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Newsletter of Holy Trinity Church, Portland, Maine -  October, 2011

 

Getting to Know Millennials

Posted by Fr. Constantine

I’ve been reading a fascinating book that has just been published, Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation Is Remaking America, by Morley Winograd and Michael Hais. Based on extensive sociological data, it presents a vivid picture of the values and ambitions of the so-called Millennial Generation. This is the generation of those born between 1982 and 2003, who number 95 million strong! They are the largest generational group in American society. The authors compare this generation to the Greatest Generation in what it might achieve.
The authors see the Millennials as using technologies to “provide communication capabilities that will undermine hierarchical organizational structures in government and business, modifying, if not entirely eliminating, the top-down, command-and-control structures built by members of the GI Generation during and after World War II.”
One Millennial, Derek Anderson, states his generation’s ambitions this way: “we are the rising heroes of the planet, whether we want to be or not…. We need to put on the big-kid pants, suit up, and deal with the problems handed down to us. I don’t think there is a more prepared generation for the job…. We are an over-qualified super weapon that is being presented with unreal opportunities for both good and bad.” But Anderson also remembers the words Uncle Ben spoke to Spiderman, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
The authors describe “a recurring pattern of four generational archetypes” that appears in a cyclical manner through American history:
“Idealists” are ideological and uncompromising in their beliefs and values. Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are the current Idealist generation.
“Reactives” tend to be individualistic, risk-taking, entrepreneurial, and pragmatic. Generation X (born between 1965 and 1982) is the Reactive generation of today.
 “Civics” focus on resolving societal challenges and building institutions. They display a high degree of optimism. The GI Generation, popularly known as the “Greatest Generation” (born between 1901 and 1924), is the highly revered Civic generation of the previous cycle. The Millennial Generation is the Civic generation of the current cycle.
 “Adaptives” tend to be conformists, avoid risk, and prefer compromise.
The Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945) were the last Adaptive generation. It’s too early to give a descriptive name to the current Adaptive generation (those born beginning in 2004). Millennial Values One statement sums up my main interest in this book: “To Millennials, we are all brothers and sisters under the skin.” Millennials are community oriented, a sure reflection of their use of social networking. “Millennials, more than other generations, support racial and ethnic equality and inclusion, and look for win-win solutions that advance the welfare of everyone, whether it's their friends or all of society. They have taken to heart the lessons imparted to them as toddlers when their parents sat them in front of the TV to watch a show about a purple dinosaur named Barney. The program made it clear that even though on the outside Barney was "as different as he could be, on the inside he was just like you and me."” In contrast to the ideological and divisive character of Baby Boomers, Millennials look at today’s controversies and “wonder what all the shouting is about.” I like that, don’t you?
 On many moral issues, Millennials are more tolerant than the generations before them. The biggest exception is abortion, where Millennials tend to be less accepting of abortion rights than the Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers. “Many in the younger generation see abortion as less a matter of women's rights than a conflict between individual rights and societal values. As with civic generations before them, Millennials more often than not place a greater premium on the latter than the former.”
A large majority of Millennials believe in God, but many describe themselves as “more spiritual than religious.” Millennials are twice as likely as Boomers not to be affiliated with a particular church or denomination. Only a third regularly attend religious services. Perhaps Millennials have a message which churches should heed..
“Millennials have been taught since they were toddlers that the best way to solve a societal problem is to act upon it locally, directly, and as a part of a larger group. Tired of exalted rhetoric from Boomer leaders that rarely produced results and frustrated by their older Gen-X siblings' lack of interest in pursuing any collective action to address broad social problems, young Millennials have embraced individual initiative linked to community action. In 2009, over thirteen million American teenagers volunteered an average of three hours per week, providing over two billion hours of service to the nation. Eighty-five percent of college-age Millennials consider voluntary community service an effective way to solve… the world’s problems. Applications to join the Peace Corps jumped 40 percent in 2009 after a 16 percent increase in 2008.” In short, Millennials love to serve their country and their community.
 Millennials Among Us
Millennials have a “greater degree of global sophistication” than older Americans. It gives the generation, as one Millennial put it, “a new sense of geography…. Within my relatively close social circle, I can quickly think of friends whose parents come from Mexico, Israel, Iran, Brazil Russia, Uruguay, Korea.” I have seen this “new sense of geography” in the young people from our church who attended a Paideia summer camp in Greece a couple years ago. As John Makrides told me, his son Chris came back from that camp with new connections as far away as New Zealand. Electronic global connectivity is the hallmark of the Millennial Generation – and that can only be a good thing for the future of the planet!
While reading this book I couldn’t help but recall how much I admire today’s youth, their energy, optimism, their family values, their care for others. I have also noticed an amazing lack of obsession with money. I have seen this in my Millennial nephews and nieces. We older members of society can so easily form judgments about young people, especially when we look at their tattoos, piercings, and what we might consider their unworried attitudes about money and work. Yet, I find Millennials refreshing compared to my own Boomer generation and the Generation X that came after. It has become an everyday occurrence for a tattooed young man or woman to open the door for me or greet me with a smile at a store or on the street.
I was finishing up this article when I received by email an article by Arielle Tselikis about her mission trip to a Russian orphanage this past summer. I had previously asked her to write this article and when it arrived I saw it as a confirmation of what I read in the book and wrote here. So read the article by Arielle starting here below, and see it as an example of the values of the Millennial Generation. While it’s always a tricky thing to make generalizations, the picture of Millennials painted in the book by Winograd and Hais is confirmed by much of my own experience; which might be your experience as well. Next time you see a Millennial, smile back.

 Love, Fr. Constantine





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