In Order to Impact the Next Generation, We Must Relate to Them

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  • Os Hillman
    Os Hillman is president of Marketplace Leaders and author of Change Agent and TGIF Today God Is First.
By Os Hillman, CP Op-Ed Contributor
December 10, 2013|10:08 am

If we are going to impact future cultures, we will need young people who have a vision for what can happen when they enter into their destinies with a motive to solve problems and be used of God. Many of today's next generation operate from no moral absolutes. George Barna defined those born between 1984 and 2002 as the Mosaic Generation, because they're "very mosaic in every aspect of their life. . . . There's [no attribute] that really dominates like you might have seen with prior generations." They are comprised of nonlinear thinkers who cut and paste their beliefs and values from a variety of sources.

In a 2009 Barna Group survey, Barna describes the next generation like this: "Mosaics and Busters have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive, that allow them to be open and honest with their questions, that are technologically stimulating, that are done alongside peers and within trusted relationships, and that give them the chance to be creative and visual." He believes that connecting with young people has always been a challenge, but today that struggle is at a much deeper level.

"It's a completely different set of values based upon a very varied interpretation of the meaning of life and how to achieve success or significance in one's life," said Barna in an interview. "They want spirituality; they want faith experiences; they want a taste of religion; but they don't want to have to go through all of the stuff that they see the adults doing at the typical church. But, because the Internet fits with their schedule-it's a 24/7 opportunity-they're using it to explore things they might not have access to otherwise."

Employing the Next Generation Worker

For the last fifteen years I have devoted my life to helping Christians see that their working lives are not simply a place to collect a check, but a holy calling from God to reflect His glory and influence culture. I was delighted to come across Gabe Lyon's book The Next Christians. He describes a new type of follower of Jesus that engages the culture in ways my generation has avoided. They are not as evangelistic in their approach to cultural influence and are more open to building relationships within the secular channels of society, even the most liberal and un-Christian segments. And they see their work as a calling! Yeah, God!

The next Christians view every corner of society as "in play." They may not overtly use their platforms to evangelize, but the redemptive elements of their work are unmistakable. They've checked their moralizing stick at the door but embrace the opportunity to naturally infuse faith into their businesses. If the conversations arise, they are thrilled to have them, but that isn't the only way they can be faithful. They understand that where they work is oftentimes the place God has called them to let his restoration flood the world.5

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Debbie Farah is a first-generation Palestinian Christian founder and CEO of Bajalia Trading Company, an import business that uses trade, training, and other forms of community development to alleviate poverty and empower low-income people in third-world nations. Debbie's professional background reads like a who's who in corporate Fortune 500 marketing and retail. She has worked with high-profile clients like Neiman Marcus, Ritz Carlton, Coca-Cola, and even the US Army in her career as creative director in large ad agencies. Debbie saw the plight of the poor in these third-world nations and decided to do something about it. She is a change agent who is using her professional career knowledge and expertise to help the poor use their skills to earn a living by creating products for Debbie's import business. Debbie's nine-person company employs only under-thirty next gens. She has learned that there are unique characteristics of this next generation that must be recognized if we are to help them become change agents. She has also learned that the older generation must learn from this generation as well.

Some key differences that she sees in the work habits of this next generation are as follows:

  • They are much more aware of the world as an international playing field and see the Web as the place to equalize big and small players.
  • They are comfortable with diversity and generationally more cross-culturally sensitive.
  • They place a high value on relationships and social networking and do not follow the nine-to-five structure of corporate America. They operate more like tribes. They desire flexibility in their working hours and are willing to work late hours if they can accommodate their social agendas at the same time they achieve their working goals.
  • They prefer flexibility in order to maintain relationships while exercising creativity to accomplish measurable goals.
  • They often need more mentoring and coaching with a hands- on approach. They ask lots of questions and do not accept the status quo just because that's the way something was done before. They will challenge long-held ideas and want their opinions and ideas valued.
  • They tend to be risk-takers and see that as part of the adventure.
  • They want meaning and purpose in the kind of work they do. They want to make a difference in society.
  • They want to achieve things more quickly and often do not want to wait until they can afford to impact culture, unlike the baby-boomers. They want to have an impact now, not when they get to their "halftime" stage of life. They do not feel money is always the requirement to have impact.
  • They are not comfortable working in segmented cubicles but prefer more open environments where they can better interact with associates.
  • They often view the older generation as using words that are superficial.
  • They want to see action, not just words.
  • They look for genuine relationships and meaning in what and how they do it.
  • They are creative and use the various technology media to accomplish their goals-such as web marketing, social networking, blogging, e-mail, and text messaging.
  • They are often more drawn to start-up companies versus well- established companies because they feel they can use their creativity and entrepreneurial gifts to a greater degree. They believe they will be valued more in a start-up environment than a well-established corporate environment that may hinder their creativity.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a young man who wanted to influence his culture. When he began to lead the civil rights movement, he was only twenty-six years old. There are change agents in the making in this generation, but it is going to require the older generation to relate differently to them in order to raise up a generation with a restored biblical worldview that will change the way they relate to and impact their world. It is also going to require the next generation to learn what it means to live as sons and daughters, which is a challenge since so many have not had physical and spiritual fathers.

Os Hillman is president of Marketplace Leaders and author of Change Agent and TGIF Today God Is First, www.todaygodisfirst.com, a free email daily devotional
 

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