This article was originally published on Relevant Magazine, ‘Millennial’ Shouldn’t Be a Derogatory Term, written by Shane Pruitt.
Many of my friends, colleagues and I are making a living right now speaking, writing and coaching ministries, churches and businesses on how to “reach millennials.” It’s definitely a hot topic of the day. Personally, I deeply enjoy speaking on reaching the next generation. However, here recently I’ve been opening my talks and breakouts with this statement: “In the Kingdom of God, there is no such thing as a millennial. That is a man-made term with a man-made definition.”
So, according to man-made definitions, what is a millennial? Most researchers use birth years ranging from 1980 to 1997. The generation that follows millennials is Generation Z (2001 –?). However, like I said above, these are man-made names and descriptions. What I mean by this is that the only reason we have them is because we made them up. Don’t get me wrong. I realize that cultural shifts, advancements in technology and ever-changing family dynamics cause people to act, think and believe differently than their parents and grandparents did. In fact, I wrote on this previously in an article, called “10 Common Views of Millennials.”
Sadly, I also believe that we all too often allow culture, generational names and definitions to define our actions in a negative light. For example, there was a “reality” TV show not too long that placed millennials versus Generation Xers in a survival competition. Several of the young millennial girls who refused to work used the excuse, “You know how us millennials are. We don’t like to work hard!” Well, who told them that? Who made them believe that there was a whole generation that didn’t like to work hard? Culture told them that.
Think about what the media calls them today— “snowflakes” and “buttercups.” A whole generation is being told that they’re overly sensitive, whiners and unprepared to respond when someone disagrees with them. However, I strongly believe that these misleading articles, interviews and definitions are causing generations to surrender to how culture defines them rather that how Creator God defines them.
Plus, it’s a flat-out lie. I speak to tens of thousands of young adults and students every year; and for every one person out there that fits the “generalizations” seen on TV, I’ve met a hundred others that are hard workers, driven, ambitious and are changing the world around them for the better.
Thankfully, according to the Bible, there is no such thing as a millennial or any other generational name! The Scriptures don’t recognize Boomers, Gen X, millennials or Generation Z. The Word of God only speaks about people, who are made in the image of God— “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).” Some of these people are older and some are younger.
It doesn’t take long to realize that some of the very things that are being said about millennials today are the very same things that were said about previous generations.
“The now generation has now become the ME generation.” – The New York Times in 1976 about Boomers
“They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial. They postpone marriage because they dread divorce.” – TIME magazine in 1990 about Generation X
Instead, of a generation being characterized by certain generalities; maybe, there is just something to be said about being young. When you’re young, you’re going to act immaturely and make mistakes, stumbling through life as you attempt to figure out what God has called you to do.
Oh, how we could all count the ways that we did things in our youth that we later regretted, but somehow, the sovereign Lord used those experiences to shape and mold us into the people we are today.
However, just like previous generations, prayerfully, youth turns into maturity with age and experience. Then, if history proves itself, that generation most likely will complain about the next. Believe me, millennials will also grow old one day, and will worry about the future of the world because of how 21-year-olds look and act at that time.
People need Jesus—not millennials, but people—young and old alike who are made in the image of God and are in desperate need of the gospel and discipleship. Whether you’re born in 1964, 1984 or 2004, you came into this world as a sinner who is going to make lots of mistakes, possibly be a little spoiled and will definitely be in desperate need of a Saviour. However, that is exactly what God offers to every generation—His own Son: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”
Then, of course, this call to Salvation will also propel people into sanctification through discipleship. What is discipleship? Christian discipleship is the journey by which we grow in the knowledge and wisdom of Jesus and His Word through the power of the Holy Spirit to live in this present world in a Christ-like way that will attract others to want to know our Heavenly Father.
Thankfully, the model of discipleship for people has already been laid out in Titus 2, where the older men are encouraged to teach the younger men and older women are encouraged to teach the younger women, all with the goal of helping them grow in wisdom.
So, maybe as the Church, it’s time for us to stop falling into the definitional traps and generalizations of generations and start walking in the truths of how Scripture views all ages, as people! Instead of complaining about the future generations, let’s do what the Bible commands us to do—love God, love people and make disciples.
The future generations are not projects that need more gimmicks from the Church; they are people in desperate need of the gospel of Jesus Christ.