I recently finished reading The Millennials by Thom Rainer and Jess Rainer and would highly recommend it to anyone who knows, works with, goes to church with, lives with or cares about someone in the millennial generation – so pretty much everyone. However, not everyone has the time to read almost 300 pages that at times can be a little dry and technical – it is, after all, primarily a commentary on a vast amount of statistical data. Because of this, I offer a brief review that I hope will be helpful.
The Millennials attempts to present the facts objectively, but is unapologetically written from an evangelical Christian worldview. The primary purpose of this book is to identify the core identity and values of this young generation and not to make judgments as to the correctness of these values. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and found a great deal of helpful information on nearly every page. That information is the result of extensive research that the authors conducted through LifeWay Research and is basically formatted so as to present the results of that research topically. The opening chapter introduces the millennial generation as well as the study that produced the book. The following chapters each summarize the beliefs, feelings and opinions of the millennials in regard to a specific broad category such as family, money or religion.
In my opinion, the first two chapters provide an excellent overview of the later content and if read on their own would still prove to be very beneficial. Chapter one provides nice, succinct descriptions of the previous generations as well as some technical information describing how demographers choose the birth year range for a given generation, how generational names are determined and how they conducted this particular study. All you really need to know in regard to those areas is that the years vary a little; many names are suggested until one eventually sticks; and the study is totally legit. Chapter two provides insights from the younger author who is himself a Millennial. The later chapters merely delve into greater detail about the basic information provided in these opening chapters. In addition, all of the chapters are clearly titled so one could easily go directly to a topic of interest and discover the general opinion of millennials on that topic. The Millennials ends with a final chapter that addresses how churches must respond to this generation followed by a postscript that again summarizes the author’s conclusions.
In case you don’t read it for yourself, allow me to give you some highlights. To start with, The Millennial Generation the book is focused on is the largest generation in America’s history, consisting of those born from 1980 to 2000. The Millennial generation is diverse, but statistically speaking there are some typical traits. The typical millennial (you can find the statistics in chapter two and throughout the book) is educated, working (but not a workaholic), unmarried (at present, though most plan to have families), green (but not that green – most are environmentally conscious, but not driven by environmentalism), financially confused and not religious.
In addition to this typical profile, the authors discovered some prominent themes that seem to represent the majority of Millennials.
• They are hopeful for the future and that they can make a difference. They desire to be significant and to do something to change the world they live in. This often leaves them restless and dissatisfied with status quo.
• They are relational. Most Millennials desire close relationships with their families, but it even extends beyond the family circle. They are connected and they value relationship and community. They are not less capable, but they do not necessarily desire to be as independent. They desire to be mentored by someone who is experienced and will listen and communicate.
• They are learners. They will eventually become the most educated generation and have already earned the highest number of undergrad degrees and scored highest on aptitude tests. They are driven to pursue education. Even those not pursuing formal education seem more driven to excel and gain expertise in their field.
• They are family oriented. They have many traditional attitudes about family. About 80% believe they will only marry once. Most want children and want their parents and siblings to be involved in their family. Most desire parental involvement.
• They are less religious. Though only a small percentage of this generation is likely to be genuine Christians, about 85% are just not religious at all. They seem to have little interest in formal religion. Only 13% considered any type of spirituality to be important in their lives.
The expansion of these themes and the typical traits make up the substance of this book. Though the authors seemed to try to put the most positive spin possible on each of the traits and themes, it is obvious that there is great need among those in this Millennial Generation. To me, the greatest benefit of this book for believers and church leaders is to use it as a guide of sorts to lead us into more profitable interaction with this generation. Many of our churches at present are deliberately designed to push this group away while at the same time they lament the fact that the “young people” aren’t in church anymore. This book could be a great tool in helping us understand how these Millennials can be reached.
Overall, I think this is a much needed book for churches and individuals right now. Personally, I became filled with hope at the great potential of this generation while reading and upon finishing found myself excited to engage this diverse generation and be used to help them become a mighty force for God’s glory.