Working with Millennials

I have been reading The Millennials, a book by a father/son team, Lifeway Christian Resources president, Thom Ranier, and Jess Ranier, an assistant pastor.

Subtitled ” Connecting to America’s Largest Generation”, it is an interesting look at this generation of students and young adults. What many call the Millennial Generation, these were born between 1980 to 2000. It is the largest generation. At 78 million births in the US, this age demographic beat out the Baby Boomers in size. For those of us working with high school or college students, this is our audience.

The authors looked at a number of areas, including what was important in Millennials’ lives, if they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future, how they view marriage and family, how they view matters of diversity and openness, what they desire in a workplace environment, how they look at the media, relationships, environmental issues, money and matters of faith. It is a summary of the research conducted on 1200 Millennials, but only those born between 1980-1991. Their ethnically diverse study group was fairly reflective of the US population as a whole.

My wife and I lead a Marriage Preparation Class in our church. So I was very interested in how this generation views marriage and family.  But there were two areas that I thought were helpful as it relates to our reaching this generation of high school and college students. The first, had to do with their views of the workplace. Those thoughts directly relate to their involvement in our movements. And the second was how Millennials deal with conflict.

Millennials are ambitious. They want to succeed. Many have been told that there are no limits to what they can accomplish. Many of us think that they don’t care to climb the ladder of success. That is not true. But there are several factors in job selection.

  1. They want to balance life and work. There is “more to life than work.” Relationships and family are very important.
  2. Money is important. But how they spend that money differs from previous generations.
  3. Fun. When given the choice, they will choose a work environment that is fun. They want to enjoy getting up and going to work.
  4. Flexibility is almost as important as money. Relationships drive this desire for flexibility.
  5. They do want structure and feedback. Most view parents as being on their side. They generally see the older generation in a positive light. Coaches, instructors and mentors help provide the structure they desire and feedback to help them grow.

Some questions to consider:

  1. Do we provide clear expectations? Both, in what they can expect from us and what we are asking them to do?
  2. Do we make allowances for their own personal and social relationships?
  3. Do we make ministry fun and enjoyable? Do they get to do ministry with their friends?
  4. Are we transparent as leaders?
  5. Do we listen to their insights and perspectives?

One other area I found interesting in reading The Millennials is that this generation is “weary of the polarization in families, in politics, in religion, and in relationships in general.” page 153. They want families to stay together. They tire of the shrill voices on both sides of many  issues that many Christians hold important. They are respectful of others. The authors want to call them the “Mediating Generation”.

This generation is not without convictions. But their tendency is to bring factions together to avoid conflict if possible. Now this book was written in early 2011, before the Occupy movement. But the Rodney King question, “Can we all just get along?”, means that they desire civility and treating others with respect. We might want to consider, how do we do what we do in our movements that capitalizes upon on this mediating value of those we are working with?

If you are looking for a statistical analysis of this generation like we have seen in unChristian and some of George Barna’s books, you won’t find it in The Millennials. But I found myself being very hopeful for what God might do in and through this generation of students.

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