“I want to change the pop world one sequin at a time. Artists tend to take themselves way too seriously and don’t enjoy the fun of making an impact on culture. I just have a good time and sequins represent a good time.”
“I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people… I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!”
Paul, 1 Corinthians 9.19-23, The Message
Few would argue that growing up in today’s world is not only markedly dissimilar but significantly more problematic for today’s youth than it was for preceding generations. Today’s world is more complex, the issues more critical and the ramifications more perilous. Subsequently, ministry to this generation is much more challenging.
Every year since 1998, Beloit College, (Beloit, Wisconsin, USA) has prepared a list of cultural touchstones that differentiate the frame of reference of entering students from that of their teachers, coaches and mentors. It is designed to provide a cultural and generational snapshot to faculty and staff as they prepare to welcome the new students.
After all, members of this year’s college class of 2015 (most of them born in 1993), are the first generation to grow up taking the word “online” for granted and for whom crossing the digital divide has redefined research, informational access and original source documentation. For their younger teachers, Watergate is a distant memory; for their distinguished senior professors – the ones with a pile of vinyl LPs in the closet – the Crash and the Depression probably shaped their lives.
Young students see the world differently and the list is a reminder of just how significantly differently their intellectual framework is. Cultural references familiar to professors, might draw blank stares from their students. As Beloit College professor Tom McBride, one of the list’s creators says, “It is an alert for those of us who may be suffering from hardening of the references.”
The following abbreviated “Mindset List” may remind us that a generation, along with their rapidly changing worldview, comes and goes in the blink of an eye. (The full list can be found here or at at www.beloit.edu/mindset/2015/ ):
1. Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.
2. There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.
3. There have nearly always been at least two women on the Supreme Court and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.
4. They “swipe” cards, not merchandise.
5. “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?
6. Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
7. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you’re talking about LeBron James.
8. O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
9. The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia.
10. Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief.
11. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!
12. Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.
13. They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
14. Frasier, Sam, Woody and Rebecca have never Cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during primetime.
15. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.
We must first understand this generation and its culture if we are to present the redemptive message of God’s Word in a meaningful context. You don’t have to buy into everything they say or do but you must understand their realities. Understanding their fears, opportunities, dangers and world-view will help us to respond and lead strategically. Don’t lose sight of your objective – to have an impact on this generation with the life changing truth of the gospel!
Stay the Course,
Dr. Greg Morris
Gregory K. Morris, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Leadership Dynamics™, a non-profit corporation committed to the training and development of leaders and their organizations. He has authored In Pursuit of Leadership, a study of leadership principles in the life of Moses. For more information, visit LeadershipDynamics.org or his blog at LeadershipDynamics.wordpress.com