Reaching Millennial Kids

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6 things you must know about kids born from 1984
on.

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Boomer, Buster, Gen-Xer, Millennial. It’s enough to make your head
swim. If you’re like me, it all begins to blur. So, why another
article on generational trends? Because, to be quite honest,
understanding generations helps us wisely target them.

If you don’t account for these six things about Millennial kids,
you’ll miss impacting this generation.

1. Millennials are idealistic. The 1990’s became what
Mario Cuomo termed the “Decade of the Child.” Children’s issues
topped the agendas of the 1988, 1992, and 1996 presidential
election races. In June of 1996, hundreds of thousands of people
went to Washington, DC, to take a stand for children at the Stand
for Children Rally.

Neil Howe and Bob Strauss, authors of The Fourth Turning, write
that although the generation before Millennials was viewed as
castoffs, today’s Millennials “have become symbols of an
Unraveling-era need to stop the social hemorrhaging before it could
damage another new generation.”

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A protective wave of adult concern bathes this generation of
children. Boomers are working hard to shield Millennial children
from the diet of media sex, violence, and profanity that the
generation before them was weaned on. For example, the new TV show
ratings and legislated V-chip enable parents to screen out
objectionable programming.

The awesome benefit of such protective concern, according to
Strauss and Howe, is that a valued, protected generation grows up
believing in its ability to make a difference. This is an
idealistic, hopeful generation — a generation, I believe, whose
heart has been crafted by God to serve him with fervor. This
generation will own the message that with God, all things are
possible!

2. Millennials are committed to changing their world.
This generation has a burgeoning civic virtue. Nickelodeon’s annual
Big Helpathon encourages kids to volunteer in their communities.
Over 400,000 children volunteered for the event in 1994. In 1996,
that number grew to 8 million.

Millennials “gravitate toward social goals and human relationships
that can be clearly defined,” according to Strauss and Howe. “They
expect and receive challenges from older generations.”

Churches are catching on to the need to involve kids in
meaningful, world-changing activities. In Riverside, California,
Bill Russell’s KIDS QUEST program is a weekly discipleship program
where sixth-graders study the Bible, deal with tough issues, and
train for service. Groups of eight or nine meet weekly for 17
weeks. At the end of that time, these groups join 200 sixth- and
seventh-graders for an outreach in Mexico.

God’s hand is at work creating a heart cry in children to be
involved in something bigger than themselves. God is working in the
hearts of children so they’ll embrace what’s on his heart. If we
don’t convince them that giving their lives in service to Christ is
a big enough cause, they’ll go elsewhere to find a compelling cause
they can give their lives to.

3. Millennials work together. Cooperative learning groups
— where kids learn to accept one another’s differences — are a
big part of kids’ school scene. Part of this shift in education is
a reaction to the changing workforce and the need to prepare
children for more collaborative work situations. And part of it is
because of the sheer effectiveness of kids learning in groups,
solving problems together, and gleaning from each other’s
strengths.

Strauss and Howe write that Millenials are instinctive team
players. According to these generational experts, Millennials have
“a strong ethos of constructive activity, a peer-enforced code of
dutiful conduct, and an overwhelming sense of generational
community.”

This generation is eager to rally together to solve problems. God
is raising up a new breed of Christian that can fulfill the Great
Commission to the ends of the earth! The more we get kids working
together at church; learning together; serving together; and
playing together, the more effective we’ll be in training
them.

4. Millennials understand right from wrong. The previous
generation upheld “if it’s right for you, then it’s right.” And
society, the church, and parents are rebounding from the
relativistic results of such a philosophy.

Educators inside and outside the church are seeking to instill
clear-cut values in children. Public schools are inundated by
values and diversity education programs. Josh McDowell uses his
“Right From Wrong” program to teach churched kids that there is a
body of truth.

Parents are also trained to point the way. Here are a few article
titles that appeared in secular parenting magazines this year:
“Raising a Kind Child,” “Do Unto Others,” and “What It Takes to
Raise a Responsible Child.” This generation of children will
champion truth because they’ll understand that there is truth! What
a great opportunity for children’s ministers to help children grab
onto God’s Word as the absolute authority in life.

5. Millenials are family-centered. Faith Popcorn, a trend
analyst and the author of Clicking, coined the term “cocooning” to
describe a trend among today’s families. Cocooning is the need to
protect oneself from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the
outside world.

Studies show that there has been a three-year tripling in the
popularity of “staying home with the family.” Families perceive
extra commitments as a threat to their time together. Therefore,
it’s very difficult to get families to commit to more than Sunday
morning activities.

“Family values” captures the gist of Millennial nurture. In a
recent survey, 41 percent of kids in grades 1 through 6 said they’d
rather spend time with family than play sports with friends, watch
TV or play video games, or read a book or listen to music.

In the Million Man March and the Promise Keepers movement, men are
seeking atonement for past child neglect and vowing to become
better role models for this generation’s future. Working fathers
now average 11 hours per week with their kids, or 94 minutes per
day, up from a 1988 study in which they spent only three hours a
week, or 26 minutes a day, with their children.

Psychologist Dr. Robert A. Frank says that “We’re seeing a
brand-new type of family emerge, one that’s going to improve
parent-child attachment and reduce social problems.”

Children’s ministers say they need help training parents to train
their children. This is a drastic shift from 20 years ago when most
parents expected the church to train their children. Now parents
are saying “We don’t have time for another intrusion,” and
children’s ministers are adapting to this dilemma.

Darrell Fraley, children’s pastor at Hope Church in Cincinnati,
Ohio, recruits parent volunteers to more than children’s ministry.
He encourages them to get involved because “one of the best places
for parents to informally learn solid parenting skills is at
church, serving in children’s ministry.”

6. Millennials need relationships. Today’s kids are
technologically savvy, but experientially unsavvy. They’re whizzes
on computers, the Internet, and electronic anythings that
intimidate many of us. They have the world at their fingertips. And
they have a “been there/done that” attitude because they can see or
do practically anything through media.

We’re tempted to compete with technology and make our ministries
technologically exciting. But the truth is, what these kids need is
less stuff and more relationship for them to “get it.” Rather than
focusing primarily on programs, we need to focus on people.
Millennial kids need consistent teachers who enable kids to be in
nurturing relationships with one another and with adults.

I hope you’ve caught on to what an awesome thing God is doing in
our midst. He’s raising up a generation of children that’s cut from
the same cloth as Joshua-kids who are eager to go into the Promised
Land and claim it for their God. May God give us wisdom and insight
in the days ahead!?

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