“Unless we learn the lessons of history and ‘teach… the next generation’ (Psalm 78:5–6) they will repeat the mistakes of the past.”  Nicky Gumbel

The term millennial applies to Generation Y and iY – the first born in the early 1980’s and the latter after 1990. They are distinct from prior generations in the outlook and attitudes. I’ve described them as being a different culture which means that we need to understand them in order to be able to mentor them.

I recently went to Togo to attend a gathering of leaders from 10 west African countries. It was a profound experience in many ways.  I was asked to give a presentation on the North American millennial as part of a practical presentation on mentoring.

What surprised me was my profile of the North American millennial was not limited to the next generation of North America.  Almost all the attributes are true of the next generation everywhere – even in Africa.

As I went through my presentation, heads of the leaders were nodding in assent to what I was saying.  Since about half of our audience spoke only French, I am going to have the presentation translated into French for their use.  Fortunately, we had a translator as I went along who translated it into French.

I had shown my power point presentation about 18 months ago to a friend of mine in Cameroon.  I was just going to show him a picture in the presentation, but he and his wife both asked for me to go through all the slides.

As we went through them, they confirmed that the profile was largely accurate of the African millennial, save the attribute of having college debt (the slide notes that 20% of millennials have college debt).

Recently, my friend used the presentation with a group of leaders in Cameroon and said it was very well received and accurate.  That caught me a little off guard, but I have now learned that millennials in all parts of the world have almost universal interests, priorities and desires.

When I put the presentation together, I had just read almost 30 books on mentoring.  That doesn’t make me an expert, by any means. In fact, much of what I post on is not from all those books, but is inspired by my own personal experiences.

My personal takeaway is that I have observed that the current millennial does not trust any institution, including the church. If the typical millennial isn’t going to come to the church, then the church has to pivot and go to them.  It’s a total reversal of the priorities of a church which is often more inward focused, not outward of reaching the next generation.

So, here are some of the attributes:

  • They are spenders, not savers.
  • Asian in outlook – values are formed by their peers
  • Delayed entrance into adulthood – late 20’s or early 30’s
  • Delayed marriage into late 20’s (average age is now 27 up from 24 a decade ago)
  • 40% live with parents through early 30’s
  • 20% have college debt (U.S. only)
  • Distrust of all institutions – church, government, education, business
  • Have grown up in post-Christian era
  • Most would like to be mentored
  • Truth is relative; No absolute truth
  • Indecisive – they shun making decisions
  • Digitally obsessed on social media
  • They don’t read, hence have shallow critical thinking
  • Short attention span – shorter than a gold fish (8 seconds vs. 9 seconds
  • Self-centered and self-absorbed – hence taking “selfies”
  • They are impatient – often without a context for having reasonable expectations
  • Many feel lost – loneliness, anxiety and depression are high, as is the suicide rate
  • Many have grown up protected and haven’t faced failure
  • Poor interpersonal skills – they don’t deal with conflict well
  • Desire for instant gratification which does poorly in business world
  • Accustomed to rapid pace of change
  • Almost 40% have grown up in single parent homes (US)

I am happy to share my PowerPoint presentation with anyone that wants it. I have converted it to a .pdf file so you don’t have to have Powerpoint to look at it.

My presentation is entitled “Sensei” which was inspired by my daughter who suggested that everyone has seen the movie “Karate Kid” in which an older man takes on a young man to teach him karate. The older man is a visual image of a Sensei, which literally means “one who has come before another” in Japanese.

Our challenge is to reach the next generation.  They will be our leaders. They have been described as being “lost”, and part of that is not entirely their fault, but the fault of our culture and often poor parenting skills. They might have been dealt a bad hand, but at least we, as mentors, can help guide them through some of the pitfalls of life by walking besides them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  While not every millennial will have all of the attributes in the above profile, they will have some of them. It is instructive in understanding them in order to walk beside them and communicate with them in terms they can accept.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Desert Song by Hillsong United

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 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

I would have never guessed that I would write a post on loneliness of the next generation, but research and studies consistently show that this is a problem. And it’s a problem not just the millennials, but also Generation Z, the oldest of whom are now just finishing high school.

