Posts Tagged ‘Millenials’

From the Pew study I referenced in part 1, we get an exciting picture of a group of young people that may better understand what really matters than their elders did. Family, helping others, openness to others – these are more valued by Millenials. At the same time, church has lost their trust – although faith is still important.

In order to engage Millenials in missions, a few key words come to mind. Family, authenticity, education and compassion are important. Being techno-savvy, providing means to connect in multiple media, and enabling them to fulfill their extended family responsibilities will be things that they will probably look for in an organization.

I think making an appeal based on the radical nature of the missionary lifestyle will be attractive for many Millenials. They’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt – but they haven’t incarnated Jesus Christ among the Uzbeks, yet. Also, the more creative opportunities we can offer, the better.

Continuing a focus on the spiritual aspect of our mission is vital, as well. We probably don’t have to worry anymore about a denominational affiliation being important, or even about the old discussion of church/para-church. Millenials don’t seem to care. But we really need to continue to promote and model an authentic, transparent walk with Christ – in all levels of our organization. This will both attract and keep people who join us.

Millenials say that the older generations have a better work ethic and more developed moral values. I think Millenials expect us to help them develop those aspects better. We ought not be afraid to mentor them in those areas. In fact, any way that we can continue to integrate the Builders and Boomers, even after their retirement in organizational “family” could be very valuable for all of us. And I believe Millenials would welcome the input of those who are now old enough to be their grandparents.

Of course, everything we can do to use the web, facebook, twitter, etc. will be helpful – for as long as those media are still in use. Actually, more than helpful – irreplaceable. Our use of these media can be simple – but it has to be done well. However, I think personal relationship and trust building is still vital in our recruiting – it isn’t replaced by technology, but can be enhanced by technology.

Anything we can do to become more diverse will be welcome to Millenials, as well. With a globalizing world, and the Millenials’ openness to other cultures, if our agencies aren’t much more colorful in 20 years, they will probably be in danger of dying. Opportunities to be involved in compassion ministry will also be more attractive than many other ministries. Anything we can do to encourage and facilitate continuing education is already a necessity, considering that over half the Millenials are already at or beyond university age.

This Baby Buster sees the Millenials as just as great a potential for change as the Boomers have been – and to be honest, with more positives than the Boomers gave us. But we can’t just “buy” them into our own agenda and vision. Sure, we can and should influence them, but they will want to create their own thing. Can we let them? I hope so.

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” ( ) 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.

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.

1.      The changing mission force is more global now, but in the United States it is also shrinking. This may partially be caused by spiritual factors in the American church, but it is probably much more related to the retirements of the largest American generation, the Baby-Boomers. Nearly every mission is dealing with a greater number of retirees than ever before, as the Baby-Boomers live longer (a good thing). For most missions, including my own, senior leadership has been invested in men who are nearing retirement age. Of course, these are men with experience and training, and with a modern mind-set that is more results-oriented than that of the post-modern Gen-Xers and Millenials.

We Gen-Xers, in addition to our small numbers, as well as the Millenials, bring a different focus to our call, but we also tend to bring more baggage, in the form of abusive, divorced or non-existent parents; increased addictions to images (a post-modern cliché most seen in the rise of pornography); different expectations from our workplace; and, for the millenials, the likelihood of changing jobs (career? call?) many times over the course of our life. I don’t believe many mission agencies have strategized well to address the issues that affect Millenials. However, I would love to hear differently. What is working well to attract – and keep – Millenials in mission?