Millennials get a bad rap.
From parody videos like John Crist’s Millennial International: Sponsor a Millennial Today and Micah Tyler’s You’ve Gotta Love Millennials, to the more recent Church Hunters videos that mimic HGTV’s “House Hunters,” millennials are portrayed as lazy, entitled, selfie-obsessed, participation award-winning, “special snowflakes” with sky-high expectations for their jobs, churches and relationships.
Of course there are millennials who fit that description, as there is often a smidge of truth to most stereotypes, but I don’t agree with the overall assessment. I’m tired of hearing jab after jab aimed at an entire generation. There’s always a mix of good eggs and bad apples — and everything in between — in any people group.
Let’s be real. Parody videos are funny, and they’re watched and shared by thousands for that reason. But beyond the comedy, what good does blanket criticism do in the real world? It’s not helpful.
Instead of criticizing, dismissing or siloing millennials, let’s consider and make allowances for our generational differences, and put energy instead toward working together. As a Gen-Xer, I would rather come alongside you, encourage the strengths I see, and help you harness those gifts and talents for your good and God’s glory. I want to be standing next to you as you walk out that first decade of adulthood, start careers, navigate friendships, dating and marriage, find your place in the church and build families…or whatever else God has for your lives.
I also want to learn from you. You have a lot to offer the world. My millennial friends are tech-savvy, flexible and connected. With access to more information than any other generation, you tend to have great ideas and can problem-solve well, because you’ve curated information from a wide variety of resources. You want to engage in meaningful causes and work toward needed societal changes instead of maintaining the status quo. Lastly, you are inclusive, you love your people well, and put a high emphasis on emotional intelligence that makes you networking superstars.
I like millennials. So does author, ministry founder and Bethel Church leader Kris Vallotton. On a recent episode of the Catalyst podcast, he highlighted some strengths and offered a caution, saying:
I think the millennials are the most creative generation in the history of the world. They are the most brilliant, the most insightful, the most thinking-out-of-the-box, creative people in the world. But…every strength has a dark side. The other side…is that they tend to be independent and isolated. [Millennials] are desperate [to answer] “Who am I and what am I supposed to be doing?” Well, I propose that you can’t answer those questions in isolation, because your identity and your purpose is in your people…[and] God created us to be individually members of one another.
So, let’s set aside both the dismissive stereotypes and glowing praise for a moment and get practical. Here are a few things I want millennials to remember:
Find your primary identity in Christ.
Never forget that you are chosen, holy and dearly loved. Live from this truth, pray without ceasing (notice the Bible does not say “cease everything and pray”) and learn to combat the lies of the enemy with the truth of God’s Word. Rest in the knowledge that you are known, seen, heard and wanted by your Abba Father. This relationship alone provides the safety and security we all desire. From this point, you will walk confidently in the direction God leads. Nothing matters more.
Water the grass you’re standing on.
It’s easy to bounce from job to job, apartment to apartment, roommate to roommate or relationship to relationship in the hopes of hitting the jackpot. I’d like to offer another option: Plant deep roots right where you are until God moves you. “Suit up and show up” to the people you know and the places and circumstances you’ve been given today.
In regards to dating, Andy Stanley asks in his book “The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating,” “Are you the person the person you’re looking for is looking for?” Let that one sink in for a bit.
Also, never forget that as a follower of Christ, you are not the future of the church. You are the church. Instead of trying to find a church community that meets every preference, or assuming that the grass is greener on the other side, decide, as Eugene Cho says, to “water the grass you’re standing on.”
You were born for “such a time as this.”
The biblical account of Esther is powerful. We too are planted in a particular time, place and generation, for a purpose. Psalm 139 declares that your every day was known by God before any of them came to be. As long as there is breath in your lungs, there’s a reason you’re here.
You can’t see the grand story God is weaving, strand by strand, in your life. Sometimes it’s hard to even see a glimpse. He may use you to do mighty things or He may empower you to do ordinary things extraordinarily well. But remember that every success has been won one small step at a time, which Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction.” Keep at it, millennials. Work hard, stay focused on what truly matters, utilize your gifts and leave others better than you found them. The plan will unfold in time.
You are a member of the millennial generation for a reason. Haters gonna hate. Don’t let the digs get you or the praises inflate you. As Bible teacher Jill Briscoe says, just “go where you’re sent, stay where you’re put, and give what you’ve got.” If Christian millennials will follow Christ, embrace their identity and stick within a healthy church community, I’m convinced that the world will be impacted for all eternity.
Do you think the criticism of millennials is warranted? What strengths do you see in millennials? Are you hopeful for your generation’s future?