I recently participated in an email dialogue about this topic based on a study in the U.K.  The friend that sent it, Fred Berkheimer, said he was absolutely “shocked” at the results.

Studies by Barna and Pew Research have all consistently shown a high level of depression and suicide in the millennials. So, it is not entirely “news” that the next generation is one of the loneliest and lost generations.

They would rather sit next to each other and text one another than have a relationship with a face to face conversation.  So much is lost in the digital world, including body language and personal interaction.

What started the email conversation was a recent study by a British department store that does marketing research on its customers to see what brands are relevant.  They initially did a study of 800 of Generation Y (also known as the millennials).  They found the results stunning.

To assure that they had not gotten a bad sampling, they redid the study with yet another 800 participants. The results were identical.

The findings showed an increasingly lonely and lost generation, who had lots of “friends” on social media platforms, but few if any real relationships. They noted that more people live alone than in any time of our entire social history.

The average digital usage of the millennial approaches over 6 hours a day. “Many who were interviewed view work as something that they fit in between Facebook and lunch.”

One of the participants in the email was Dr. Jolene Erlacher, an educator and author.  This summer, she has been teaching continuing education courses for teachers of K-12 (these kids are Generation Z). From these teachers, she has learned some disturbing facts.

For one, kids are having a hard time working in pairs. The either “get nervous talking to one another, or just don’t talk.”  She continues: “However, if given devices, they can communicate easily via the devices sitting next to each other in the classroom.”

The other phenomenon is what is described as the “silent” cafeterias, where students are engaged on their cellphones rather than speaking to one another. My recollections of lunchtime in school was always a noisy place with conversation going on constantly. Not anymore. “Students now sit in silence, chatting with their friends around them via their devices.”

Effectively, these kids are totally isolated from one another, even if they are three feet away. Instead of talking to each other, they are texting each other. And, it doesn’t stop in the cafeteria.

My daughter, Liz,  recently gave me a book to read (not keep, mind you). It’s by Andy Crouch and is entitled “The Tech-Wise Family”.  In reviewing this book, I was impressed by his thoroughness.  He cites Barna studies, where almost 80% of parents believe that bringing up children today is more difficult than ever.  65% of parents also rate social media/technology as their biggest concern.  So, if you are a parent reading this, you are not alone.

Perhaps the scariest statistic in the book was the revelation that only 53% of millennials say that families make up a “lot” of their identity.   That’s almost half.  When we talk about the breakdown of the family, a statistic like this shouldn’t be shocking.  Almost 40% of children are being brought up in single parent homes.

Crouch sets forth several principles, one of which bears repeating: “Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations. It’s out of its proper place when it prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.”  Can I get an amen?  The book contains practical steps for putting boundaries on technology in our lives.

By the way, the book is a short book.  I generally only recommend short books, you’ll be glad to know. Parents chose four areas as the most difficult, with the top choices being:  1) discipline, 2) time management, 3) helping their children develop good moral character, and 4) monitoring technology and social media.

One of the premises of the book is his discussion of the “nudge”.  In simplest terms, “nudges are small changes in the environment around us that make it easier for us to make the choices we want to make or want others to make.  Nudges don’t generally make us do anything, but they make certain choices easier and more likely.”

Studies show that we have a limited amount of willpower. “Nudges help us make some of the right decisions without having to use up that precious limited supply of willpower. “

He goes on to say that the makers of digital technology are absolute masters of the nudge. Even if you put your cellphone down, there is a constant noise accompanying a notification that you have an email, or a text waiting for you. It’s addictive.

He concludes by saying that nudges will never be enough to build the wisdom and courage we need. “We need something inside of us to develop the strength to make good choices, even when everything around is nudging or pushing us in the wrong direction.”

I won’t attempt to paraphrase the book, but I will recommend it to any parent, or even a mentor, to help their children or mentees develop stable habits when it comes to technology.

One concept that Crouch recommends is that at least one hour of every day, one day a week and one week a year, you should have the discipline to turn off all devices, and replace them with other things like play, feasting, worship, family time.

Continue reading “Loneliness”