In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of young people these days. Teenagers, college students, twentysomethings are everywhere. If it seems to you like everywhere you turn you see a young adult with ear buds in and head bobbing, or gazing into an open laptop, or a chatting/texting on a smart phone (or doing all at once), it is because they are everywhere.
The Millennial Generation (born about 1980-82 forward) comprises the largest group in history, bigger than my generation, the Baby Boomers. The most studied, varied, and fascinating group in American history has entered the marketplace in record numbers.
Scores of books have been written about this crowd. Just go to amazon.com and enter “Millennials” and you will see what I mean. I have written about them a good bit myself. They want a cause (if you have heard about adoption, human trafficking, or similar causes you probably heard it from a millennial). They believe they can make a positive impact in our time, and for that I am glad (we need it). They actually like their parents. According to one study 80% of this generation believes they can marry one person for life and find fulfillment in family. Pretty good for a generation that is the most fatherless in U.S. history.
I have spent my life with this generation. I speak to thousands of them every year and teach scores and scores each semester. I serve them (we call them Young Professionals or Young Pros, the older millennials at Richland Creek Community Church). My wife and I have even raised a couple of them. We love them!
There is another thing you need to know about this generation. They long for a mentor. In their excellent book The Millennials, authors Jess and Thom Rainer note the desire for mentors among the millennials, how 3 out of 4 want someone to do more than just tell them what to do, but instead to have someone to show them how. They add that 40% of adult millennials have a mentor currently.
What the Rainers write about I observe daily. The millennials I know want someone to come alongside them who can show them how to live, how to work out life but not alone. The Bible teaches this as well. In Titus 2 we read where Paul encouraged young men to learn from older men and older women to teach younger women.
Think about it: young adults today have spent huge amounts of time from preschool to college graduation mostly around people their age. This is a recent phenomenon in terms of human history, and is by no means a totally positive reality. In our Young Pros ministry at the Creek we have small groups that meet in the homes of married couples who have lived a little longer and can mentor those in their group. In addition, millennials want real community, more than just hanging out. This generation is pushing conventional churches to rethink small groups that can help community to flourish.
If you study great spiritual awakenings in history you will find that young people played a vital role in their birth and spread. This is true of missionary movements as well. But small groups also played a key role as young adults and others met to encourage one another to take new risks for Christ. We have before us a new generation hungry for something bigger than themselves. They need to see and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. They need a mentor. They need community.
And they can change the world. They already are.
That is why I love teaching at a seminary. There is literally not a day in the week when I am not meeting with at least one millennial in some kind of ministry context. Yesterday it had to do largely with relationships with the opposite sex; today it is finishing an ebook with a very bright young millennial. Tomorrow it will be interacting with millennials in the context of a seminar at our church, and Sunday it will be at lunch after services. I have the amazing blessing of being immersed in a sea of millennials who yearn to be mentored. This is why I love being a part of ministry to them at my church. And, some of these with whom I meet regularly have yet to meet Christ. My wife regularly shares meals with young ladies who yearn to learn from someone who has lived life longer and has much to share with a younger generation.
With all the talk about leadership today we can lose sight of the fact that a lot of young adults need a leader less than they need a mentor. Who is a young adult you invest in right now? You don’t have to be a great public speaker or a recognized leader of people to be a mentor. Find someone, invest, and help someone younger to be remarkable.
Join the movement. I dare you. Be a mentor.