Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Bit More About Generations

I'm writing a sermon this week relating, at least loosely, to Faith Formation 2020, so I am thinking once again about generational aspects of our faith. Coincidentally, today Sara over at the Curriculum of Love wrote a blog review of the book Generations of Faith: A Congregational Atlas.  It's the book Sara recommended to me here in a comment a few posts back. 

It looks like it was published in 2002, so it makes sense that the hypothetical committee meeting Sara recaps from the book did not include Generation Y/The Millennial Generation.  But now in 2010, this generation is entering young adulthood and even the workforce, so let's revisit that.  There are summaries of each generational type here.  (Do you think the depictions of the different generations fit?)

So what does it look like to attend meetings or work on projects with folks in the Generation Y/Millennial Generation?  Here are my initial observations:
  • Generation Y is, as a whole, closely bonded with the Baby Boomer Generation.  I find that though Gen Y folks may have more of a "let's pull together" attitude, folks in Generation Y have picked up many of their sensibilities about organizational functioning not from Gen X, but from the boomers.  I also find Gen Y and Baby Boomers great partners to work together on projects, in a way that Baby Boomers and Gen X are not quite as much so (I've noticed that Gen Xers are increasingly interested, as a whole, in the sensibilities of the Silent/Homeland Generation...just as one example, check out some of the blogs among Gen X mothers right now, who are even returning to the hobbies of the Silent Generation...interesting stuff).

  • Gen Y folks do not have the same sense of boundaries of space and time that previous generations have had.  A room does not just include those who are in it, but also folks who are available via mobile technology.  A meeting time is not exclusive for meeting business, but is rather another multi-tasked item on the whole day's agenda.
  • I had read in another source that Gen Y folks will be big on volunteerism and will volunteer more hours than any generation in recent history (is that part of where "civic" came from as a descriptor?).  While I know Gen Y folks who volunteer, and there is still time, I have not as of yet seen the generation, as a whole, surpass previous generations in terms of volunteerism.  In fact, Gen Y folks started coming of age while the "learn to say no" self-care movement was still peaking for the boomers, and I see Gen Y folks mirroring that sensibility.  That is not to say, however, that I think Gen Y folks have abandoned civic responsibility.  Gen Y folks seem to have a fairly decent understanding of corporate accountability, and seem to want to work for and patronize corporations that at least give an impression of being "more responsible."  Members of this generation also tend to be attracted to projects and activities that simultaneously provide a "self-discovery"/quest opportunity and a philanthropic benefit.

  • Perhaps related to a differing sense of space and time, Gen Y folks currently seem less apt to meet deadlines and adhere to timelines.  The tradeoff is that they often approach things very creatively, and they are quite forgiving of others who fail to meet deadlines and adhere to timelines (a good thing for Gen Xers and Boomers who tend to carry more guilt in these matters).  Gen Y folks also do not seem to have the same level of self-guilt that previous generations have...at least not yet.

  • Perhaps because they are still coming of age, Gen Y folks seem to be looking for opportunities to have their voices heard.  They are insecure in their value, and even though they are a very large generation, do not see themselves as the dominant voice in society.  However, because they tend to think "out of the box" of current generations, they have an entrepreneurial spirit that allows them to innovate without depending on validation from others.  They seem driven toward this innovation, and seem to shy away from more traditionally collaborative opportunities in which they may not feel so heard. 
What are your observations?  Are you in Gen Y?  Have you been in a meeting or worked on a project lately with someone from this generation?  What do you think this means in the church?

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