I’ve spent quite a few blog posts over the last two years discussing the Millennial Generation. In the most recent effort along those lines, I even spent a day at the mall this past Saturday viewing three Generation Y-related movies back-to-back-to-back and blogging the experience.
But does that stuff really matter?
Here’s why I believe we should ponder the generational characteristics of the Millennials:
- The Millennials are college ministry’s entire audience right now. Unlike senior pastors and plenty of other Christian workers (inside and outside the church), our audience is always a very thin segment of the populace. So we’re nearly always dominated by the members of one “official” generation of people. These days, our world is utterly Millennial, and it will be that way for many more years. (More on this point here.)
- So if anybody should be concerned with demographic trends, it’s us. If there is any merit to theories of generational differences, it will show up within our world. Unlike larger, more diverse arenas (like churches), there is no blending, no melting pot (age-wise). Our groups will always be skewed heavily toward whatever generational idiosyncrasies exist. I think it’s even notable that we receive each generation at its point of “first independence” – and the “college bubble” means it’s least impacted by those in other generations, too.
- Those who know more than us have found key differences. I am not a sociologist, though my major (Psychology) got me close enough to recognize the wisdom to be gained by listening to those guys. Clearly, they have found distinct differences between groups of people over time. They make it clear that Millennials – as a group – are different from their recent ancestors.
- So knowing Millennial differences is knowing our mission field. If we went to Jamaica for years of missions work, we’d study the Jamaican people. If we wanted to plant a church in Missoula, Montana, we’d do the same thing with the Missoulans, right? Sure, we’d find plenty of similarities between what we’re used to and our new mission field, but that’s not the point. If there were even a few key differences, we’d want that information in order to best reach, best connect with, and best impact our audience. Understanding Generation Y works the same way; the differences are simply a result of time rather than geography.
That’s why I ponder Gen Y occasionally, including observing how “Millennial-ness” shows up in popular culture (like movies). Even if I didn’t blog those things, it would all still be a valuable exercise. And it’s something I’d encourage you to ponder whenever you have the chance.
Because if it’s true that there are distinct characteristics of our general audience – even though the individuals that make up that audience vary – then this is a big deal. If what we’re doing is missions, don’t we want to do everything we can to understand our particular field?
You can find all my “ponderings” so far on the Millennial Generation right here.
If you’re interested in more reviews like this weekend’s, I’ve posted hopefully-helpful “Millennial reviews” of Horton Hears a Who; Surrogates, (500) Days of Summer, and Whip It (together), Whip It (a longer review), Post Grad, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (extensively), and the musical “Wicked.”