Leading, the Millennials

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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy captured the imaginations of Millennials as it contrasts the challenges of Frodo, the little Hobbit given a great responsibility and destiny.

The Millennial Generation (or the Bridgers, Generation Next, Net Generation, and the Echo Boomer, among other designations) … or those born from 1982 to the present are the subject of much research and fascination. They represent a smaller number than their parent’s generation, but still a huge portion of the population, some number upwards of 60 million.

One of the characteristics most frequently and famously attributed to this group is “entitled.” Entitled because they were raised by the entrepreneurial Boomers who generally told them they were “special.” Their parental weaning on the Disney movies assured them that their dreams would most certainly come true.

So many changes have transpired that it is virtually impossible for this generation to understand the world of their grandparents. While their grandparents were used to a fairly uniform and predictable approach to their domestic lives, working at the same place, worshipping at the same church and living in the same neighborhood for most of their adult lives – not so, the Millennials. They have experienced more transitions in their lives than any previous generation, in particularly the challenges of broken marriages and families.

Millennials are less linear in their thought processes than previous generations, preferring to see their lives in more of a mosaic. They value spontaneity and among their fondest compliments for interesting conversation or action is – “that’s so random!”

Millennials were raised by parents who were determined to raise their kids “differently than their parents did.” In many cases they abandoned the traditional authoritarian approaches they had resented and followed the guidelines of popular advisors such as Dr. Benjamin Spock who urged parents to “spare the rod” and just “reason with your children.” As a result, this generation today is often desperately looking for limits, guidelines and boundaries; something they may have found precious little of in their upbringing.

Depression, anxiety and anger have reached new levels of expression among some Millennials. They have become the most medicated generation in American history.

Unlike the previous trendy Boomer and Buster generations, the Millennials prefer adopting a “style” of their own. Often non-conformist, they frequently prefer to shop and a thrift store to discover their own fashion style and to select their own Indie band music rather than the Top 40.

So, how can today’s Christian leader effectively reach the Millennial Generation? A few important steps include:

Remember, many Millennials experienced more physical comforts in their upbringings that they are desperate to experience the challenges of self-sacrifice in compassionate service to others and even in short-term missions overseas.

Remember, the Millennials were raised on a boatload of wishful hopes and promises from their daily dose of Disney. That same group now faces an economy devoid of much promise. Help them sort out solid and Biblical priorities and values.

Remember, while Boomers enjoyed slick three-point sermons replete with PowerPoint presentations, Millennials prefer something raw and unprocessed. Don’t just preach sermons at them, show them how to open up and understand the Bible.

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Pay close attention to the lyrics from The Lion King, a 1994 Disney movie enjoyed by so many Millennials as children. It went on to gross $771 million. Does it evoke a sense of “entitlement”?

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