Over the past decade I’ve had the privilege of serving alongside 20-Somethings, known as well by the term “Millennials” – and have enjoyed doing so immensely. They make me laugh, keep me young-at-heart, encourage and impress me…but that’s just half the story. The other half are my concerns and corresponding challenges raised by what I see as the rather spoiled, narcissistic, and entitled generation they’ve become…or, more accurately, the generation we’ve created. As much as I’ve loved mentoring, training, and retreating with them, they’ve been equally challenging to parent (our two children are also of this generation) and even more so to employ.
When asked recently what I thought were the more commonly held characteristics of a “millennial leader” I paused and reflected deeply, looking back on my own experiences and around at the research. In my most recent blog I noted the best article I found on the subject from the Boston College Center for Work and Family. What follows are my personal musings on what makes for a millennial “spiritual” leader. Please let me know your reactions…nothing here is set in cement.
1. Since they are known today as one of the most entitled generations, with an explicit emphasis on “being special” I’m wondering if one of the positive ripple effects is that the millennial spiritual leader may actually become a leader who genuinely loves others unconditionally and from the heart. With their first foot forward in leadership as love and acceptance, they quite possibly will understand more significantly what incarnational ministry is all about.
2. With no tolerance for –isms like racisim, sexism, legalism, and even materialism, and with a sensibility toward accepting others with a non-judgmental attitude, will their more egalitarian leadership style consider everyone deserving their fair share in most if not all aspects of human life and growth?
3. As a generation marked by community, with a relational priority at all times, might this be a generation which makes team service the norm, and a flatter organization chart their top choice, mostly as a reaction to what they perceive as the power-based hierarchical approach of their boomer predecessors?
4. With social media as a given, this Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/YouTube generation will most likely embrace all forms of technology even as a viable alternative to the care and nurture of the soul. As a visual, creative, innovative generation, they undoubtedly will legitimize technology as central to soul care and will figure out how best to use it with and for all levels of maturity.
5. As this generation stays actively connected via all forms of technology, silence, solitude and Sabbath rhythms of rest and renewal will most likely be compromised. Who will be the millennials who stand up for the deeper life of the Spirit and see the value of silence as the welcomed furnace of real spiritual transformation?
6. With a need and desire to truly make a difference in this world, it will be interesting to see if millennial leaders will more quickly embrace a social missional narcissism (or a narcissistic mission?), which will prioritize doing what makes one feel good about oneself as opposed to a more global approach for a much wider audience of need. Without many institutional loyalties, it will be fascinating to watch how social action and international mission get redefined by today’s growing number of millennials.
7. Since most millennials don’t want to work as long and hard as their previous generation of workaholic boomers, and make every effort to maintain no more than a 40-hour work week, will their clear divide between work and personal life produce a healthy margin and/or a lower standard of living?
8. Correspondingly, and with so many millennials still financially dependent upon their parents, will the millennial leader end up choosing meaning over money in most if not all areas of career, service, and marketplace experience, and if so, for how long in their work life will this last given the economic pressures of raising a family today?
9. As a teachable, mentorable, and enjoyable generation to serve alongside, will the importance of the biblical text continue to deepen and grow widely among millennials, or will they depend upon major ministry leaders and well known pastors to guide them along and define for them the theological issues that matter most? In addition, where will the Scriptures be studied and/or reflected upon for reasons of personal piety and holiness?
10. Finally, I wonder how the millennial spiritual leader will facilitate a prayer life that keeps in step with God’s heart…will their more casual, relaxed relationship with God end up washing away any sense of the majesty of and an awesome reverence for Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? And, will they forge ahead without much regard for the historic Church?
All of the above are merely musings, with limited research, all gleaned from a more defined setting. But, they are the questions that I ponder deeply each new season of working with millennials and watching them grow as Christ followers and spiritual leaders in this generation. May the Lord grant His loving protection over their hearts and minds as they take the reins and learn to lead others into a sustainable Christian life in, with and for our Great God.