I have become entirely fascinated with the next generation. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of people arguing about millennials. Maybe it’s because I’m a student pastor. Maybe it’s because my own children are lumped into this emerging, distinct demographic. Or maybe it’s because I’m a nerd and just like this kind of stuff.
You’ve heard of the Greatest Generation, Boomers, Gen X, and those pesky Millennials. But what about the youngest generation among us? What do they stand for? A lot of folks are asking what they value. The curiosity is easy to explain: Understanding them means targeting them more effectively, whether you’re a business or a media outlet or other interested person.
As a student pastor I want to understand them simply because I want to understand them. I think I have things to learn from them. I think you probably do, too.
It’s early yet. This generation doesn’t yet have an end point and it’s oldest members are barely 10. But there are some insights that I find really fascinating.
They’re Going to Have to Do Some Rebuilding
The generations I straddle (Gen X and Millennials) were raised in a world unravelling, not unlike the GI and Silent Generation. Instead of WWI and WWII we got the rise of global terror. If the world does what the world usually does, we’ll all sort of get tired of the unrest and go about the business of growing and building and making things better. In America, at least, the boomers presided over some of the most lush, innovative, comfortable times in history. I think the next generation will do the same.
That’s not to say there will not be conflict. Boomers also endured the Civil Rights era and the Vietnam War. But this new generation will surely be more pragmatic than the last, seeing to it that their parents’ missteps are not repeated and problems are solved.
They Will Fully Embrace a Digital World
Unlike their daddy, my kids have never known a time when their television couldn’t connect to the internet and gaming wasn’t possible in the palm of their hands. My daughter has been itching for a cell phone since her second-grade classmates started getting them over three years ago (I got my first one in college). They are bewildered when an automobile doesn’t have WiFi. Indeed, they won’t have to tolerate such a hideous inconvenience much longer.
The world they live in and will live in will be fully connected, even more so than now. It will all sync. Uber will send you a driverless car. It will be video driven instead of texts and pictures. Leave the refrigerator door open? It will close itself with sensors and timers designed to rectify such things. Your home will learn when you’re going to be home and start supper for you. This generation will never know any different, a far cry from the television in my house growing up where…wait for it…we changed the channel with vice grips. This generation’s online identity will mean as much as the one they possess in “real life.” In fact, they’re comfort with that truth will strip the parenthesis from “real life,” because it will all be “real” to them.
They Will Change the World
There are plenty of other fascinating things about this group. I’m not sure all of them will come to pass, but I think it’s important that we begin to familiarize ourselves. One way or the other, they’re going to leave their mark. They will write important chapters on key geopolitical issues (will we have a single currency and government, probably not…will global commerce and interconnectedness take on even more influential shapes and flavors, probably so), they will be a generation that adopts driverless cars and fully connected homes, and one futurist predicts many of them will live past their 100th birthdays. If so, many of them will know a world with over 15 billion citizens. The line between human and machine will be blurred. It won’t be science fiction to them, it will be a practical solution in making things better. Google Glass and Siri will seem antiquated compared to what utilities they employ.
There are several undecided things about this generation. As a pastor, I honestly think they will also usher in another Great Awakening, with an increase in religious activity across the board and within Christianity in particular. Persecution may likely birth this awakening.
One thing that is for certain undecided is what to call these kids…
One website (and my new fave follow on Twitter, because of the resources they offer) refers to them as the Homelanders or the New Silent Generation. Time Magazine recently reported on MTV’s preference, the Founders.
No matter what their name is, they are sure to shake things up — in matters of education, faith, commerce, politics, and more. Whoever they are, and whatever we call them, be sure of one thing:
Ready or not, here they come.