Things have changed again! Put away the Matrix DVD, snuff out the candles and eject the U2 CD that you were just about to use for the Youth Service, just as Pastors were getting used to those wacky Gen X’s with their dysfunctions, piercings and depressing music, Generation Y has arrived, and they are very, very, very different. Demographers are calling them ‘echo boomers’ - they are like Baby Boomers on steroids - really, really strong steroids….I’m talking like Soviet Union era Weightlifting team steroids. They are motivated, clear about their goals and posses tremendous self-confidence. A leader of a major Youth ministry movement shared with me how much more he preferred Gen Y’s to Gen X’s. He found Gen X too introspective and cynical. This baby boomer leader felt that the Gen Y generation with their ‘can do’ attitude would usher in a golden era for the church. As he ranted excitedly I sat quietly and thought to myself, “He has forgotten one major problem.” Generation Y is highly unlikely to see a life following Jesus as a viable option.
Something is different with Generation Y. In fact they are so different that I have had to invent terms and phrases to communicate exactly how their faith works;
“Now!ism” > When living in the moment becomes the whole focus of life. Seeking happiness coupled with a miniscule attention span, means that programs that last more than just a few moments become subverted by the individual. Unless benefits or change are seen instantaneously the project will be dropped for the next best thing. The long-term tasks of Mission and Discipleship are rendered totally ineffective by the mindset of ‘Now!ism’.
“The All consuming Monster of Disposable Experience” > The consumer world of the 21st century is not just about amassing products and services but also experiences. Young people accrue experiences in order to establish their place in the social hierarchy and to pursue meaning and happiness. Too often leaders underestimate the ability of young people to turn meaningful spiritual encounters and seemingly effective Christian events into another experience to consume and dispose of. It’s easy to attract a crowd of Gen Y’s to an event; it’s another thing to have them live transformed lives.
“Pagan Envy” > In a hedonistic culture where Big Brother is king, many Christian young people see pleasure as the only route to fulfillment and happiness. Thus many young Gen Y leaders confess ‘off the record’ how hard it is to share their faith with friends who have the lifestyle they secretly wish for.
“New-Atheism” > For the last 15 years church experts have been heralding the death of atheism and the resurgence of interest in spirituality. Many churches have rebranded, remissionalized and restructured to attract ‘spiritual seekers’. However for Y’s, atheism is back! Generation Y has come of age in a time of incredible economic boom in the West. They have lived their formative years in a sea of saturation advertising that has dramatically raised their expectations of life. Even the events of 9/11 and the threat of terrorism have not been able to dent their almost mystical faith in the economy and the inevitable good life. Who needs God when society promises you a virtual cornucopia of sexual, social, travel, and consumer experiences to lavish you with pleasure?
This is the point where we just want answers to make it all better, but it’s probably best you sit with this stuff for a while. But let me reassure you, yes there are some answers! Do I have time to tell you what they are here? No…I didn’t even get to share my other terms; Multi-Selves”, “Jesus Resentment”, “HappyWorld™”, “Girlconomy”, and“Achievable Heaven….. oh well, maybe next time. But between now and then let’s open our eyes to see what’s really going on, what is influencing our young people, and how in turn we too are being influenced.