Ask most any older, ‘wiser’ person, and they will likely indicate that “young people just aren’t what they used to be…” The canvas in my mind depicts an old guy in a rocking chair on his front porch, hound dog by his side, smoking a pipe and cursing at the cars going by (and occasionally firing his shotgun into the air!).
If you ask Boomers or Gen-Xers about the Millennial generation, they might use descriptions like “entitled, self-focused, uncommitted, and distracted.” But as a Gen-Xer who works and interacts with Millennials every day, I cringe at these assessments. When did we decide that everything that comes after us must, by nature, be bad?
A recent book by Gabe Lyons presents an entirely new perspective.
In his work, The Next Christians (2012), Lyons paints a very hope-filled view of Millennials. And while I tend to dislike the idea of categorizing humans into crude generational blocks, the book struck me as a breath of fresh air!
Great leaders see their followers’ potential more than their liabilities.
Lyons suggests that the new Millennial leaders possess a holistic approach to life and ministry which drives them to address societal challenges in a restorative way. They won’t just preach about issues (we call this “Word” in missions), but will additionally take them on with action (“Deed”). Settling for black and white theology fails to satisfy them, but seeing the “gray” emerges as their strong suit.
Yet, some question whether Lyons speaks from an overly naïve, rose-colored perspective.
This raises an important consideration for Christian leaders. How do we walk the thin line between serving as gatekeepers for sound theology and values, while also empowering people to express that theology with fresh style and passion? Here at William Jessup University, we grapple with this by challenging students to think deeply about the why, before developing the what and how.
To what degree are you seeing and affirming the potential of next-generation leaders in your context?
Daniel Gluck serves as Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Jessup, and Lead Faculty for the B.A. in Christian Leadership program.