“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” Hebrews 5:12
Millennials get a bad rep. We are known as the “Me Me Me Generation” and the “Peter Pan generation.” Although these labels may be unfair, I think there is also some truth to them. At the stage we are at in life, it is tempting to enjoy all of the freedoms of adulthood with none of its responsibilities. So many of us end up straddling the middle-ground between childhood and adulthood, and it’s not a new problem. In fact, I think C.S. Lewis described our predicament pretty well in The Last Battle, the final installment of his Chronicles of Narnia. Susan, one of the original four visitors from our world to Narnia, becomes too caught up in her social life to have time for Narnia. Another character explains, “She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”
This is the reality for many millennials. We don’t have children or aging parents who rely on us, but we do have disposable income and relatively few debts. It feels as if life is ours for the taking. And that’s why older generations see us as selfish. Here are a few areas in which I think young adults can improve.
Spend Time with People Who Are Not Your Age
In school, we were surrounded by people our own age. Although it’s natural to continue “flocking” with others in our age group, it can be severely limiting. I have made friends with some incredible people who are in their fifties and up. Seek out the wisdom of elders, not just because you need it but because they need our perspective as well. They are our connection to the past, and we are their connection to the future.
The same goes for the younger generations too. If you don’t have kids now but hope to someday, why not practice your parenting skills now? Spend time with kids and teenagers in your family or your church. Babysit. Help out your youth ministry. Volunteer at an after-school program. There are so many ways to invest in kids, and it’s easy because most of them will think you’re awesome simply because you’re a “big person” who is giving them attention. And speaking of volunteering . . .
Volunteer Your Time
As young professionals, we have more free time than most. And what do we do with that time? Binge-watch Netflix? Play weekend-long tournaments on Xbox? That is not living. Living is loving and serving others. And to do that we need to get off the couch. Get out and find a need you can meet. You shouldn’t have to look far. There are needy people everywhere. You don’t have to leave the country to see the effects of hunger, racism, AIDS, or human trafficking. However, you might have to leave your personal boundaries that filter out people of other economic, educational, or cultural backgrounds. Find a cause that fires you up, and even if it takes more than you thought you could give, even if it requires you to do things that freak you out, you just might be changed by it forever. And if you don’t know where to start, try a local church. And that brings me to my last point.
Stay in Church
Our generation is making a mass exodus from the church. And I get it. The church fed us fun and excitement for our teenage years but very little meat. If you’ve ever been to a youth group that was just trying too hard to be relevant, you know what I mean. When we were craving solid food, we only got milk. There was a time when I wouldn’t even consider sharing my personal doubts and struggles with other Christians because I was so afraid of being misunderstood or judged. Thankfully, God led me to people I could trust, and with his help I have been able to leave my church baggage behind. But even if you are still nursing wounds the church has intentionally or unintentionally caused, that does not give you the right to leave. If anything, it gives you the responsibility to stick with the church in order to make a difference for the next generation. To (mis)quote John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your church can do for you. Ask what you can do for your church.”
Get involved in a local congregation. That means becoming a member and helping out wherever you are most needed. If you have a knack for teaching, sign up to teach a Sunday School class. If you are a good cook, help with the church picnic or the hospitality ministry. If you would like to see a ministry the church doesn’t have, start one yourself. But whatever you do, don’t be a pew-warmer. Understand that no church is perfect because every church is made up of imperfect people. But be humble enough to work with those people in spite of their mistakes, hypocrisy, and sinfulness.
There are a lot of young adults who are doing these things already. In fact, many of those who are currently making a difference in the church right now are in their twenties and thirties. So ask yourself, where do you fall? Don’t just go with your knee-jerk reaction. Think about it. I am sure you can find at least one area in which you have room to mature. I know I am not doing my best in all of these areas. It is our responsibility to change others’ perception of millennials. So let’s grow up.