Monday, October 22, 2018

Election 2018: The Taylor Swift Effect?

Taylor Swift created quite a stir a few weeks back when she openly endorsed several Democratic candidates in the mid-term election.  She also encouraged her 112 million social media followers to register to vote so that their voices could be heard as well.  If you are over sixty you might not even be aware of who Taylor Swift is. She is a very popular singer who presents a pretty clean image. Some in the media have labeled her "America's Sweetheart.”  Michelle Obama presented her with a humanitarian award while she was First Lady.  She also noted that her daughters were big fans. Taylor Swift is also a Millennial whose audience is a mix of her peers and members of Generation Z.

While it is hard to measure the exact impact, in the less than 48 hours after Swift's post, saw more than 105,000 new voter registrations through its site.  During a typical twenty-four hour period sees an average of 14,078 visitors. In actuality, the “Taylor Swift effect” might be the tip of the iceberg.   The Associated Press recently reported that since July there has been an increased interest in this year’s mid-term election among those ages 18-35.   The research showed a remarkable increase in interest from July, 2018 to September, 2018.  In July 41% of those polled said they were interested in the midterm election but that number had swelled to 64% in September.  There also seemed to be increased optimism as the percentage of those who were “hopeful” increased from 40% to 55% in the two month period.  Those who felt “helpless” regarding the midterm election declined slightly from 40% to 36%.

Millennials have an inconsistent track record when it come voting.  They showed up strong in support of Barrack Obama but for the most part they ignored the 2016 Presidential Election. Now we will have to wait until November 6th to see if they will show up at the ballot box. Either way, there is no denying that they have the potential to change the political direction of our country, and their passions and interest are vastly different than anything we have seen before.  It is only a matter of time till we have our first Millennial President.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What's Driving Today's Teens

I ran on the track team in high school.  I was half miler.  I was not particularly good but I wanted to go out for at least one sport.  Some of my buddies were on the team and two of them also ran the half mile.  I did upset them and the coach my sophomore year.  I quit the team.  There was a more important item on my agenda.  I had just turned sixteen and was eligible to take drivers education after school.  Getting your license was a rite of passage.  I could have waited until school was out and taken drivers education in summer school, but that would have meant delaying my freedom for at least four month. 

All that said, it was still a few months till I could get behind the wheel by myself.  The only driving as part of the class was in a fenced in a parking lot.  All the cars were Plymouth Valiants equipped with automatic transmissions.  Our 1959 Chevy station wagon had a stick shift.  I spent a lot of Sunday afternoons, with my dad beside me, driving around a mall parking lot.  I mastered most of it but my dad insisted that I be able to start the car from a standing stop on a steep grade.  Personally, I think it was delaying tactic but on an August Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 PM (how’s that for a memory) my dad took off of work early so I could take my driving test. I passed the first time.  Funny, I was never asked to start on an incline or parallel parking. I still had to share the car with my dad, and there were also a lot of restrictions.   I had my license and that meant eventual freedom.

Things have changed.  Getting your driver’s license evidently is not as big a deal these days.  The number of high school seniors who have a license to drive has been on a steady decline for over a decade.  In 1975 88% of 12th grades had their license and 86% of them had driven a car at least once in the previous year.  According to the most recent Monitoring the Future survey, done in 2015, the number of seniors who had their license to drive had dropped to 72%. Surprisingly, the number who reported that had driven a car was slightly higher 74%. 

Those who study teen culture have identified a couple of contributing factors.

Some teens do not want the responsibility that comes with driving.

In a world that puts so much emphasis on security, having your parents drive you around in not that big a deal.  Some kids really enjoy having mom and dad around.

There is also something to be said for the overly structured life many high school students live.  Some don’t have the time needed to learn to drive.

It still seems strange that we have gone from parents saying, “Can’t we put this off for a while,” to “I am tired of being your personal chauffeur. Isn’t it time you got your license?”

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Guess Who Believes in New Age Religion

We hear a lot about “New Age” religion.  For definition purposes “New Age” beliefs include but are not limited to believing in reincarnation, psychics, horoscopes or the presence of spiritual energy in physical things like tree or mountains.  Millennials, in particular, have gained a reputation for trying to blend “New Age” beliefs with Christianity.  A new study done by Pew Research produced some shocking insights.  Many adult Christians hold to at least one “New Age” belief. 

