It is quite easy to find stuff floating around – particularly the Christian world – maligning millennials. My friends at Evangelical Times are getting a lot of letters at the moment about an article they published panning millenials in the church. Far be it from me to cynically suggest that they did so knowing that it would probably help bolster their letters page.
Now, unless you believe your culture or generation is perfect and beyond criticism, there can be no doubt that some of the comments flung in the direction of millennials must be true. But it seems to be a habit of every previous generation to despair of all that follow. Just peruse some of these examples to see what I mean.
Now, cards on the table, I am a millennial. Admittedly, I am a top end millennial who is very nearly a Gen-Xer, but a millennial nonetheless (the cut off has to be somewhere). So, in many ways, you may read this and think to yourself, ‘well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?!’ Maybe so. But I’ve never had any problem criticising any of my other tribes before so I don’t see why this is any different. I’m happy to admit that some of the criticism is true (though let’s not pretend that doesn’t cut back on the older generations making those comments – all generations will have things to commend them and things that are less than excellent).
But there is an area – a church issue and a matter of real biblical importance – on which millennials, for all the criticism they receive from their fellow believers, are blasting other generations out of the water. It is not a trivial issue and, in my experience, I am primarily seeing millennials responding to the call. I would be glad to hear of cases where this is true of others too, but I see more millennials responding biblically to this question than anyone else. That is the call to go to deprived communities.
Now, as regular readers will have picked up, we’ve not exactly been inundated with people putting their hand up and wanting to come to Oldham. That story can be replicated by most churches working in deprived communities. So, as a wider Evangelical movement, we aren’t doing great on this.
But some have put up their hands and said they would come. We are just about to welcome two people who have come within the last week to join us specifically because they saw the need and wanted to serve. Both millennials (or so close you’re splitting hairs). We have another couple looking to relocate to Oldham next summer. Again, both millennials. I was on holiday a few weeks back and met with a couple who are considering the possibility of coming too. Again, both millennials who are culturally really quite different from indigenous Oldhammers. Anecdotally, I can think of several other churches who have found it is millennials – if anybody – who are willing to go.
By contrast, we have struggled to get anybody who is not a millennial to even countenance moving. Now, you may want to suggest that it is easier for millennials to move due to stage of life and lack of family ties. Maybe it’s a factor. But I also know plenty of non-millennials who are entirely unwilling to move because they’re too focused on climbing the housing ladder, or staying in the area with “the best schools”, having the right cafes around or who are unwilling because they’ve built up a network of people just like them – people with whom they’re comfortable – that they don’t want to move away from. More to the point, all of that ignores that fact that plenty of millennials have families, houses, networks of friends that could all provide exactly the same excuses not to come should they wish to employ the argument. Nevertheless, in my experience, millennials (relative to others) haven’t been as full of excuses when considering areas like ours as have those generations wishing to pan them for their fecklessness, laziness and lack of resilience.
Do we still need more funding, people and churches in deprived communities? Of course we do. Are millennials en masse flocking to hard areas? No. But I have found, consistently, if anybody is willing to go to hard places it is millennials while those full of excuses, who are unwilling to go themselves, snark about feckless snowflakes and the need to grow up.
You tell me who are the real snowflakes? Those who are too scared to go – despite that fact people will go to Hell if they don’t – because they can’t bear the thought of a house in the area and are worried little Johnny might not fulfil his full potential or those who are willing to go and share the gospel despite the fact they sometimes ‘can’t even…’?
When Baby-boomers are turning up in droves to deprived communities, and no millennials are following suit, come and whinge about them to me then. Unless and until that is the case, can we perhaps give Christian millennials a break?