Reflections on Millennials
by Rev. Jesse Smith, Reactivate UMC Pastor and Huntersville UMC Associate Pastor
"Our youth love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for their elders...They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” - Socrates c. 450 BC
"The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation." - Pearl S. Buck
Once, while I was in Jacmel, Haiti, I had the opportunity to speak with the indigenous people through the medium of a local translator. It was a painfully difficult process for someone who lacks patience and is easily distracted. During this experience, I realized, that many of the idioms I had learned growing up in the hills of Western North Carolina were lost in translation in the hills of Haiti.
I’ve often wondered if generational boundaries, though more nuanced than geographical boundaries, create similar challenges to communication. I wonder if we tend to communicate more readily to those in our own generation because we speak the same language, listen to similar music, and view the world a certain way because of our shared history, etc. And, if these things are true, who are the “local translators” in my context between my generation and the next.
As a church planter, I often dream about cultivating a culture of believers who reflect God’s goodness into the world for generations after my body has decayed in the dirt.
I think of people like Daniel Mallard, our worship leader at Reactivate United Methodist Church, and how he controls the sound board with his Apple Watch. I think of Hannah Adams, who speaks social media fluently and often reminds me that she was born the year before I graduated from high school. I think of Adam Wilhite and Justin Potts who spend untold hours honing their craft of leading musical worship and respectfully refer to me as “Sir”, even though I have told them multiple times how awkward it makes me feel.
As a GenXer, secure in my identity in Christ, I have come to realize that I do not have to become a Millenial to communicate the gospel to the next generation. If I tried, they would be repulsed by the pretentiousness. But I also realize that I have limitations. So I look for opportunities to entrust them with the faith that was entrusted to me.
Kerry Fralic, a Baby Boomer who served faithfully in the Western North Carolina Conference, gave me opportunities to preach before I felt equipped or empowered and his wife, Katie, was instrumental in helping me explore my call into ministry.
No matter how much we may fight it, we all only get to run one leg of this relay race of faith. And as we run and prepare to pass the baton, the church triumphant, along with the angels are cheering us on in the stands. And to be honest, I’m excited to see how Millenials, with fresh legs and ideas will run around the track.
[Fortunately, God is in the business of giving us all trophies we don’t deserve].