By now most of us have heard or witnessed the problems with the millennial generation. This is what we hear, regularly. They cannot problem solve. They have no motivation. They want everything handed to them. They are too sensitive. We have also heard the reason for these issues is our parenting. We presented them all trophies. We overprotected them. We solved their problems for them. We gave them too much stuff. All of these problems have been analyzed to death. As with every age before us, there is a generation gap. It is part of the individuation process for children to find differences with their parents. No matter how much we thought “my children will never” our children did. No matter how much we “trained them up in the way they should go,” some of them didn’t go that way.
However, I have a hard time painting all millennials with a broad brush. I know there are issues, but I do not believe every 20 something is responsible for acting like a spoiled brat. I cannot jump aboard the millennial bashing train any more than I can take all the mommy guilt for raising them the best I knew how. For me, it is not about finding out why this generation turned out the way they did. It is about going forward now, and I am thinking maybe we need to look at things a bit differently.
- The trophy generation- Every kid gets a trophy made them intolerant of injustice which is not a bad thing. They want to make sure everyone has equal opportunity. When they see injustice, they cry out loud enough to make others uncomfortable with the status quo. Isn’t that what some of our revered leaders from history did? They value fairness.
- The technology generation- Raised on video games might have caused them to have a warped view of reality, but it also caused them to be innovative with all things techno…including all the apps we all use every day, and life-saving surgeries done by robotic machines. They think in computer language and interpret for the rest of us. They value technological progress.
- The traveling generation- We wanted them to go, to experience the world in ways we never got to. They came home with a global world view and the idea that people are worthy of care no matter their status. They love cultures and the differences in them. They see value in diversity.
- The spoiled generation- They got everything they wanted and then some. They had so much that they realized life isn’t really about stuff. They are not motivated by money and stuff because they realize it is futile. They want to make a difference and change the world. Hence, the tiny house generation. They value experiences.
- The picky generation- They don’t want just any job. That means good ones or bad ones. They want the right job and because money doesn’t motivate them, they are happy to take odd jobs until the right one comes along. The corporate ladder doesn’t appeal to them, because they watched it nearly kill us. They value balance in life.
- The spotlight generation- They have lived their lives online. Their every move is posted, and while this has contributed to self-centeredness and loneliness at the same time, it has also made them care less about what others say. They are bombarded with opinions that oppose theirs on a daily basis, in ways we could never imagine at their age. That will be key when they are leading in the future and they have to stand strong.
- The warrior generation- I believe these millennials have a unique perspective unlike any generation before them. They are as yet, untested in what it means to lead others. They are idealistic and holding fast to their beliefs, unwavering and unwilling to compromise. Just like we raised them to do. We just didn’t think they would hold to beliefs other than ours.
So, to review. They wander. They are not motivated by money. They challenge the status quo. They question everything and everyone, even us. They don’t tolerate hypocrisy. They accept all people. They are passionate. They are caring. They want to love people and they want others to love people. They like to contemplate, discuss, and analyze. They make us think.
Jesus did all those same things. Some of us taught them about him and his life, but we didn’t expect them to take us literally. They snub the religious leaders of the day…which is us. They walk away from church, because they disagree with the way it boxes God in and they are tired of being judged. They question their faith, and many have left it entirely, because their views of the world don’t fit within the four walls. They have outgrown the church of their childhood; it is too small-minded for them in its current state.
We are desperately trying to get them back in, but what if it would be better for us to get out? What if, instead of analyzing statistics we stepped out into their world for a bit to see what it is that drew them there? What if their dispersal is part of the plan to expand the church instead of allowing it to die? They are going. They are loving people. They are changing the world. I’m not sure they realize it yet, or if we do, but they are. They are young. Untested. Idealistic. (Weren’t we all?) But they are powerful. They have roots. They are not snowflakes deep down. One day, hardship will awaken them to resilience they don’t know they have yet.
What if instead of speaking of them as if they are less than, we encouraged them or prayed for them? What would happen if instead of bashing their ideas, we listened? What would happen if we brought them to the table to reason together? What if instead of preaching down at them we walked beside them, shared our lives and experience while allowing them to step up and do things their own way?
My point? It is a different world than we grew up in, with different challenges. It will require a different group with different skills. They are that group. Recent history has written parts of their story that are beyond their control, or ours. Their lives have been shaped the way they have, bad parenting and all, for a purpose. I believe that to my core. They are going to rise up and carry us into the future, where they will be the leaders of the world. Don’t you think it’s time we helped them get on with that?
I come and ask that you would preserve this generation of young people. Give them grace to step into their roles which you have ordained for them. Give us grace to let them. I pray you pour courage and confidence into them as the torch is passed from one generation to the next. I pray those who have left their faith would find it again and that you would whisper tenderly of your love for them to their ears. I thank you for their passion and their desire to make a difference in the world. I thank you that they see injustice in places we have ignored. I thank you that they feel deeply for the pain of the world and that they do not shy away from it, but lean into it. Give them creative solutions and eyes to see how to improve things. When they experience difficulty show them the resilience you have poured into them unaware. Help it to bubble up from within and spill over. You have given them the power of questioning, to bring the spotlight to every system. You have created in them the desire to know. The desire to change things. The desire to be better than those before them. Show them how to steward these desires. Protect them from disunity and divisiveness. Protect us all from these things, so that we can move together and not apart. Draw a circle around us that builds us up together. Help us to stay inside your protective shield. Give us eyes to see this generation as the warriors they are, in their ability to stand strong. In their compassion. In their hearts of care. Help us to learn from them, by listening and going to see what they see. Help us to come along side and to allow them to show us their point of view. Help us to share our experience with them in a productive and helpful way. Guard our hearts and theirs, from the pride and arrogance which stifles our ability to build friendship with one another. Help us to lay down our offensive posture, and to pick up peace and a desire to forgive. Heal the rift between us so that we all can move forward stronger together than apart. Lord, these are amazing young people. They emulate you in so many ways. Thank you for spreading them out. Give them a vision of why. Show them what your body looks like in action. In Jesus Name and by his blood, Amen.