Mark G. Schroeder
“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).
There is no doubt that every “older generation” tends to view the “younger generation” with a good measure of suspicion, condemnation, and fear for the future. I’m a member of the Baby Boomer generation; I entered high school in the turbulent ’60s. My generation introduced America to men’s long hair, hippies, Woodstock, the drug culture, anti-war demonstrations, and ear-splitting rock–and–roll music.
Criticizing the next generation is nothing new. Here are some examples from the past:
- “They think they know everything and are always quite sure about it . . .because they have not yet been humbled by life.”—Aristotle, 4th century B.C.
- “Youth were never more savagely disrespectful. . . .The elderly are scorned, the honorable are condemned, the judge is not dreaded.”—Thomas Barnes, 1624.
- “[They are]a fearful multitude of untutored savages. . . . [They] care for nobody. . . . The morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly.”—Anthony Cooper, 1843.
- “There is, as never before, an attitude on the part of young folk which is best described as grossly thoughtless, rude, and utterly selfish.”—Daily Mail,1925.
- “Many [young people]are so pampered nowadays that they have forgotten that there was such a thing as walking.”—Newspaper editorial, 1951.
- “What really distinguishes this generation from those before it is that it’s the first generation in American history to live so well and complain so bitterly about it.”—Washington Post, 1993.
And now we have the millennials. Boomers shake their heads at millennials and paint an entire generation with a broad brush of criticism and disdain. “They’re lazy. They want success to come easily, without putting in the effort. They’re self-obsessed. They think they know everything. They are too cautious and indecisive. They don’t want to grow up. They don’t know the value of money. They party too much and read too little. They don’t trust or respect institutions and organizations.”
All these criticisms are generalizations and not entirely fair; I know many millennials whom those words would not describe.
In addition to that, there are also positive things that can be generally said about millennials. Millennials generally value personal relationships more than previous generations. What better place to establish and grow relationships than with people in a congregation whose faith and values they share and who show a genuine love and concern for them?
Millennials love to collaborate. Where better to work together with others than in the body of Christ with its many members?
Millennials demand authenticity and sincerity. Where could they better find something authentic and true than in a church that teaches and proclaims the unchanging truth of God’s Word?
Millennials are altruistic, placing a high value on helping and serving others. Our congregations are in a great position to offer young people many opportunities to use their time and skills in service to others.
Millennials understand technology and modern communications. We can put them to use in the church to help communicate the saving gospel to more people than ever before.
Perhaps most true of all is that millennials, like every generation before them, are sinners who need a Savior. As the Spirit works in them through the power of the law and gospel, God will build his church.
Someday aging Christian millennials will shake their heads and criticize the sorry generation that follows them. But they will be equipped to the next generation of God’s mighty acts, just as our generation has done for them.
Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019
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