God will use those efforts to touch people’s lives.

Congratulations to Daniela, who stopped by our booth and won a parenting book for her efforts!

We are Hosting a Live Parenting Course in May

We are offering a live, in-person version of the Parenting Children Course, also available online.  It is facilitated by Ryan, but each session consists of video from experts in parenting, and discussion with other parents.  This course is relaxed and informal and there is always plenty of laughter.  It’s hosted at All Saints Church in Whitby, starting May 6th, for five weeks excluding Victoria Day.  Find more information or please register here and please share with local families.

What else is new?

This past month has been busy!  With David improving the quality of our daily challenge videos, Ryan has had more time to improve the actual content of our daily challenges, our social media presence, and updates to our course offerings are coming soon.  Ryan will also be attending an upcoming conference, speaking at the Synod of the Diocese of Nova Scotia & PEI, and various local events.


Redeemer Ajax February Update

Here’s the latest news from Redeem the Commute

What’s New

We launched Redeem the Commute in early November, and we have seen it making a positive impact already.

We’ve now hit 600 installations of the mobile app on iPhone/iPad/Android devices, and over 150 unique users in the last week alone!  Yes, we doubled our numbers in the last month with our media coverage on CBC, The Anglican Planet, Alpha Canada and more.  We have great numbers, and are learning to interpret them through a lens similar to the Parable of the Sower – some will use the app once or twice, some will use it regularly, and some will begin to form a community of people learning to follow Jesus.  We keep our eyes focused on this last group, knowing that God will touch all sorts of other lives as well.

Earlier this month, Ryan spoke at an Ajax/Pickering Unity Service and presented Redeem the Commute as a tool for those participating in the excellent “Every Street a Light” initiative.  In upcoming events, Ryan will be preaching on discipleship at St. James Cathedral, Toronto, at evensong on March 17th.

We are particularly excited to be attending the Durham Baby & Kid Show, with 2500 visitors from our local area, all focused on young children.  We’ll have cards in lootbags sharing The Parenting Children Course as a resource for young commuting parents and are gathering a team of volunteers to staff a booth, hand out cards and talk about what we do.  Would you be willing to help on April 6th or 7th in Oshawa?  Contact Ryan Sim ASAP.

Ways you can help:


Thank you for being a friend of Redeemer Church, Ajax and the Redeem the Commute community!  We need your help to continue growing into a vibrant church community.

In addition to your prayers and participation, would you consider giving thanks with a financial gift?  We are growing fast, and as we grow, our expenses rise.  Your gift can enable us to help more marriages, families and individuals, as we learn, grow and explore deep questions of life.

Please consider making a regular gift to Redeemer Church, and this important ministry to commuters.  Our denomination handles our donations using the form here.  Your charitable receipt will come from The Anglican Diocese of Toronto.

If you have any questions about our stewardship of your generous gift, please contact Ryan Sim.

We also need our friends and partners to do the following:

  • Use Redeem the Commute regularly, and help to foster discussion by leaving comments at least once a week
  • Share Redeem the Commute with friends, neighbours, family, co-workers – anyone!  We even have postcards, if you can give some out at home, work, on the train, or the Baby & Kid Show!
  • Introduce me to potential team members – particularly those who can host others in discussion, and help us prepare for public worship gatherings.
  • Pray for people using the app, that they will find help, community and the gospel.  Pray for people of peace in the area who will support this challenging work.  Pray for my family and I, as we learn first hand the stresses of suburban life.


Workshop: Disciple Making with Technology

I led a workshop at the Vital Church Planting Conference 2013 on Disciple Making and Technology – focused on helping people think through a process from message, to audience, to selecting the appropriate technology.

This workshop was offered on the Saturday Team Day.

Slides & Handouts

Other Resources