In each new generation, with its unique challenges, we are called to offer the eternal that the Church has, thinking and acting creatively, but in organic continuity with the original "apostolic." --Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
October 20, 2005
Dear Youth Workers,
The current generation of adolescents and young adults is referred to as the millennial generation. These young people have grown up in a postmodern world, constantly absorbing torrents of information, and constantly bombarded with pop culture images. To help you better understand this unique generation, we have listed some of their defining characteristics below.
One of the characteristics of postmodern youth is that they describe themselves as a very "spiritual" generation. There has been much talk in youth ministry circles lately about redesigning and reinvigorating worship for young people. Church leaders have figured out that youth are seeking more than just a sermon and some hymns on Sunday morning. In fact, many postmodern youth are being drawn to more traditional forms of Christianity, like Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Why? Read more below.
With love in Christ,
The Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries
CHARACTERISTICS OF POSTMODERN YOUTH
The generation that now consist of adolescents and young adults are known as the "Millennial generation." Here are some characteristics of this generation, the first one to grow up in a postmodern worldview:
- The Millennial kids are also known as "Remote Control Kids" (they face unprecedented and constant change), the "Salad Bowl Generation" (marked by racial, experiential, and attitudinal diversity), "The 14th Generation (the 14th generation born after the American Revolution), and "Bridgers" (bridging the millennia).
- They are the first generation raised in the new postmodern" world with the accompanying postmodern world view. For them, feelings take precedence over reason, truth is relative, and everyone believes what's "right" for them. Consequently, they are feeling-driven, pluralistic, spontaneous, and without a transcendent moral compass.
- Family stability, support, and guidance are fading away as the majority of millennials grow up in families marked by divorce, single parenting, or brokenness. Fully 1/4 to 1/3 of the kids born between 1989 and 1994 were born to unmarried women.
- Unprecedented economic opportunity and wealth leaves them vulnerable to marketers who are aggressively targeting them with advertising. As with previous generations, they are materialistic.
- They are deeply interested in spiritual things. While they are keenly aware of the spiritual void in their lives, they tend to avoid Christianity as an option while pursuing spiritual answers down a variety of strange and unusual avenues. Their "faith" is personal and syncretistic. Postmodern seekers become collectors of religious ideas and experiences, often combining different ideas from different religions into a personal creedo, a "spiritual patchwork quilt."
An example of some of the religious questions postmodern adolescents ask:
- How can I believe Jesus is the only way when there are so many ways that people claim to have a spiritual relationship with God?
- How can I tell another person they are wrong about their beliefs when their spiritual experiences are so real to them?
- With so many testimonies of the power of spirituality outside the Christian faith - power to heal relationships or get off drugs or overcome depression - how am I supposed to share with another person that I believe they need Jesus Christ? What if my faith is simply a product of the family and culture I was brought up in? If I had grown up Muslim in an Arab country, wouldn't I reject Jesus too?
Guidelines for evangelism in a postmodern world http://www.sonlifeafrica.com/model/pomo.htm
ASPECTS OF ORTHODOXY THAT APPEAL TO POSTMODERN SEEKERS
*Group worship and prayer
*Community of believers (the Church); relationships
*Experiencing an all-encompassing faith
*Authentic encounter with Jesus Christ
*Stories of the saints - postmodern youth understand and appreciate stories
*Outreach and missions
*Diversity of different Orthodox peoples and cultures - postmodern youth appreciate diversity
CONNECTING WITH YOUTH IN A POSTMODERN WORLD
1. Youth ministry is, in a way, a missionary activity to a different culture - an adolescent subculture shaped by the media and pop culture. Therefore, it's important to catch up on pop culture. This doesn't mean you have to be an expert; that's nearly impossible anyway, because pop culture trends change everyday. But don't be scared to pick up the latest edition of Teen People or Rolling Stone magazines, go to a new movie, or flip on the radio to the top-40 station.
2. Postmodern adolescents are impacted when the see the incarnation of the gospel in people's lives. They are touched more through the heart than through the mind. This means that we as youth workers personally need to strive to live our faith. In order to reach the youth, they have to see that we are on the journey with them.
3. Relate to children and adolescents on their own turf - reach out to them by going to their hangouts.
4. Discuss relevant pop culture issues openly with the children in your ministry group. There are many opportunities for this. For example, take the youth to go see a movie, and then discuss it afterwards over pizza or coffee. Another idea: bring up the latest incident from the video music awards or from celebrity news to initiate a conversation about Christian living.
5. Mobilize adolescents who are connected to the Church to reach out to others who are not. Peer-to-peer relationships are just as important as your relationship with them. For instance, encourage a solid and involved teenager to spend time with someone who going through a tough time or struggling with his or her faith.
6. Give responsibility to adolescents. They are experts at balancing many different activities. When we give them an appropriate amount of responsibility (e.g., choir, working with the JOY children, helping out with religious education, etc.), they rise to the occasion and use their gifts to serve Christ, His Church, and others.
Sources and resources:
- Shaping the Spiritual Life of Students, a book by Richard R. Dunn, InterVarsity Press, 2001
- Postmodern Youth Ministry, a book by Tony Jones, Zondervan, 2001
- The Young Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, a book by XX
- When Kumbaya Is Not Enough, a book by Dean Borgman
- Center for Parent-Youth Understanding, www.cpyu.org