At Work

Twenty-Somethings Are Embracing a Christian View of Vocation, but Not Because of the Church

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Twenty-somethings in the workplace. Most reactions to this picture probably aren’t positive (see the Millennials in the Workplace Training Video to learn more about why). So you might be surprised to learn that twenty-somethings are actually embracing a Christian theology of work.

Barna Group’s recent FRAME called 20 and something unpacks the complex culture of the Millennial generation from a uniquely Christian perspective coupled with thorough research. Author David Kim, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, says that twenty-somethings today value:

  • Hope and change. It’s not a coincidence President Obama used the slogan “Hope and Change” for his 2008 campaign and successfully won the votes and hearts of young people across America. Twenty-somethings today have hope for a better future and want to play a significant role in changing the world.
  • Adventure. Kim says many Millennials suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) because they know YOLO (you only live once). So if Peace Corps in Uganda is calling, a twenty-something won’t think twice about answering.
  • Meaning and fulfillment. Barna research found that an overwhelming 87% of Millennials surveyed want to find a life full of meaning. “From vocation to prayer life to Instagram feed,” Kim says, young people today are searching for meaning and fulfillment in all areas of life.

Kim also reports that when it comes to work, twenty-somethings today are:

  • Thoughtful about choosing a career. Millennials are known for job-hopping in order to experiment and explore, which shows they want to make the right career choice. Nearly half surveyed by Barna say they are anxious about choosing a career because they don’t want to make the wrong decision.
  • Serious, passionate, and ambitious. They prioritize work over getting married and starting a family which, while it might not always be seen as a good thing, it shows they are serious about their careers. Millennials ranked finding a job they are passionate about as the highest career priority (42%), even over financial security (34%). They are also ambitious in finding their dream job. 52% of young adults surveyed believe they can have their dream job in five years.
  • Not defined by their job. Even though twenty-somethings are enthusiastic about work, only 31% say that a career is central to their identity.

Of course every generation has strengths and weaknesses, but Barna’s highlighting the strengths of the Millennial generation is certainly encouraging from a Christian perspective. The values they hold dear and the characteristics they display look a lot like a biblical view of work.

Rather than prioritizing income and stability over fulfillment and meaning, twenty-somethings are embracing a higher sense of vocation. We each have a meaningful calling set out before us that we should be thoughtful and passionate about pursuing. Twenty-somethings today get this. They strive to live it out in every area of their life, especially their careers.

But churches aren’t getting much credit for this encouraging shift, even from Millennials who grew up in them. Barna’s research finds that:

  • There is a dwindling patience for the church’s segregation of secular and sacred among Millennials.
  • 45% of churchgoers said they learned to understand their gifts and passions as part of God’s calling, but 83% of church dropouts say the church has not helped them learn this.

If the church isn’t offering meaning to every area of life, Kim says, “20-somethings will go somewhere else to find it.”

Millennials want to actively engage with the world around them, and they want a church that does the same. A church that joins the sacred to the secular. A church that connects Sunday to Monday. A church that gives meaning to every aspect of life.

Thankfully, the body of Christ is beginning to rediscover the biblical doctrine of work, and the faith and work movement is growing. Let’s hope this change continues.

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