But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him. 1 John 2:5
There have been attempts to use the “I” word to describe the next generation – Tim Elmore and Jean Twenge came up with “iGen” which is a play on iPhone and iPad from Apple. There is merit to the association because the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 changed the digital landscape of the world.
The McAfee’s, millennial authors of Not What You Think, said that getting an iPhone in college was a huge step for them. Groundbreaking, actually.
The McAffee’s wrote a book to millennials, by millennials, and it contains some interesting stuff for non-millennials. I really like their chapter on who or what is a millennial using five “I” words:
Immense. It is the largest generation, now exceeding the Baby Boomers, the generation that grew up following World War II. In America, they number around 78 million. In other parts of the world, their numbers are even a larger proportion of the population. In Africa, for example, the median age of an African is only 19. The sheer size of the generation tilts them into knowing that they are in a position to be culture-changing.
Informed. This, of course, has an upside and a downside. What makes millennials different is not just the information that they have at their fingertips, but where they get (and trust) their information. Millennials have a basic distrust of all institutions such as business, government or education, so experts from those fields do not have the same weight as a friend who has had firsthand experience. Sixty percent obtain news and analysis on-line rather than print or other media. This can lead to groupthink.
Impatient. They want their information fast and have little tolerance for having to wait in line for anything. Again, the downside is they want fast advancement in their careers, which is often an unachievable expectation. They seek instant gratification and instant results.
Impassioned. According to Thom Rainer, 90% of millennials “believe it their responsibility to make a difference in the world.” A smaller percentage (60%) believe “they will make some great contribution in their lifetime.” They are interested in working for causes, and 75% of millennials made a financial gift. They also volunteer more than any other generation.
Integrated. They are digital natives and are integrated with technology, which creates a new level of social integration. Nearly 100 percent of millennials own a cellphone. While they may be socially connected, they are often not intimate with real friends. Platforms like Facebook permit them to put on a good face for others, yet that same media often causes unhappiness and loneliness when it seems others are having a better time doing wonderful things.
To which, I would add one of my own “I” descriptive word:
Incomplete. They lack soft inter-personal skills, savoire faire and EQ. They have been known to take their parents to a job interview. When they land a job, they have become ghost employees by never showing up for the first day of work, nor contacting their new employer to tell them they are not coming – ever. This is an area where the millennials are in the most need of mentors.
They are also spiritually incomplete, and the majority have little or no bible literacy, That same majority believe there is a God, so there is an opportunity to connect the dots which is why the McAfees have written their book.
While the McAfees are writing about millennials, some of the traits listed above also apply to Gen Z, who are now just entering college. Gen Z is not as large as the millennial generation, but they are all informed, impatient, impassioned, integrated and, yes, incomplete.
Like all attempts to characterize a diverse generation, I found these descriptions a useful overview of the next two generations. It may be of interest that the millennial in America is not that different from a millennial in other parts of the world such as Africa.
The challenge here is to tap into the millennials and guide them along their path. One thing that is important: once you have gained their trust, you can speak into their lives, even if you are not from their generation. Trust, however, means being transparent and authentic.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Mentoring a diverse and large generation requires understanding what makes them tick. Learning about their distinctive traits is key to being able to communicate with them. They are incomplete; they need your guidance.
FURTHER READING: 10 Things to Never Do When Starting a Job
Not What You Think– Available from Amazon
WORSHIP: Listen to What the Lord Has Done in Me by Hillsong.
MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.
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