This material is the fourth in a series intended to help you understand the multiple generations of your congregation, their characteristics, preferences and the way they react as you lead your congregation.
For the first time in history, our churches are facing the struggle of having four generations, and even in some situations as many as five generations, attempting to do “church” together. Each generation has certain traits and characteristics that can be evaluated and compared. From this analysis we can determine how to successfully minister to those in the local congregation and reach others.
The Bridger Generation (due to the fact that they bridge into the 21st century); more commonly called the Millennial Generation or Gen Y
Born 1984- 2002
This generation is called the Ritalin Generation because 2.5 million of them have or are taking Ritalin for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). They’re also called the Mosaics, which points to the fact that they are a homogeneous generation on views, tastes, beliefs, and ethnicity. NetGen points to the fact that they are the first generation to grow up with the internet.
Some researchers divide this group into two subgroups: Gen Y generation was born between 1984-1993 and Millennials were born 1994 -2002.
This group is part of what is called post-modernism. The postmodern world no longer accepts truth at face value. According to postmodern thinking, all acts and knowledge should be called into question. Globalization has led to the notion that there are multiple correct truths to any question. The shift in the worldview has led to new styles of processing information.
They’ve grown up with…
- Computers – actually computer dependent
- Cell phones – everyone has one!
- MTV – What used to take hours to tell a story now is done in four minutes! These mini-epics shape the lives of viewers. Rock stars shape every aspect of this generation.
- Musical variety – Rather than being something that solidifies teens by offering a common perception on life, today’s music unites but also separates us. Musical taste is extremely fragmented. This goes to the point of shaping our language, fashion, activities, friends and attitudes around musical style.
- Diversity – This generation is more racially and ethnically diverse than any other generation. In 2000, minorities made up more than 33% of this generation, and that percentage continues to climb.
- Lived during Columbine massacre
- Longer life span – which will probably result in a healthier generation that works longer
- Speed is king!
- Customized lifestyles – Rather than the stereotypical family with a white picketed fence house, mom, dad, two kids and a dog, living in the same home all of their lives and being loyal to their employer, this generation desires to customize their own personal dream tailored to his or her own interests. Each day becomes organized to pack the most into a day.
- Terrorist attacks
Characteristics of the Bridger Generation
They have an entrepreneurial spirit and seem more inclined to go into business than past generations. Research is suggesting that this may be due in part to so many of their mothers working outside the home. This has caused parents of the Bridgers to desire to be friends with their children rather than authority figures over them. Boomers remember struggling with their parents which became known as the generation gap. Therefore, they’ve given their children more power in decision making. As a result, parents see their children as much more advanced than they were at the same age. Also, since the Boomers are working longer, Bridgers are fearful that there will not be jobs open to them when they reach adulthood.
They are completely tech savvy – They use their cell phones, iPad, and laptops. The internet is their back yard! They no longer have land-line phones in their homes. They’re always carrying their phone. All of their correspondence is done by email. They pay their bills online. They buy and sell over the internet.
There is a trend toward Neotraditionalism – They are fed up with the superficialities of life. Since they’ve not had a lot of stability in life, they’re looking for it. They’re returning to tradition and ritual. They want the perfect marriage, the romantic partner, and home life is a priority. Cross cultural and interracial unions are not taboo but fashionable. They like tradition and are looking for tradition, but it is not the tradition we know.
This group is super fragmented – There are subgroups to reach every identifiable group. Example: Men used to read Sports Illustrated, and that could reach across the board. Today, the magazine still exists, but there is also GamePro, Nintendo Power, Skateboarding and many others. This has also happened in the area of music.
They’ve become much more sophisticated! – They’re maturing and making decisions at a much younger age. They’re exposed to things at ages much younger than previous generations.
They’re very interactive, doing multiple things at one time, while talking and communicating with several friends. They live on the internet. They want to feel connected and for many, that is accomplished in technology groups, such as Facebook, Twitter and a myriad of other groups that continue to pop up. Instant Messaging, FaceTime and other instant means of communication are vital to this generation.
They are demanding – They want their time filled with activities. There is a technology gap developing between them and their parents.
They are extremely diverse and at the same time very tolerant – They respect other people and their points of view. They believe it is important to be sensitive to other people’s feelings and to avoid hurting them. They listen to what other people say and believe without challenging them. If it is right for you, then that is cool, but it may not be right for me, which is also cool.
Ministering to Millennials/Bridgers
They’re looking for a faith that is rooted in doctrine. They want to discover answers for themselves rather than being told what to believe. They do not want to be taught that truth exists and that challenging other people’s viewpoints is okay. In their desire to accept others and their beliefs, this group often overlook the truth of God’s written word.
They’ve grown up in a consumer society and are highly opinionated when it comes to what they buy and why they buy it. They are pragmatic, convenience-focused, and value-insistent when it comes to spending their money or investing their time. They look for the usefulness in everything. They want up-to-date content with good service. Therefore, the church must develop programs that offer immediate take-home value.
Because many have faced serious problems earlier than previous generations, Millennials/Bridgers have become more confident, competent and cautious. They are creative, ingenious and self-actualized. They do everything their way. They’re looking at church leaders to make sure what they say matches their behavior. They are looking for an active faith, lived out in front of them, and they will need time and space to evaluate the truth before they believe it.
They see spiritual growth as a multi-layered pilgrimage for one’s entire life rather than a single event or moment in time. Discipling this generation is not about debate, proposition and linear thought; it is about connection, holism and dialogue. Churches must help these individuals understand that believing in Christ involves following Christ in all areas of life.
Technology must be seen as a ministry tool. Computers and cell phones are necessities to this generation and they expect churches to be using that technology.
This is the most ethnically diverse generation to come along, and as a result, they are asking serious questions about traditional racial and ethnic categories. Many are of mixed races. About 1 in 35 are mixed race. They like ethnic food, have heroes of every race, and listen to all styles of music. They expect churches to be racially and ethnically inclusive. However, greater racial and ethnic diversity is also creating a polarization among some members of this generation. Hate groups are increasingly visible, most neighborhoods remain segregated, and racial tension among students is still reported. With this greater tolerance comes the acceptance of homosexuality in society. While the church must hold on to biblical moral and ethical standards, they must demonstrate love for the sinner while hating the sin. This generation is more inclined to see evolution as the best explanation of human life and less prone to see Hollywood as threatening their moral values. At the same time, they are no less convinced than their elders that there are absolute standards of right and wrong.
Since 16 percent grew up with a stepparent, they are taking longer to choose a mate and take vows of marriage. They long for the stability of family.
Millennials/Bridgers are used to women being in leadership. Women are more independent while desiring to have strong families. They want their own careers, and many own their own businesses.
A large proportion of young adults who are unaffiliated with a religion is a result of the decision of many young people to leave the religion of their upbringing without becoming involved with a new faith. Nearly one in five adults under age 30 say they were raised in a religion but are now unaffiliated with any particular faith.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]