Most of the time when I read or watch a video about generation Y, the Millennials, they are being picked on. The emotionally soft result of helicopter parenting, everybody gets a trophy, and everyone has a college degree because professors aren’t allowed to give bad grades anymore generation.
I think people are looking at this all wrong. I see incredible potential.
I was born in 1979 and my wife was born in ’81, so I am not officially in but my wife is and we both love Millennials. I have spent most of my adult life working with them. As a pastor I am excited to see this generation light the world on fire. Are they perfect? No, none of us are. Yet, I think there is something great in them.
As a pastor here is what I see:
1. They love bridging gaps. Earlier generations love clubs – country clubs, church denominations, even corporate loyalty. The earlier generations like to focus on what separates them out from others. Patches, badges, bumper stickers, and club cards. Millennials push against this. Here is what I see: They are reaching across generational, cultural, even denominational lines. They are very interested in what unites, not what separates. Yes, they need to be willing to wrestle with what is true and truth by nature is exclusive, but as they lock into what is uniquely true this generation’s values will provide a powerful anchor to unite many people.
2. The Millennials have a passion for community. Building off the previous observation, this bleeds into what they believe is actually authentic. Previous generations see things as more valuable the bigger they get. The “best” is the biggest. They believe this is true from the size of a country’s army to the size of the church you attend. Don’t hear me wrong, bigger probably does mean stronger or more likely to control others, but to the Millennial this isn’t better. Better to them is about knowing and being known, understanding and being understood. Oh, how so many bloggers have made fun of this, but I see huge potential in it. Hear me clearly, they want to understand others and want others to take the time to understand them. Who is most likely to get to know the immigrant in my church? Who is most likely to take their atheist friend out for coffee? The list goes on. They aren’t afraid of getting to know “different” people. They prefer smaller organizations, including churches, precisely because of the type of community they offer. I see incredible potential in this!
3. They are highly educated skeptics who like to hang out. Okay, fine, so the college degree your grandpa got was way more difficult than the degrees offered today. Even if that is so, more of the populous is educated than before. I think the overall rising base line of education is a good thing. Moreover, the skepticism that they have is clearly the result of the culture they have been raised in. False marketing, empty promises, and organizations that demand obedience with little clarity on why have left them scratching their heads and questioning nearly everything. This is even true in churches. They bring hard questions or see really bad things happen in the world and the church responds with, “Be quiet and don’t drink.” No wonder they have left the church. Real historical (and Biblical) Christianity deals with messy, broken situations in very forward ways. As these Millennials come to faith I believe they won’t be afraid to take the good news of Christ into places many in earlier generations just wouldn’t go. I don’t mean geographically around the world, I mean across the street into their neighbor’s house. You may pick on Millennials for being soft, but I think that is false. They just view strength in a different way. To them it’s not overcoming someone else, it’s bridging the gap to them. They will get to know their neighbors and aren’t afraid of the hard questions they ask. Moreover, they love deep theology and are well read. I love that! Come on, you must see the potential in this?!
4. They are our future. Like it or not, they are who we have. I commit now to love them, coach them, pastor them and prepare them to be handed the world. They will eventually get it and all of us born before them will die away. Instead of standing at a distance and throwing stones, get to know them. They are amazing people! Lastly, if you are a Millennial and live in the Indianapolis area we want you in our church. I promise I will challenge you and you won’t like everything I say, but I believe in you and I can’t wait to see what God will do with your generation.
So, to the Millennials…let’s change the world.