Recently I found an old video from 2018 where Entrepreneur and Speaker Simon Sinek was explaining what he calls the Millennial Question. Essentially, the Millennial Question refers to how Sinek was often asked, “What do we do with these Kids?” Now, to be fair, every generation complains about the one that follows. However, while there are certainly exceptions, the Millennial generation has really struggled with entry into adulthood and Sinek’s analysis of this is rather insightful.
So, what does this have to do with us you ask?
Ministry leaders have been essentially asking the exact same question that these business leaders have been asking. These days, we are struggling to understand why it is that Millennials have, for the most part, either abandoned the Faith or at the least, abandoned the Church. Of course what is convenient for us is to just blame them for being selfish… and we often do. But what is needed is for us to try and understand them and meet them where they are.
So, Sinek gives four characteristics that in his mind, seem to be driving the Millennial question:
The first characteristic is that failed parenting strategies have led to a sense of entitlement and narcissism coupled with an absolute lack of resilience and self-efficacy. Thus, they are assertive about what they think they need, when in reality they really have no idea what they need.
The second characteristic is that technology gives us the ability to present a false image of beauty, security, success and accomplishment; while hiding the gnawing sense of fear and shame that lurks behind the Instagram filters. But the “Likes” are addictive and feeling good for a moment is better than not feeling good at all. Thus, fragility and low self-esteem collide with a desperate need for a community of people to love them, and yet they find themselves unable to form deep and meaningful relationships because technology has robbed them of that.
The third characteristic is that of instant gratification. Millennials have come of age in a world where everything can be theirs immediately. This conditioning for instant gratification has made them impatient, and so, while they long for a life of purpose and meaningful relationships, they lack the tenacity and resilience needed to invest themselves. They know that they want to make a difference in the world, to have an impact, but all of these goals are processes that require time and commitment.
The fourth characteristic is that of the environments which they enter into as adults. Having been protected through college from anything that might unsettle them, they find the adult world cold and uncaring. Being unprepared to navigate a world that is geared toward profit instead of people, focused on short-term goals instead of long-term ones, they find that all that they fear about themselves is reinforced over and over again.
According to Simon Sinek, it is the responsibility of leadership to mentor and empower this next generation and help them reach their full potential. Yes, it is not fair to inherit a problem created by someone else’s choices, but it is the scenario in which business leaders find themselves. And at the end of the day, it does no good to tell these young people to grow up and be responsible for themselves because they don’t know how.
As I reflected on this, I found myself thinking, how much more this is true for the Church. We are all born into brokenness and death, through no fault of our own. We are the children of the Fall, exiled from Eden and suffering because of the sin of Adam. This generation’s struggle begins here and then is compounded by the four characteristics which Sinek has observed.
What Millennials need is what everyone needs, for us to come along side them, to love them where they are and as they are. They need for us to be that true Community of support, mentoring and empowering them, modeling the hard choices of patience and resilience with godliness. What they ultimately need is to experience the lived theology of redemption, reconciliation and restoration. God has a plan and a purpose for their lives. They are His workmanship (cf. Ephesians 2:10), but they are our responsibility (cf. Galatians 6:2).