“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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4 thoughts on “Millennials

  1. […] Learning about this growing group surprised me, because most millennials are often described as “spenders” but not “savers”,  which is more an attribute of Generation […]

  2. […] college, taking on student debt at unprecedented levels which averages $33,000 each.  They already distrusted institutions of all kinds – government, education, business and even the institutional church.  The pandemic […]

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