THE MILLENNIALS: CONNECTING TO AMERICA’S LARGEST GENERATION
With their book, The Millennials, the father/son team Thom S. Rainer and Jess W. Rainer have gone to great lengths to open up America to the minds of the Millennials. What are their thoughts and beliefs, and what shaped them? The Millennials are those born between 1980-2000, and they are the largest generation this world has ever seen. Their impact is already being felt in schools, churches, businesses, and political institutions. Indeed, the Millennials have arrived, so we must make an effort to understand where their ideologies and beliefs stem from.
MEET THE MILLENNIALS
For this book, they have only included research regarding the older Millennials, those born between 1980-1991; however, the insight their research provided is invaluable for learning about anyone from this generation.
There are four major themes encountered throughout this book:
- 1) They’re hopeful! According to their research, 9 out of 10 Millennials want to make a difference in the world and are hopeful that they will. They define success not as being rich, but rather, as making a difference in the world. This generation is far more upbeat, positive, and happy than its predecessors.
- 2) They’re relational. Connecting to people is key, and they do it however they can (Facebook, Twitter, texting, face-to-face, Skype etc.). This generation greatly values their familial relationships, and they remain closer to their parents than any generation prior.
- 3) They’re learners. The Millennials are in line to be the most educated generation in history. To Millennials, education is cool. The two main factors contributing to their desire to learn is: 1) Their “helicopter parents” (parents who hover over them in all facets of life, but especially education); and 2) Most Millennials are smart.
- 4) They’re looking less to Religion. Their research concluded that only 13% of Millennials consider any type of spirituality to be important in their lives. In fact, most Millennials don’t think about religious matters at all. This generation is agnostic toward all matters religious.
A MILLENNIAL’S PERSPECTIVE
While this is a very diverse generation, there are some common traits found in the majority of Millennials. The four most common traits of a typical Millennial:
- 1) Not religious – 1 in 20 consider themselves religious
- 2) Educated – 4 out of 5 are educated beyond high school. 1 out of 4 are college grads
- 3) Working – 50% are currently working
- 4) Not Married – only ¼ are married
While these are the most common traits found in this study of older Millennials, there are also many defining elements to this generation, which includes their beliefs, thoughts, and actions. The ten most important defining elements to this generation are:
- 1) Want a connected family – very traditional values regarding family
- 2) Want parental involvement – for advice and guidance
- 3) Diverse – just a matter of fact, and is a nonissue to them
- 4) Believe they can make an impact for the future – 9 out of 10 see it as a responsibility they have, and 6 out of 10 believe they will make a great contribution in their lifetime
- 5) Not workaholics – A work/life balance is the #1 factor in their job selection
- 6) Want a mentor – Teachable and willing to learn. 3 out of 4 desire a mentor, and more than 40% have one
- 7) Green, but not that green – want to reverse trends of previous generations, but aren’t obsessed with it
- 8) Communicate unlike any other generation – Talking and texting on cell phone is most common. 7 out of 10 say cell phone is vital to their lives
- 9) Financially confused – 7 out of 10 believe the government should provide retirement and have expectations of a high income. 4 out of 10 admit to being financially confused
- 10) Not Religious – least religious of any generation, but are still spiritual. 3 out of 4 claim to be spiritual, not religious. 65% do not attend any worship services
IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
Parents of Millennials were born between 1946-1964, the Baby Boomers, the second largest generation in American history. This generation was marked by its early mentality of self-centeredness, and they became materialistic and demanding. The Baby Boomers wanted everything to be perfect for their children, which led to lasting effects. The two main factors causing the great parental connections between Millennials and their parents are parental involvement (helicopter parents) and attached children (seek parents advice for everything).
Millennials have a very traditional view of marriage, and most believe they will only marry once. This generation is very open to marriage of different races, with most believing it is a nonissue; furthermore, most millennials also see nothing wrong with same-sex marriages.
Their parents have taught them great respect for older generations (9 out of 10 have). They want a connected family and a return to traditional values. For Millennials, family is the most important aspect of their life, with their friends following a close second.
