A Good Book: The Millennials
At the request of my eldest millennial daughter I read the book, The Millennials, by Thom and Jess Rainer today. Millennial does not refer to the latest kid's 3-D movie. It refers to the generation born from 1980-2001. Those who will become adults to open this millennium.
This is a fascination research project. It tells, us that this generation is different than the ones before it. They love family, relationships, are close to their parents, thrive in social diversity, are instinctive about the use of technology, are confused about exactly what to do with money, and are mostly spiritually indifferent. Chapters run through the research, but not in a dry way. Mixing anecdote and data, what emerges is the complex profile of what is the largest American generation yet. Any church leader interested in young people should read and digest this book.
I will use but one example to explore how this book probes. In the chapter on family (and this generation is sold on family, even though many of them come from split homes), they review the shows on TV that profile the family to show what has happened to its portrayal from 1950-1990. First, there was Leave It to Beaver, the perfect household. Then in the 1960's came the more complicated the Clampetts of Beverly Hillbillies. In the 1980's we had the African-American family of The Cosby Show and the middle class Home Improvement . In the 1990's Married with Children now highlighted the dysfunctional family. Actually the survey is more complex. All in the Family showed dysfunction at its funniest with Archie Bunker. The recent modern version was Everybody Loves Raymond, which took us into the millennium. Here are shows that characterize the family with humor and some elements of truth. The portraits became more complex as we hit the 1970s. With this change in the background, millennials value family and friends, even amidst the chaos. That was the most fundamental value this generation has according to the careful survey.
Connecting means engagement and relational genuineness. The harder fact is that there is a deep distrust of large institutions, such as the polemical politics of our country and of the church, which is seen as too inward and self serving to inspire loyalty or produce impact. Sorting through all of this the authors (father and son, boomer and millennial) help us understand the generation that is now arriving to make an impact in our country. This is a good book and well worth the time and reflection.