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Common is the refrain:
“Oh those Millennials. What a bunch of lazy bums, living in their parents’ basements, playing video games, and shirking the responsibility of adulthood. Won’t they ever just grow up and live healthy, productive lives like the rest of us someday?”
Such sentiment used to be more common. Today, it’s still prevalent, but in that I’m-kind-of-joking-when-I-say-this-but-not-really sort of way.
Long have Millennials been labeled as a generation experiencing “extended adolescence,” a period in which they remain single after college, bar hop, sleep around, and maybe move out of their parents’ house. Part of this stereotype makes sense—Millennials have shown that they’re more likely to be sexually active while delaying marriage—however, it does not appear that Millennials are unemployed, bumming off of their parents’ riches as some stereotypes would lead you to believe.
A new study was released in the last week by Harvard Business Review/Happify shows that Millennials think about work much more than the generations of people who came before them. Happify is an app developed to help users think more positive thoughts.
A data science team at Harvard Business Review analyzed the data of 250,000 Happify users in three major categories: what brings users gratitude, what the long-term goals of users are, and what the short-term goals of users are. Now, it has to be noted that the pool of people used in this study are using an app to help them be more happy. This study was not conducted among thousands of randomly selected Millennials.
So, among Millennials who use an app to increase their happiness, thoughts about work run rampant.
When it comes to what Happify users are grateful for, the study found:
Across all ages, the most common topics were related to “spending quality time with family and friends.” Yet the topics for which Millennials specifically expressed the most gratitude were different: “positive interactions with colleagues,” “having a low-stress commute,” “getting a new job,” “being satisfied with an existing job,” “sleeping,” and “relaxing in bed.”
Along the same lines, tragically, a couple of categories of events for which other generations are grateful were far less common among Millennials:
The two topics of gratitude that were far less common for Millennials were “religious events,” a positive event that happened at church or a church event like singing in the choir, and “friends and family,” a topic that was among the most common for users of other ages.
When it comes to long-term goals, Millennials, like other generations, set long-term goals related to fitness and other wellness issues. However, yet again, work is a common theme:
They [Millennials] mentioned finding a new job with better benefits, more pay, better hours, and more work-life balance, as well as work that was more intrinsically rewarding. This, again, was much more typical of the Millennial age group than older or younger groups.
The least common goals among Millennials that appeared in the data sets for other generations? Also religion-oriented:
When looking at long-term goals that are the least typical of Millennials, we find that Millennials are the group with the lowest interest in goals related to faith and worship. They were much less likely to use words such as “god,” “pray,” “spiritual,” or “Bible,” for example.
What about short-term goals? Maybe Millennials have set some sort term goals to get to church this week? Nope.
The four most common topics for Millennials were “do things from my to-do list,” “apply for a job,” “get out of my comfort zone,” and “stop worrying.”
This suggests Millennials are stressed and worried (and aware of it), and are occupied with getting a great job and going about it in a way that is conscientious and organized, unafraid of pushing the envelope and facing challenges. Looking at both long-term and short-term goals, we see a clear job focus and an attempt to address worry and stress.
This data, while refreshingly stereotype-shattering, is tragic. Millennials, at least Millennials who use Happify, are thinking about work more than just about anything else.
The implications of this study are many. Perhaps the most obvious one is this:
A generation of Americans who worships work are less likely to trust that grace can save them and are more likely to think salvation relies on their obedience.
What does this mean for pastors and churches? It’s simple: continue to remind the Millennials in your church of the grace of God in Christ and the lack of reliability on works of obedience in regard to salvation.
Remind your young people that someone already worked on their behalf in order that their futile attempts at earning salvation wouldn’t result in condemnation, but salvation.
The Christian Church does not preach a gospel that relies on “I do” but on “Jesus did.” Millennials don’t need any newfangled worship experience or pyrotechnics to understand this simple truth.
Millennials need the simple truth of the gospel like anyone else.
The grace of God is never old, but it is forgotten. In a culture that worships work, the local church must remind its community of the grace we find in Christ, no gimmicks required.