(I first wrote this nearly 2 years ago, but was recently stirred to update and share again. I personally feel the attack against millennials comes because religion and the spirit behind it are deathly afraid that this generation holds the key to it losing its grip in America. So we need to be educated about them, lift them up, and help them achieve their destiny.)
I keep hearing it and seeing it. Even some of those I know and love will say it.
"I don't understand this generation."
"They don't want to work!"
"They just want to play video games!"
"I'm worried about the future in their hands."
"These millennials are so entitled."
Over and over again the curses against this latest generation continue. It's no wonder their problems seem to keep piling up. When no one believes in you it's really hard to succeed in anything.
I'm a millennial myself. In fact, I just found this out. After years of mistakenly thinking I was a Gen-Xer, (I could have sworn I had just made it!) someone pointed out to me that you now were considered a "millennial" if you had been born after '82.
Now I'm the first to admit that it probably doesn't matter. A generational label doesn't mean much of anything in an individual sense. But I have to admit, my first reaction when I heard that was disgust. I mean, really? Did I really want to be identified with the generation that everyone over 40 seems to hate?
The truth is, no, I really didn't.
There's such a stigma going around about the millennial generation that I hadn't even realized I had been affected by it too. Apparently getting negative about the next generation is a twisted rite of passage into grumpy adulthood, and, well, I passed!
Unfortunately, that's not something I want to pass. I to be the kind of person who believes in everyone just as I want to be believed in. My parents raised me to always go after my dreams and what was in my heart. They raised me in a way that I always felt believed in. It has impacted my life in such a positive way that I want to be someone who does the same.
So I went looking. There had to be some good stuff about this generation, right?
It didn't take long. Thanks to Google (I love you) it took me about 5 minutes to come across a massive report published by the Pew Research Center. Some of its findings were fascinating:
* exhibit more respect for their elders than previous generations
* claim less moral superiority than previous generations (I personally find this as a positive)
* are more racially tolerant
* get along better across generations
* are the highest educated generation
* care most about family
* highest priorities are to be a good parent and have a successful marriage
* third highest priority is to help others in need (all of these over being famous or making money)
* earn the least of any generation, but are the most optimistic about the future
* are the happiest generation
There's more but I'll stop there. Suddenly I'm pretty proud to be part of this generation! My peers are respectful, less pious, less judgmental, less selfish, more educated, more optimistic, and happier than previous generations. I'll take it!
All of that is pretty amazing and runs hugely counter to what most of us have been led to believe. But let me put it in a perspective that is even more impressive:
Millennials have had a tougher start than the last couple generations.
Google "harder for millennials" and these are some of the headlines that will immediately pop up:
We're Making Life too Hard for Millennials - NY Times
It's Harder to a 20-Something Than Ever Before - Washington Post
Millennials Are Still Struggling to Find Jobs - The Atlantic
The Number Behind why Millennials are 'Generation Frustration' - Huffington Post
... and so much more
Millennials have grown up in a stagnant economy where good jobs are hard to find and college education doesn't bring with it the guarantees it once did. (Although it should be noted that the economy is finally turning around!) A bachelor degree today is worth the same as a high school diploma was worth in the 60s. For every corporate job there are 250 resumes. We are facing the most difficult economy to succeed since the Great Depression. Sure there are more jobs then back then, but wages stink.
The facts speak for themselves. The median income for age 18-34 is $3472/yr LESS than the previous generation, yet they have more bachelor degrees. Their median net worth is 43% LESS than Generation X in the same age range. They have more debt from school. They face higher costs of living.
Yet they remain optimistic and happy. Why?
In previous generations even the uneducated could get a manufacturing job and make a decent wage. Those are all but gone now. In the 1970s a teacher could buy a 3-bedroom home in San Diego. Now a teacher is lucky to be able to afford a house in the countryside.
The more I look the more I realize that millennials have gotten a bad rap. The more I realize that I'm proud to be a part of this generation. We are a generation of dreamers who want to change the world. We're a generation who has been given a great deal of technology but not careers. We are smart but face the highest climb to financial success of any generation in decades. Yet we are positive! We believe in ourselves and in the world! I can proudly be a part of that.
Do we play video games? We do. We like to play, period. It's part of being in a good mood, which is essential when your best job prospect at the moment is working at Starbucks for $10/hr even with a college degree.
Are we less committal to jobs? Absolutely. Why wouldn't we be? Our job situation hasn't been great. But we are going to keep trying! We'd rather work for love than money anyways.
Are we entitled? Turns out no. We're actually one of the most charitable generations most willing to sacrifice time and money.
Are we lazy? No. We're dreamers. And we actually tend to work smarter and more productively. We just don't take it as seriously.
I could keep going, but I don't need to. I can now proudly say I'm a millennial. I believe in my generation. I've gone from believing that millennials were a kind of lost generation to believing that maybe, just maybe, we could be remembered as the greatest one.
That's not a knock on other generations either. We've all had our moments! Each generation has done amazing things and was put in place by God for the time they were in. But everything with God is about improvement, about moving from Glory to Glory. So as I see this generation growing in optimism with the deck stacked against us I can't shake it. The millennial generation cares about the right things and believes in ourselves. They are innovative and are willing to lead. They want to change the world, not just work for a paycheck. They care about others more than growing our bank accounts. They are the most highly educated generation the world has ever known.
All of this speaks of greatness to me. Do they have our issues? Absolutely! But who doesn't? The positives are here in full effect. So I'm not going to entertain bad thoughts about millennials anymore. I'm not going to let it affect me and I'll be quick to forgive. I know it's just spoken out of ignorance anyways. We are more tattooed, more easy going, and far more techy than they could have ever dreamed of being, and people often fear what they don't understand. So I can let that go.
Millennials want what's real. They care about passion and meaning in their lives and work. They don't want rules, they want inspiration. Therefore religion has little value to them. This is a wonderful thing! Jesus came to bring us an experience and a relationship, not a bunch of rules to live by. That's what the Jews had for 1300 years, and we see where that got them!
I believe God has ordained this generation to stir up the church and the country. As a result millennials are attacked because they are offending the religious spirit. This attack has been prolonged and very effective, yet it cannot be allowed to win. More than anything millennials need spiritual fathers and mothers who believe in them and will guide them. They are prone to be experience driven, which is fine so long as its accompanied by solid understanding. They will not be controlled, but they flock to community, and they are openly teachable.
If we love them, they will flourish. Church, that's our job to do.
As Generation Millennial starts to grow into our own element I'm firmly convinced they are going to change the world for the better. One day history will look back and marvel at how they impacted history. It's coming. I know it!
Now about that Generation Z... (just kidding)
Justin Carpenter has a passion for Christ and His body. Justin longs to see the body of Christ be equipped and sent out into all the world preaching the gospel of the kingdom with authority and power.