Each generation leaves its mark. The Greatest Generation is famous for their relentless work ethic, pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps in the face of extreme economic depression. The Boomer generation is known for political activism and social change forever changed American history. Each generation will be known for something.
What will the Millennial generation be remembered for? For always looking down at their smart phones and camping out in their parents’ basements for too long? Or will be they known for changing the world for good?
One of the most significant events affecting the Millennial generation is the Great Recession. In 2013, they were more likely to report economic difficulties than any other age cohorts in America. Burdensome student loans and lack of job opportunities are forcing many to delay marriage, buying a house, and starting a family. There is deep concern about economic opportunity among young people today, yet also an optimism.
In North America, 46% of Millennials said the economy is the most pressing issue of the day, and only 43% believe the economy is on the right track. However, despite concern for their economic future, 77% believe they have opportunities to become entrepreneurs.
Of course, our teachers told us we could be anything we wanted to be, but after experiencing the greatest economic down-turn since the Great Depression, how can such optimism persist?
Young people today seek a life of meaning and believe they can change the world. 87% of Millennials in the U.S. surveyed by Barna said they want to find a life full of meaning. Another study by Telefonica found that 52% of U.S. Millennials believe they can make a global difference. Many delay higher-paying jobs to work for Teach for America or the Peace Corps, and corporate giants like IBM know that if they want to attract Millennials, they need to make it clear they’re “in the business of making the world work better.”
Millennials are certainly a generation concerned about economic issues, passionate about change, and incredibly optimistic given our circumstances. Perhaps we can attribute this to our doting parents, the gold stars and soccer trophies, but it seems to be much more powerful than a childhood mantra. Such optimism for change amidst the ever-settling dust of the Great Recession will be the characteristic that sets this generation apart from the rest.
Young people today are ripe for affecting a huge economic change in their lifetime, and that’s exactly what they want to do.
That huge economic change is the end of abject poverty. Earlier this year, Hugh Whelchel wrote about the decline of extreme poverty, reporting that:
Based on current data from the World Bank, the percent of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has decreased from 52% to 21% over the last thirty years. If this trajectory continues, extreme poverty will be eliminated by 2030.
What will be key to oversee eliminating extreme poverty by 2030? There are a few things that are essential for Millennials to understand if they want this to be their legacy.
The first thing to recognize is that the task at hand is to cultivate a world where humans and nature thrive together. God wants us to harvest crops. He wants us to build cities. He wants us to enjoy the great outdoors. He wants us to create culture. He wants us to develop economies and lift full nations out of poverty.
If God’s plan for his people is flourishing here and now—for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven—that means we aren’t meant to stay in subsistence poverty. It means we are to leave our community, our world, better than how we found it.
Second, Millennials need to understand that God created us dependent on him and dependent on one another. That means we need each other to flourish, and we flourish more in a global community.
He has also given us the tools to flourish and alleviate extreme global poverty: our minds to understand how prosperity is created, our bodies to carry out the work of his hands, and our souls to enter into loving relationships with our neighbors. We are far more effective when we come together and leverage the resources God has given us to fight poverty as one global church.
Another thing to understand is who we are as a people made in the image of God.
If we are made uniquely…
If we are made to create value…
If we are made to be in personal relationships…
If we are made to be free…
If we were made to be fulfilled…
If we were made to flourish…
…we will fight poverty differently. Our efforts will be more effective. Our methods will be more dignifying. And the results will be unprecedented. That just might be what the Millennial generation will be known for.
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