Jean Twenge has studied generational differences for many years and has some sobering thoughts in her Ted Talk regarding iGen, those born between 1995 and 2012, the Smartphone Generation.
She reminds us that iGen is the first generation to grow up always having a smartphone. They tend to stay at home, spending hours of screen time with video games. They are more likely to feel unhappy. They are on the forefront of the worst mental health crisis in decades, with rates of teen depression and suicide skyrocketing since 2011.
They are less likely than all teens from other generations to go out without their parents, to date, have sex, drive or drink. They are obsessed with safety and fearful of their economic futures. They are in no hurry to grow up, with many not having driving licenses by the 12th grade. By 2016, one in four men in their early twenties was not working. Instead, the majority of their day was spent playing video games.
Wow… not a pretty picture it would seem. As one who is identified as a Baby Boomer, we were the ones who rebelled against our parental norms, promoting the Hippie lifestyles of free love and protesting all things our parents had built. No doubt our parents wondered what we would become. Yes, we grew up eventually, just as iGen will. Yes, it will take time, maybe longer than previous generations, but they will grow and mature. But, they will be different that those before them.
Kingdom leaders must lead in the power of the Holy Spirit if they are to be able to lead into these generational complexities. It’s definitely not one-size fits all when it comes to leadership style and execution. The Spirit within those who lead in the Kingdom will give us discernment, awareness, and guide us to the truth of how best to fulfill our responsibilities. We need not become expert social anthropologists to be very effective leaders for advancing the Kingdom.
Let’s not give way to fear of the future or live in despair of the challenging complexity we face today. Rather, let’s depend upon the power of the Spirit who resides within us to enable us to lead this generation well, for His glory. He made each and every one of them and wants them to be well-led. Count on it – God cares for His people!
Let’s lead like Jesus who came out of the wilderness “in the power of the Spirit” as He began His public ministry (see Luke 4:14). May we be Spirit-led and Spirit filled as we lead in these challenging times.