The Age of the Millenials

I have been co-teaching a course at Luther Seminary this week on Ministry with Young Adults. It is an intensive course, which means we meet for three hours every day (for a week) and most of the writing assignments are due a few weeks later. It is, as the course description implies, “intense,” and there is only so much material and information you can fit into the time we have together in the classroom. My main role in the course has been bringing in illustrations of the realities of young adult life (through music, movies and other “texts” of pop culture) and then interpreting them and inviting the students to engage the characters and stories/situations from the examples theologically; asking the questions, How might I enter into this young person’s life in an authentic and meaningful way? and How might the church become a place where these individuals feel more welcomed and accepted by God’s people, as well as inspired and challenged by the gospel message?

Yesterday in class we looked at what James Cote (author of one of our course textbooks, Arrested Adulthood: The Changing Nature of Maturity and Identity) has labeled the problems of “prolonged and undefined” adulthood. Because of these “problems” we have seen the stage of young/emerging adulthood become a very confusing life-stage with no solid markers of beginning and end; adults are living with their parents (called “boomerang” kids, see Failure to Launch), 20somethings dislike the jobs that their degrees led them to or simply don’t like working (see The Office) – so they are switching careers or choosing other work that allows them plenty of freedom, and established/”real” adults are having difficulty relating to this new generation of post-college peoples (often called “millenials”).

Here is a link to a recent segment on 60 Minutes – “The Age of the Millenials” – that was sent to me by one of the students in the class (thanks Jerry). I have invited the students to come here to find the link and watch the video since there was not enough time to watch it in class. Even if you are not in the class, please watch the segment (it’s only 12 minutes long) and join in the conversation by responding to the questions we asked in class yesterday (after watching this video, “The Machine is Us/ing Us”).

Let’s move beyond the question “is technology good or bad?” since the answer must always be “both,” but what should we be asking about the work + life + tech reality that many young adults find themselves living in today? and how do these questions – along with the opportunities and concerns they represent – impact or influence how the church relates to young people?

2 thoughts on “The Age of the Millenials

  1. I thought the 60 Minutes piece was insightful and I sent it to my wife who is a physician at the Student Health Clinic at CSU. For me, I see a generation who is seeking to make things right after experiencing some disconnects in their life (family/work expressions). It is a different culture then what has been out there in the modern age and we need to understand the shift of mindset. Okay, 50 billion spent by company’s on fitting the millenials into the work place—woooo (As Rollie would say–okay, maybe not enough o’s). A convention in Chicago emphasizing things to connect with young adult workers? We better be aware we are facing a new “emerging young adult” phase in life. Reading Arnett’s book made me think that we could offer emerging adults “explore a work style” experience to help them explore job possibilities to fit their life. Maybe this could be a less contrived expression of mentoring that could start a process of mentoring. Get to one of their big life questions as faith community and use the resources available in the community. Nothing new in this post. Just expressing some thoughts.
    Thanks. Peace!

  2. I haven’t had the chance to watch the video and this is really more of a sociological response than theological, but I can’t help but be amused and annoyed by our culture’s obsession with labels. We have to have a label for every aspect of an individual or a group of similar individuals. We’re either Depression Era, Baby Boomers, Flower Children, GenX, GenY, GenXY, Millenials… Black, White, Latino, Asian, Native American… Poverty, Working Class, Lower Middle Class, Middle Class, Upper Middle Class, Wealthy… MD, JD, BA, BS, MBA, MBC, RN, PhD, MFA, GED, ESQ… Christian-Catholic, Christian – other, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Athiest, Jewish… Married, single, divorced, widowed, separated…

    We have almost become addicted to labeling and compartmentalizing others in order to assess ourselves. We don’t even consciously realize that we do this either. It’s considered polite conversation to ask what someone does for a living, where they went to school, their marital status, family status, overall socio-economic status as we look them over and assess their approximate age bracket. Do we really need all these labels for each other and should we being drawing so many conclusions about a person or a group of people because they are asingle, Christian, B.A., Black, Middle Class Millenials or divorced, athiest, PhD, Asian, Upper Middle Class Baby Boomers? Is it really helping us connect with each other or simply magnifying our differences? What happens when the lines we have meticulously drawn begin to blur? I really don’t know.

    And how come when you fill out a survey it usually requires you to “Check One” instead of “Check All That Apply”?

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