How might a baby-boomer help a millennial to find meaning, purpose and value for their lives?

Good day Logan, [nice to see that people still use flip charts]. How may a boomer help a millennial to find meaning, purpose and value for their lives?

Hi @billbrander,

I’m glad you found those Bible Project videos enlightening – I’ve enjoyed them very much as well.

I love this question of yours, Bill, about how can boomers help millenials find meaning, purpose, and value for their lives. May I just share, as a millenial, I’m touched that you have a heart for millenials – and that you’re not put off by all the ways we don’t get things right! It would be easy to respond to a generation like ours with cynicism, but I’m touched that you have a heart to serve, and point millenials toward God. Thank you : )

I think the “go to” passage of Scripture for thinking through how to reach out a new demographic is Acts 17. We see Paul in Athens as a student of the culture, walking through the religious temples, and getting a sense of the idols of the day. Then, with that awareness, he preaches Christ to the culture. To get to know the millennial demographic, here are a couple resources I’ve found helpful –

  • Simon Sinek is an organizational consultant who went viral with this video on millennials.

  • Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who has written an insightful book called The Coddling of the American Mind, which I think has application for millenials outside the US. He has done a number of interviews on the book as well, like this one.

These resources argue that millennials, more than other generations, wrestle with a sense of self-worth – they have a desire to make a difference in the world, but haven’t always been raised with realistic expectations about the difficulties and long-suffering needed to bring change about. As a result, many millennials are finding themselves frustrated with their work, and always thinking about the “next thing” that might be more fulfilling or impactful. Millennials and “iGen” (the generation after) are also more prone to have disordered relationships with technology. Addiction to smartphones is a real issue, but beyond this Jonathan Haidt in his book argues that social media is actually leaving us insecure, as we’re able to compare ourselves with everyone. This seems to have had a measurable impact on mental health, and even suicide rates.

All this, I think, sheds light on some practical ways non-millennials can come alongside and help millennials find meaning, purpose, and value.

  1. Relationships. As millennials increasingly interface more with an online community of friends, we can often have fewer close, personal relationships. I think this provides the opportunity for non-millennials to extend that kind of in-person friendship, and to help us remember what that looks like! I think the easiest way to build a friendship with a millennial is to ask them “What are you passionate about?” Most millennials have causes they care about, or careers they want to break into, and they’re eager to share! I think they’ll be touched that you took the time to ask them about that, and they’ll receive well any encouragement you might give them!

  2. Encouragement. Many millennials, if they’re honest, are wrestling with discouragement about questions of identity. Part of this stems from growing up believing we can do great things, but then learning our weaknesses and encountering failure in our work and personal lives. I think actually this provides a great place to meet Jesus in – and that was my story. It was when I faced some of my first disappointments in life through a sports injury, and then falling short of my academic hopes, that I realized I needed a more stable basis for my identity. Speaking practically, when a millennial opens up about some areas of discouragement, I think it’s a great opportunity to ask a question like, “So what gets you through times like this, when you fall short? Where does your sense of meaning and purpose come from? Do have a basis for those things that won’t fall through?” It could be a great opportunity for you to then share how Christ was meant to fill that hole.

  1. Wisdom. I’m so thankful for the older mentors in my life who have given generously of their time to disciple me and care about my life. Some of these “mentors” are just older believers at church who tell me they’re praying for me and ask how I’m doing. As millennials, we need wisdom! We can use help as we navigate life, and as we grow in knowing the Bible and loving Christ. Practically speaking, non-millennials can bless millennials with wisdom by perhaps just praying for millennials and by going out of their way to ask how they’re doing. Perhaps it’s worth praying about whether God might have you disciple a millennial, or serve with the church youth group from time to time.

I hope those are helpful thoughts, Bill. Again, I’m touched by your heart for millennials, I think that can only be from the Lord, and I’m confident he will (and has already) use you to bless and help many as they seek to find meaning, purpose, and value for their lives.