BOOM GOES THE MILLENNIAL
by Trevor DeVage
In case you haven’t noticed it, there’s a feud going on these days between baby boomers and millennials. One website perfectly summarizes the accusations those in the two generations have been throwing at each other:
For a long time now, the cross-generational dialogue between baby boomers and millennials has been built atop several recurring themes. Boomers — the generation born roughly between 1946 and 1965 — scoff that millennials expect “participation trophies” for doing the bare minimum. Millennials say boomers are “out of touch.” Millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 1996) are “killing” once-stable industries like cereal by saving money, spending less, and “eating avocados.” Boomers have “mortgaged the future” in exchange for hoarding wealth while also voting to end necessary social programs. Millennials would rather complain about student debt than buckle down, work hard, and “get a job.”
I believe the church should step into this fray with a simple solution that would help both the older and the younger accusers. My proposal? Mentoring.
Mark Moore in Core 52 says anyone “serious about making a serious impact” would do well to find a coach to “help maximize our influence, regardless of our age or stage of life.” He describes a mentor as “someone who can sharpen your vision and push you forward in uncomfortable and essential ways.”
As I described in my posts last week and the week before, my life has been forever changed by the boomer mentors who stepped into my life at several crucial crossroads. The same can happen with many boomers and millennials today. I think many millennials are hungry for someone to help them see their future, and I believe many boomers have much to offer them. For this to work, though, those in each generation need some attitude adjustment.
FOR BOOMERS TO BE MENTORS
Today’s boomers were yesterday’s revolutionaries who led the church in risk-taking changes. They need to remember the resistance they sometimes faced and reconsider their beefs with the changes millennials want to make today. Every healthy body grows, and every growing body changes. Most boomers would acknowledge that, even while clinging to methods and music current 25 years ago. (I smile when I walk by a senior citizens group and hear them singing “Awesome God” and “I Love You, Lord.” Traditional? No, just decades-old contemporary!)
For boomers to be mentors, they need to stop concentrating on style and start committing to building new leaders. It’s fine to remember the past, but the better way is to celebrate the possibilities of the future. Most millennials I know want to make an impact, but nobody’s told them how. If boomers will stop accusing and start engaging, decide to put away suspicion and embrace potential, we’ll be on the road to progress.
FOR MILLENNIALS TO BE MENTORED
Every generation is standing on the shoulders of the one before. I wish millennials could say, “The boomers came in with a bang. They changed the face of the gospel in this country. We want to do that, too!”
If a millennial would take a risk and seek a boomer, the bridge to understanding and growth would be built. Core 52 gives some easy-to-follow pointers:
1) Start small. Ask a potential mentor for 15 minutes for advice around specific skills you’ve seen in his or her life.
2) Write three specific coaching questions to help you achieve what the mentor has accomplished.
3) Respect the mentor’s time; don’t let the first meeting go longer than 15 minutes.
4) Take the action step the mentor suggests and plan another 15-minute meeting to report on what happened. If you’re making progress, the mentor will likely welcome future meetings.
5) Find several mentors. Not every mentor can help you in every way you want to grow.
Those in both generations need to give a little. This is vital for the future of the church; without mentors—or the wrong mentors—new leaders will lead in ways that are not good. Now’s the time for some fresh thinking from those in both generations. Imagine what could happen if boomers quit assuming that millennials are radicals who want to mess up our church and millennials quit believing that boomers are washed-up enemies who will never understand their problems or perspectives.
We are one body. Now is the time to act like it.
Read Chapter 49 in Moore’s book for a fuller discussion and explanation of mentoring. Who could you mentor? Whom could you ask to mentor you?