What is up with Millennials?

“Oh no, not another article on Millennials,” you say? I strive to not write on a “hot” topic unless I think I can contribute something at least somewhat unique. So, please watch, and then read, before moving on.

Someone recently asked a question that essentially said, “Why is God going to have us in a kingdom ruled by Millennials?” This person was confusing Christ’s millennial kingdom, in which “millennial” means “a thousand years” with “millennial” as in the generation born from 1980 to 2000. With all the scorn the Millennial generation receives, some of it earned, some of it unwarranted, few people would have any interest in living in a kingdom ruled by Millennials...unless there is unlimited free avacado toast...anyway...moving on...

It was a few years ago that I really started to notice how different I am from most Millennials. I heard a group of young Millennials talking about how they didn’t want to get their drivers’ licenses because they like having their parents chauffer them around all the time and/or use Uber/Lyft. It floored me. I got my driver’s license the day I turned 16. I desperately wanted the independence that comes with the ability to transport myself. So, what if it meant I had to be responsible, save up money for a car, pay for my own gas, and eventually pay for all of my auto insurance? It was worth it. “Why aren’t Millennials like that?” I wondered in stupefied befuddlement! Several other incidents only furthered my dumbfoundedness.

At first, I thought it was entirely a matter of age. I am part of Generation X, born near the tail end of the Gen X birth years (1960ish-1980ish). Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are those born from 1980ish to 2000ish. So, age is a factor in the clear differences I notice. Hopefully, I have matured over the years. I fully expect some of the things I don’t understand about Millennials to fade away as they mature. I distinctly remember older people complaining about how they didn’t understand Generation X when I was younger.

I am sure some of the people in the generation that preceded the Baby Boomers thought the Baby Boomers were a bunch of whiney, lazy, good-for-nothings. Some of this is cyclical. One generation ages and matures. They see the frivolity and aimlessness of the younger generation and complain about it. They tell the younger generation to grow up, get a job, etc., etc. That younger generation eventually grows up, discovers the wonder of gainful employment, matures, and starts to complain how useless and lazy the next generation is.

I also do not want to over-generalize. Millennials are a very diverse generation. Not every trait common to Millennials in general is found in every particular Millennial. In fact, some of the loudest complainers about Millennials are other Millennials. I find it very entertaining to listen to older Millennials complain about younger Millennials. Further, the undesirable traits we notice in Millennials can be found in people of every other generation. As an example, Millennials are often rightly accused of being narcissistic. Well, I know some Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers who can out narcissist any Millennial.

I also want to point out that many of the faults commonly pointed out in Millennials are due to the way they were raised. Who were/are Millennials primarily raised by? Generation X, my generation. So, we all need to be careful when we point fingers. Often people pointing out faults need to be hit in the head with the boomerang they threw.

With all of that said, Millennials, as a whole, are often more narcissistic, self-absorbed, lazy, distracted, frivolous, and mouchy (not a real word, I know) than previous generations, even when those generations were the ages Millennials are now. Why is this? Are Millennials more infected with sin than previous generations? No. Did Millennials have more lenient and pampering parents than previous generations? Maybe, but that isn’t a sufficient explanation.

My biblically-informed hypothesis is that these issues are the result of Millennials being the least “Christian” generation in recent history. In surveys, while Millennials are just as “spiritual” as preceding generations, they give less credence to the Bible and attend church less frequently. And, when they do attend church, they are far more likely to attend a church that caters to their “felt needs” than a church that teaches the Bible. Fewer Millennials are Christians, and many of those who are have little interest in discipleship and progressing in spiritual maturity.

As the world becomes less Christian with each generation (and by “less Christian” I mean “contains fewer genuine committed Christians”), we will see people devolve into further and further self-absorption. The world will become less forgiving, less merciful, less gracious, less wise, less discerning, less productive, more demanding, more distracted—you get the picture.

When people become Christians, they receive a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19) and become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Without that new heart, humanity is accurately described by Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Most of what we dislike about Millennials are annoyances. But, unless God performs a miracle, the generations will continue to drift further away from biblical Christianity. Judges 17:6 will increasingly be true: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” See also 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

In other words, if you think Millennials are bad, wait until Generation Z reaches adulthood.

Lord have mercy!

Until we can transition to complaining about Gen-Zers, what are we to do about Millennials?

(1) Avoid plank-eye syndrome (Matthew 7:3-5). For example, are you just as addicted to your smartphone as many Millennials are to theirs?

(2) Find a Millennial to love, encourage, befriend, disciple, pray for, and when necessary, rebuke (Matthew 28:19-20; John 13:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24).

(3) If you are the parent of a Millennial (or Generation Z-er), stop endorsing and enabling their self-indulgent behavior. Set a positive example in the way you live your life. May we all be able to advocate 1 Corinthians 11:1 with honesty and integrity, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

S. Michael Houdmann

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What is up with Millennials?