It’s graduation season, the time of year when everyone is buzzing about the latest class to join the workforce. Once again, the focus is on Millennials, a group that seems to confound the general public. Stereotypes pin them down as the generation that wants to tweet and change the world instantaneously from the comfort of their parents’ basement.
I am a Millennial, although I’ve never been “good” at it. I would rather dance around to Etta James than Beyoncé, I haven’t opened Snapchat in a year and I’m that person who falls asleep an hour into late-night social gatherings.
But even with my subpar Millennial performance, there are three aspects of my generation that continuously impact my lifestyle and that of my peers. They’re the by-products of growing up in a digitally-connected world where communication and consumption are 24/7 and immediate:
- Social media is a constant distraction
- Impatience comes naturally
- Relationships are often surface level
Author, public speaker and ethnographer Simon Sinek identifies these and other generational traits in his discussion about the “Millennial Question.”While there are always exceptions, most Millennials probably struggle with at least one of these phenomenons. The problem is that these attributes are not conducive to a relationship with God — in fact, they counteract it.
Social media is a constant distraction. Millennials live in a world where Facebook, Snapchat and endless other websites and apps provide life updates, entertainment, news, political dialogue and much more. Social media isn’t a bad thing, but it can unconsciously steal away time, energy, and attention. Every minute of free time can be filled by scrolling through a news feed.
Yet God isn’t tweeting. He’s not commenting on our Facebook posts or sharing viral videos. Instead, it’s in the quiet moments and the times where our minds wander that God whispers truth into our lives. When we fill nearly every free second with social media, it shuts the door on opportunities to hear God speaking to us.
Impatience comes naturally. Just thinking about the dial-up Internet connections of my childhood makes me cringe. I become annoyed if my Amazon Prime two-day delivery arrives a day late. Waiting a week for the next TV show episode? I’ll be finished with the season on Netflix by then. While we now have unprecedented access to information, goods and services, it’s easy to lose patience when needs and wants aren’t met quickly.
God, however, has a different perspective on time. Prayers usually aren’t answered immediately — and sometimes the answers never come. That’s the point of faith. Trusting Him means accepting His timeline, but the Millennial mindset of instant gratification flushes out the need to wait on God.
Relationships are often surface level. Today, it takes a click to gain a new “friend.” We can tweet at any hour. What’s more, it’s socially acceptable to go to a party and wake up in a stranger’s bed. Deep relationships are possible, but the Millennial environment (including media, technology and shifting values) makes them harder to achieve and seemingly less necessary. It feels as if relationships have been watered down to having a good time, taking the perfect Instagram picture, and always having your desires met.
God isn’t satisfied with that type of relationship. His greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:27). He wants everything we have to give, all of the time. You won’t find that type of friendship on Facebook.
Given these circumstances, it’s not surprising that, overall, Millennials are moving away from God. Statistics from the Pew Research Center show that 35% of Millennials identify as atheists, agnostics, or as having no religion. That percentage beats out Generation X by 12% and is more than twice as high as the Baby Boomer generation.
What does this mean for us? Christians have always been charged with sharing their faith. Jesus’ Great Commission was to bring Christianity to the masses (Matthew 28:19–20). I believe that this mission is vital now more than ever if we are to reverse today’s generational trends.
If Millennial realities are shutting the door on God’s presence, then we have to knock directly. We need to share our stories of how God spoke to us in the silence. We need to tell how God answered prayers after months and years of patient endurance. And we need to testify about the life-giving joy and purpose that a deep relationship with God provides.
A new class of Millennials are graduating this spring. It’s time to help educate this generation about the only thing that ultimately matters: the soul-saving work of Jesus Christ.
Authored by NCC Blog Editor Catie Jones | northcentral.org