In yesterday’s comments, Neil wrote:
If I have to sit through one more seminar or class in which a “boomer” talks about “Gen X’ers” or “postmoderns” in the abstract, as if I wasn’t sitting there, I’ll go crazy!
To which I say, “Amen,” and then I turn write about the Millennials (born 1982 to 2005)… so I’m a hypocrite. Actually, if I were teaching a class, I could think of a few amazing Millennials who would do an eloquent job speaking for themselves, but since I’m writing this in my PJ’s on Thursday morning, I’ll just continue to discuss what this article has to say and write as a pastor to college students.
The Millenials were born at a time when our attitudes toward children were changing in huge ways. Hollywood’s portrayal of children went from demonic little girls sitting in front of the television set, to adorable kids who inspire adults in new ways. Our society went from an age of latch key children to attachment parenting. Child safety, education, and family values became incredibly important. Political discussions hinged around the question, “What about the children?”
As Susan O commented yesterday, “There are mini-generations within a generation.” That’s because somewhere along the line, a very positive shift occurred. These children were “wanted” (Freakonomics picks up on this. Levitt has a really controversial argument that links the declining crime rate to the fact that these are “wanted” children). Overall, highrisk behaviors have declined: drug use and pregnancy rates. Sports for girls have made a huge difference, so has after-school programming.
When I was a teenager, rock stars were biting heads off of bats to get a little attention. Now, we freak out when Brittney ties up the front of her Catholic schoolgirl uniform or shaves her head. “What are we going to do? Is she a good role-model for our children??”
If you’re still not convinced of the shift–let me tell you something interesting. There are no swings on my daughter’s playground. NO SWINGS. They’re too dangerous. And we’re not even going to discuss the monkey bars….
For all of our careful support of this generation, our society has let them down economically. The Millennials are carrying unprecedented educational loans. Something which we will have to address.
The important thing for our mainline churches to know about this generation: while the Xers are anti-institutional and innovative, the Millennials are much more conventional. As they enter the workplace, they gravitate toward government work, or large corporations that can provide protection against risk and a solid work-life environment. They have close relationships with their extended families.
Our churches can’t give up in this important time. While the Xers are screeching against hierarchy, beauracracy, and denominationalism, our mainlines can’t afford let the X factor (of which I’m a part) drown out the adults coming up after us. We’re not the final word on this. Millennials are finding great comfort in institutions. In fact, among young adults, the mainlines losing, the evangelicals are losing, but Roman Catholic Church has been gaining the most ground. There’s a deep longing for ancient traditions and spirituality.
The mainline denominational church is in the perfect position to minister to this generation. But not if we continue business as usual. We’ll need to make some serious changes and put some careful time and attention into making space in our intergenerational congregations.