According to the survey 62% of all Americans believe at least one “New Age” practice.  Surprisingly, Christians (61%) are just as likely and non-Christians to believe in at least one “New Age” practice.  Evangelicals (47%) are the least likely to hold “New Age” beliefs and Catholics (70%) the most likely.  Surprisingly, members of mainline denominations are more like (67%) than the general population to believe in at least one “New Age” behavior.  What is even more startling to me is that adults age 50-66 (66%) are just as likely as young adults ages 18-29 (65%) to hold to at least one of the “New Age” beliefs.  So much for the theory that Millennials are to blame for watering down the Christian faith.

As a Christian, it is hard for me to comprehend how someone who believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior would consult the daily horoscope before beginning each day.  Being born in March, I have been told I am a Pisces, but I have never given much thought to what that means.  When faced with a difficult decision I will pray for wisdom and wait for the Holy Spirit to guide me.  I am not much for good luck charms and even feel guilty when reading that slip of paper inside the fortune cookie. 

It is no wonder the teens and young adults are forming their own hybrid version of Christianity.  Many of those who are supposed to be mentoring them are sending mixed messages.  There is no room for astrology, psychics or Ouija Boards in the lives of those who see Jesus as their eternal hope.  

Monday, October 1, 2018

The November Election: Will the Millennials Show Up

We live in a very contentious environment.  Not since the tumultuous sixties have we been so strongly divided.  It is hard to know where to start when identifying the issues that have created the gap between us.  Gay rights, Black Lives Matter and gun control are among the topics that have created the rift.  It also seems as if everyone has an opinion on the current administration.  The Congress is divided along party lines and there is more finger pointing than there is discussion on how to solve the problems.  Like in the Vietnam War era, the divide seems to be generational.  A majority of older American want to “Make America Great Again” while Millennials and members of Generation Z ask “What’s so great about it?” 

Like the Baby Boomers of the sixties, many Millennials hold views that run counter to those of older Americans.  As a voting block they now also outnumber Baby Boomers, but to this point have not always gone to the polls to express those interests.  An article in the September 27, 2018 edition of the Dallas Morning News leads me to believe Millennials might be ready to step-up and go to the ballot box.  The source of the data was a recent survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  According to the survey 64% of those ages 15-34 were interested in the upcoming election.  That is up from 41% in just two months since July, 2018.  Fifty-five percent (55%) were hopeful about the election, up from 40% two month earlier.  The percentage of those who felt helpless about the election has dropped from 40% in July to 36% in September.  In addition, fewer (34%) of those polled felt overwhelmed by the election process, that is down from 43% in June.

If the study is correct, that is a remarkable swing in a short period of time.  In two month time it seems like more young adults are interested in making a difference at the ballot box.  That might also be reflected in the number of Millennials who are anxious about the election, almost half (49%), a big increase from the 36% who expressed anxiety in July.  The real question still remains: will Millennials actually follow through and show up on November 6?

The fact that their interest in the election has grown remarkably in just two months leads me to believe they might be ready to express their opinion at the ballot boxes.  Either way, those of us over 65 need to be ready for the eventual swing in national leadership.  The Millennials have already impacted the world of business, finance and communication.  I strongly believe the polling process is next.   I am confident there will be a big change in the leadership in Washington within the next ten years. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Understanding Millennial Givers

Millennials have a reputation for being self-absorbed but I recently read an article in the Business Insider that caused me reconsider that.  The piece focused on the work of Generation Resources, a millennial led organization dedicated to social change and equality.  Generation Resources is made up of 600 wealthy millennials working to redistribute some of their inherited, earned and future wealth to make the world a better place.  Generation Resources has sixteen chapters across the U.S.  Their primary focus is skill building and training.  They want to equip their peers to make a difference.

The executive director of Generation Resources is Iimay Ho, the 32 year old daughter of a wealthy insurance executive.  Ho stands to inherit a million dollars but she does not want to use the money, or her current financial resources, for luxury vacations or an extravagant lifestyle.  Her perspective reflects the organization.  "Our mission is to organize young wealthy people in the top 10% to use their money to support racial and economic justice," Ho said. "We do that by providing a clear role, training, and skills to support the working class through giving."

