January 12th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
Have the Boomer and Builder generations, in search of stability, forgotten the days when we wanted to impact our world? Have we forgotten our calling as change agents in the Kingdom of God?
Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us that as long as we still have breath we are running the race.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us cast off the encumbrances and sin that so easily entangles us running with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus….”
The author of Hebrews refers to the cloud of witnesses found in chapter 11, the Old Testament saints. It can also apply to an older generation…to the Boomers and Builders who have become a great cloud of witnesses to cheer on, encourage and support the largest generation the world has ever known…the Millennials!
That’s right, nearly half the world’s population is under 25! We cannot sit idly by as the older generation and expect them to cater to us. Our wisdom, heritage, affluence, time and retirement are not for our self indulgence, but “for Him who died and rose again on our behalf.”
As one who has worked for over 35 years in collegiate ministry, who sees the vast number of Millennials entering our colleges, who believes that if you reach the colleges for Christ you can change a nation and world, I offer some of my hopes for this fantastic group and how parents, grandparents and churches can enable them to carry on the race!
Here are my hopes:
First, that this generation will not settle for a moralistic, therapeutic deism. According to a recent study found in the book Soul Searching by Melinda Denton, our kids are getting inoculated with religion but not connected with the transforming power of the living God.
The central goal in life is to be happy and feel good about oneself. God is not critical except to solve problems. Heaven is assured but not relevant to life today. Have we in evangelical churches settled for a semi-Christian, moral, affluent, feel good code that students abandon upon entering college?
Oh that we would find fully devoted followers of Jesus who have parents, grandparents, and student ministers walking alongside them from junior high through their college experience revealing a deep relational connection with them and God.
Second, that the Millennials will find a church willing to engage them with wisdom and grace. Boomers and Builders: put away the notion that life will ever be like the good old days! The “current cloud of witnesses” can continue to insist on their way, their hymns, their structure and their battles or recognize the church is an organism needing to flex and change throughout the ages.
Rather than insisting on our music, insist on implementing what reaches the greatest number of people for Christ! Shout loudly in our churches that we will do whatever is needed to impact this generation.
Leonard Sweet coined the acronym E.P.I.C. to describe how the Millennials learn. Tim Elmore in the excellent book Generation iY describes how our public schools and institutions must embrace these concepts in order to teach the largest generation in history. Surely the church must do the same!
Experiential meaning you must “see something, do something, not just hear something.” Putting up a screen and doing away with the overhead projector will not engage this group.
Participatory, meaning this generation is invited to “upload” and process daily thoughts and ideas. How do we as the church allow the Millennials to participate?
Now understand, these are students who have walked in the shadows of the Himalayas, trekked in the jungles of Southeast Asia, walked near and prayed for ladies in brothels in Asia and New Orleans, spent days sharing Christ in the decadence of Padre Island and Panama City during Spring Break. They come to our churches and we want them to be on a committee? Please!
Connected through technology and relationships. If you do not text, Facebook or engage in some form of social media, your introductions into this generation are limited or nonexistent. For the Millennials they have never lived without these forms of communication. To be heard, speak where they are listening.
Paul went to the synagogue, to the Areogapsus in Athens. He spoke the language of the audience. Age does not change this strategy! Where are you willing to go?
Third, that churches, parents and grandparents will begin preparing every student from junior high through their senior year of high school to serve as a student missionary during their college years. Texas Baptists, through Go Now Missions, offers great opportunities as do other quality groups on campuses.
Many of our students enter the campus with a goal to get ahead and fulfill the American dream. If God helps them, great. But He is secondary to what they have heard from parents, friends and mentors. Parents, grandparents, youth workers, student pastors, church leaders, affluent churches please rethink the depth of our homes and ministries! If we are known by our fruit, why is there a 70-85 percent dropout rate from church when students enter college?
Fourth, that parents would stop hovering, stop the “helicopter” syndrome. Why must a parent talk and text with their child every day about all of their decisions, contacts, conflicts? Many college students do not apply for student missions because their parents cannot be in control when the child serves! Often I hear Christian parents discourage their children from obeying God’s direction for their lives.
Universities are conducting parent seminars, hiring staff to deal with parents. Unfortunately parents are finding their meaning exclusively in their children, expecting to take on roles that only God intended for Himself. Let’s celebrate the close connections parents desire with their children but also find ways to “push the children out of the nest.” Yes, let’s encourage networking and academic success but not to the exclusion of God’s claims on their lives.
The two books mentioned here are worth reading: Tim Elmore’s iY Generation, Our Last Chance to Save Their Future and Melinda Denton’s Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Together as those who have seen and witnessed His great power, let’s engage this group to follow Christ to the ends of the earth.