Engaging Millenials in missions, pt. 1

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Millenials, Missions
Tags: , ,

As a GenXer (born September 1969), when anyone discusses the Millennial Generation, I find it a little shocking to realize that they are talking about my kids – or two of them at least, born in 1993 and 1995. My oldest son entered college last year, so I glanced at Beloit College’s annual “Mindset List” (http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2015/ ) to see some of the things that identify his peers:

This year’s entering college class of 2015 was born just as the Internet took everyone onto the information highway and as Amazon began its relentless flow of books and everything else into their lives.  Members of this year’s freshman class, most of them born in 1993, are the first generation to grow up taking the word “online” for granted and for whom crossing the digital divide has redefined research, original sources and access to information, changing the central experiences and methods in their lives. They have come of age as women assumed command of U.S. Navy ships, altar girls served routinely at Catholic Mass, and when everything from parents analyzing childhood maladies to their breaking up with boyfriends and girlfriends, sometimes quite publicly, have been accomplished on the Internet

A few other selected factoids from the list help me understand Clint’s generation a little better:

  1. Their first president was William Jefferson Clinton (no, my son Clinton is not named after him – but most people assume he was!)
  2. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
  3. There have nearly always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.
  4. O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
  5. Women have never been too old to have children.
  6. The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia.
  7. “Yadda, yadda, yadda” has always come in handy to make long stories short.
  8. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!
  9. Women have always been kissing women on television.
  10. Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.
  11. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael Who?
  12. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.
  13. When they were 3, their parents may have battled other parents in toy stores to buy them a Tickle Me Elmo while they lasted. (Yep!! I remember that!)
  14. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.


The Pew Social Trends article on Millenials:  A Portrait of Generation Next – Confident.Connected. Open to Change, lists a number of ways in which Millenials differ from previous generation – and many of those ways can inspire a real optimism that this younger generation may be an improvement over the last two. http://pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf.

As the title says, they are more confident than the previous generations, more connected – both technologically and to one another, and much more open to change. They are more self-expressive, far more ethnically and racially diverse and more open to other cultures and immigrants.  Millenials are on track to become the most well-educated generation in American history. They are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures. They are history’s first “always connected” generation. Steeped in digital technology and social media, they treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part – for better and worse.

They say they have enough or will meet their financial goals – although I think those goals are less demanding. They respect their elders. A majority say that the older generation is superior to the younger generation when it comes to moral values and work ethic. Also, more than six-in-ten say that families have a responsibility to have an elderly parent come live with them if that parent wants to. By contrast, fewer than four-in-ten adults ages 60 and older agree that this is a family responsibility.

They are the least overtly religious American generation in modern times. One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29. Yet not belonging does not necessarily mean not believing. Millennials pray about as often as their elders did in their own youth. Being a good parent is significantly more important for Millenials than it was for Gen Xers at the same point in their lives. Helping others – slightly more important. Having free time for leisure – slightly less important. They are less politically engaged, but slightly more likely than GenXers and Boomers to volunteer, and significantly more likely than Builders.

In my next post, I’ll share some of my thoughts on how these characteristics affect mission agencies, as they seek to engage Millenials.

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