THE NEW NORMAL OF OPENNESS AND DIVERSITY
The Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation America has ever seen, and they also have the lowest proportion of Caucasians. There are four main factors that contribute to their attitudes toward diversity:
- 1) Progress of previous generations has benefited them – largely color-blind
- 2) Have reacted to the marriage failures of their parents – want healthy marriages
- 3) Parental influence is huge in this generation
- 4) Christians in this generation tend to have different views on some issues – strong agreement on marriage, and less open to homosexuality
MOTIVATING THE MILLENNIALS
With relationships being so important to Millennials, they are taking us back to the “good ol’ days.” Staying in contact and close to family is easier thanks to cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc. In matters of the workplace, religion, service, activity, ministry, and political allegiance, relationships are the number one motivator of Millennials.
The Millennials greatly believe in themselves, and are motivated to make a difference. They believe that they can make a difference, and they’re determined to do so. This is helped by their openness to learning from a variety of sources, and thinking they have all of the answers.
THE NEW WORKPLACE
By 2025, 78 million Millennials will enter the workforce, and they are ambitious. If they feel there is no upward mobility, they will leave that job. The 5 big factors in their job selection are:
- 1) Work/Life Balance
- 2) “Show me the money” – want it for flexibility and connecting socially
- 3) Just want to have fun – insist on the ability to have fun at work
- 4) Flexibility almost as important as money – need it for family and friends
- 5) Desire structure and feedback – accustomed to it from parents
THE MEDIATING GENERATION
This generation is very weary of polarization in families, politics, religion, and in relationships in general. They want everyone to get along and tend to oppose anything divisive. Millennials are respectful and believe that blame has no value. They are truly peacemakers.
THE MILLENNIALS AND MEDIA
Technology (means) and media (ends) are the defining characteristics of Millennials. They work, play, and socialize via technology, with 1/3 of their waking lives being spent on a computer. For this generation, music, Internet, and TV are more influential than their religious beliefs, their spouse, or their boss.
THE MILLENNIALS AND MONEY
The Great Recession caused much financial confusion for Millennials. They are saving their money for both short-term and long-term in large amounts. Millennials believe they’re underinsured, think government should pay for healthcare, and expect a full return on Social Security.
THEIR STRANGE RELIGIOUS WORLD
Most Millennials have a syncretistic belief system, whereby they take portions of beliefs from various faiths and non-faiths and blend them into their own belief system. Many pray simply because they see it as therapeutic, not religious.
While 2/3 of them rarely or never attend church, those who do show great fervency in their faith. Churches who are serious about reaching Millennials must become serious missional churches. Millennial Christians have no patience for business as usual at the church and require their total commitment. This generation has an urgent need to share the gospel.
CONNECTING WITH MILLENNIAL CHRISTIANS
They desire to practice the Christianity of the Bible, and are more 1st century than 21st century. This generation of Christians desires to forfeit material gain for sake of others, has a fierce devotion to Bible study (“the apostles’ teaching”), an intense prayer life, and a total commitment to minister to others. If churches want to attract these radical new Millennial Christians, they must:
- 1) Become radically committed to the community – it’s a place to serve and minister, not a place to look for new prospects and money
- 2) Go deep in Biblical teaching – want to move as close to New Testament as possible
- 3) Love the nations – must be personally involved and get their hands dirty, not just give money
- 4) Direct revenue outwardly – won’t attend churches where money goes to existing members, don’t want a Christian social club
- 5) Demonstrate transparency, humility, and integrity – want sincere, humble leaders
Non-Christian Millennials are largely indifferent to religion, but are more uninformed than antagonistic. Try simply inviting them to church and show them the deep meaning of following Christ.
Whether America is ready or not, the Millennials have arrived, and they are bringing great change with them. If churches do nothing to change, we will see massive numbers of churches closing; however, if churches can enact the radical changes necessary to reach this generation, churches could see some of their best days ever. Surveying the Millennials of your congregation would be a good place to start. Gather their views on all aspects of your church (i.e. how your church views and treats the community, their opinions on services offered, their feelings of importance in the congregation, how tithes are handled, etc.). This generation is line to be one of the greatest generations our nation has ever seen, and we must be ready for them. Let’s swing the church doors open and invite ALL Millennials in. After all, what would Jesus do?