Generation Resources has donated to several causes.   They gave $2,000 to support Turning the Tide, which focuses on stopping police and ICE collaborations leading to more deportations.  They posted a $2,000 bond to release someone from ICE detention.  The have also raised $135,000 for the Social Justice Fund which addresses the cause of social, economic and environmental inequalities.

I personally am not surprised by this.  Many millennials do support organizations and efforts that align with their interests and passions. Scores of millennials are seeking jobs and positions in the non-profit sector because they desire to make a difference.  Countless millennials also have an entrepreneurial spirit, leading them to start their own non-profit organizations.

Unfortunately millennials are not passionate about giving to churches or religious organizations, even if they are members.  There are two factors at work here.  If they have grown up in the church they see it as being part of their lives that will always be there.  They give little thought to the fact that someone must support the church so the building is maintained and the staff paid.  Secondly, they are not big on supporting and maintaining institutions.  That is especially the case for institutions that seem out of touch and incapable to meeting their needs.

From my perspective, here are some ways we can reverse the trend;

Realize the future is not in building new churches or even remodeling old ones.  The church must learn to focus on ministry outside of its walls

We must engage millennials and except them for who they are.  In the process we might begin to understand what excites them and determine how we might partner with them in pursuing those passions.

Stop playing the numbers game in terms of church attendance and membership.  In the fast-paced world in which millennials live they do not think about long-term affiliations.  They are more interested in partnering with those who want to help them pursue their passions and concerns.

Churches that get the message and adapt will continue to have a relevant ministry.  Those that do not are on the road to extinction.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Good News about College Students

At the time of year when many college students are beginning another school year a new study provides some encouraging words on what they are looking for as they prepare for a future career.  The assumption is their primary focus is on profession development and preparing for a career, with the goal of financial security.  Pastors, youth ministry professionals and their parents have always been concerned about their spiritual welfare while on campus.  The report from the Barna Group seems to indicate a desire on the part of students to grow in their discipleship while planning for their future.  Many want to be able to integrate their faith into their future career.

A majority of college students see higher education as a path to gainful employment (69%) and financial security (55%).  The percentage was considerably higher for practicing Christian college students (75%), but many of them want much more than just an education.   Three in ten (31%) of practicing Christian college students expressed an interest in continued professional development that focused on integrating faith and applying it to a career.  Twenty-six percent (26%) were looking for a workshop or similar one-time event to help them integrate their future career with their faith.  Twenty percent (20%) wanted an even deeper experience through involvement in a hub or small group.

Where at one point we would had to rely on letter writing, or an occasional phone call or campus visit, staying engaged with contemporary college students is much easier.  Social media, Face Time and email are tools that are readily available.  It does require an ongoing commitment.  It also means being fervent in our prayers for young people during these critical years.

Many adults are under the impression that members of Generation Z (those born since the beginning of this century) are like the Millennial Generation that preceded them.  Wrong!  That includes many of today’s college who might be classified as Millennials but in actuality are more like members of Generation Z.  The reality is the opportunity to disciple the next generation appears to be there.  Now it is imperative that we step up a seize it.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Please Don't TL;DR Me

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has just added 840 new entries to our ever-expanding language.  I get the impression that Millennials and the members of Generation Z are seriously impacting the English language. 

There were some new entries that made sense: instagramming, mocktails and salty (yes, think salty).  There were others that left me scratching my head.  Adorb; an adjective describing something that is inspiring, delightful or cute (think adorable).  Bingeable: an adjective for something that is easy to watch or a food or drink that would be easy to indulge on.  Rando: a disparaging term for someone with whom you have no shared social connection.

Just when I had gotten used to LOL (laugh or loud) and BFF (best friend forever) we have all new acronyms.  TL;DR; the response to a lengthy online message (Too Long; Didn’t Read).  GOAT: quite simply The Greatest of all Time.

It did get me thinking about some words that were once a part of our language that now have all but disappeared.  I think about the 50’s TV show Twenty Questions where one of the initial queries always was “Is it bigger than a breadbox?”  Phone booth; I am left to wonder if Superman now has to use a Porta-Potty to change his persona.  There was a time when boss did not just refer to someone we worked for but rather a really cool car.  

I probably need to cut this off before some of you send me that TL;DR message.