The work of Better Capitalism is more than just inclusive. This work transcends faith traditions, gender, race, location, age, ethnicity and all constructs that otherwise divide humanity, because this work recognizes we are all connected by our economy. This post references "church," as that's this writer's social location and referenced research. We invite writers of all social locations and faith traditions (or none) who want to contribute their views about improving our economic relationships on this Better Capitalism blog to contact us. Thanks!
When we speak of generational differences in American culture, Millennials inevitably come up as a comparison for all the others, and for good reason. At 72.1 million strong, Millennials surpassed Boomers in 2019 as the largest generation in the United States. Born between the years 1981-1996, this age group was the first one to grow up tech savvy. According to Forbes Magazine, they are also:
Socially, financially, and spiritually conscious
Ethnically diverse and optimistic
Educated and knowledgeable
These qualities tend to inform many aspects of their lives, including the businesses where they work, the companies that they buy from, and the churches where they worship. Unfortunately, this is also a generation that holds great collective skepticism about all of these institutions. What are the perceptions that makes them so distrusting and critical of these organizations? Let's break it down between business, the workplace, and church.
Business: The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey has been checking in with this group for over a decade now, asking them questions about business. While various topics take priority from year to year, there are some issues that remain constant. According to the survey's 10-year summary, the most consistent finding is that business "has both a responsibility to improve society and the greatest potential to drive change—but it’s not living up to that potential." From exploitation of supply chain workers to laying off employees to boost quarterly profits, corporate America has often not done the right thing in the eyes of this generation.
Workplace: Many Millennials believe that, if their place of employment is not performing adequately in some crucial areas, it's time to look for a new job. A company that does not have an appropriate work-life balance, is not welcoming to diverse types of people, and does not have a sense of purpose beyond making money would be such a place. Millennials tend to share a deep sense of obligation for helping people in their communities and the less fortunate parts of the world. If their employer does not care about such things and focuses only on profit, he or she will find that they are at odds with these employees.
Church: It is no secret that church attendance has been declining among Millennials for the last couple of decades. Millennials tend to stay away from church for a number of reasons, but some are consistent across surveys. This group has a generally negative perception of church goers and the clergy. According to a 2020 Barna Group survey, over half see church goers as ungenerous toward others, aggressive, and critical, while two-thirds believe that people who attend church are hypocritical. Whether real or unfounded, these perceptions have served to keep this generation home on Sunday.
This information may be discouraging for those who are involved in leadership in any of the above organizations. As the Barna Group survey points out, however, where there are closed doors of negativity, open windows may exist to make connections with Millennials. Looking across the three areas above, there are actually encouraging trends. This generation values relationships and is looking for qualities such as purpose, fairness, authenticity, and acceptance in the places where the spend time and money.
There is no better way to attain that kind of culture than to start simply with "do unto others," which is at the heart of both the spiritual journey as reflected in the various faith traditions and economic mutuality. Just think if we applied this ethical standard across all of our dealings, whether in business, our houses of worship, or with our families. Genuine concern and care for others will resonate with every generation, not just Millennials, but it is what they are particularly aware of and the standard for which they are searching.
This Easter weekend, as some of us think about Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection, we should remember that he always showed us how we should treat each other. If we really want to follow his example, we must be consistently loving, fair, and transparent. We must consider the needs of others as well as our own. We must practice what we preach. Millennials, as well as the generations before and after them, will recognize, appreciate, and be drawn to that kind of genuine care for and consideration of others.
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