Will Gen-Z Save the World?

The revolt against Boomer morality.

There is some sort of hard-to-define spiritual crisis across the land, which shows up in rising depression rates, rising mental health problems. A survey that the Pew Research Center released late last year captures the mood. Pew asked people to describe the things that bring meaning to their lives. A shocking number of respondents described lives of quiet despair:

“I no longer find much of anything meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying. Whatever used to keep me going has gone. I am currently struggling to find any motivation to keep going.”

“It would be nice to live according to my being rather than my blackness. I will never know how a totally worthwhile life will feel because of this.”

“Drugs and alcohol are the shining rays of light in my otherwise unbearable existence.”

“I don’t feel very satisfied with my life. I’m a stay-at-home mom and my life is endless monotony and chaos.”

When people overall described the sources of meaning in their lives, they stuck close to home. Nearly 70 percent identified family as a source of meaning, followed by career, making money, and practicing a spirituality or faith. Only 11 percent said learning added meaning to their lives. Only seven percent said that helping others was a meaningful part of their life.

If you ask philosophers how people fill their lives with meaning, they usually point to some version of serving a cause larger than self. William James said that meaning was found in tireless struggle on behalf of some sacred ideal. Susan Wolf says that meaning is found in active engagement in important projects.

But the meaning of meaning seems to have changed. When people in this survey describe meaning, they didn’t describe moral causes or serving their community, country or God. They described moments when they felt loved, satisfied or good about themselves. They described positive personal emotions. As one respondent put it, “It’s easy to forget what’s wrong in the world when you are pretending to be a puppy with your daughter.”

It’s as if people no longer see life as something that should be organized around a specific vocation, a calling that is their own way of doing good in the world.

Everything feels personalized and miniaturized. The upper registers of moral life — fighting for freedom, struggling to end poverty — have been amputated for many. The awfulness of the larger society is a given. The best you can do is find a small haven in a heartless world. One respondent said he found meaning in the tiniest things: “Small-scale nature — individual bugs and plants — are quite pleasing. I like to be able to focus on things that don’t care about me or the larger world.”

They can be totally insufferable about it. In the upscale colleges on the coasts, Wokeness is a religious revival with its own conception of sin (privilege) and its own version of the Salem Witch Trials (online shaming). But the people in this movement have a sense of vocation, moral call, and a rage at injustice that is legitimate rejection of what came before.

I recently met a group of high school kids from around the United States and Africa involved in the Bezos Scholars program. In our conversations they didn’t define their identity by where they were from, or even by their ethnicity and race. They defined themselves by what project they work on — serving Native Americans, working for clean water. Similarly, high school students generally are more likely to define themselves by their political stances and their vocations, rather than whether they are jocks or drama kids.

I’ve also found that college students are eager to talk about a moral project entirely absent from the Pew survey: Doing inner work, growing in holiness. Many seem to have rediscovered the sense, buried for a few decades, that one calling in life is to become a better person. Your current self is not good enough. You have to be transformed through right action.

It’s often uncomfortable and over the top, but we’re lucky to have a rebellion against boomer quietism and moral miniaturization. The young zealots may burn us all in the flames of their auto-da-fe, but it’s better than living in a society marked by loneliness and quiet despair.

The Pew survey reveals a large group of Americans down the income and economic ladders, who are suffering from economic scarcity, social scarcity and spiritual scarcity all at once. Less educated people were less likely to say that friendship was a source of meaning in their lives. They were less likely to say hobbies were a source of meaning, nor was learning, nor good health nor stability.

When people overall described the sources of meaning in their lives, they stuck close to home. Nearly 70 percent identified family as a source of meaning, followed by career, making money, and practicing a spirituality or faith. Only 11 percent said learning added meaning to their lives. Only seven percent said that helping others was a meaningful part of their life.

If you ask philosophers how people fill theirs lives with meaning, they usually point to some version of serving a cause larger than self. William James said that meaning was found in tireless struggle on behalf of some sacred ideal. Susan Wolf says that meaning is found in active engagement in important projects.

But the meaning of meaning seems to have changed. When people in this survey describe meaning, they didn’t describe moral causes or serving their community, country or God. They described moments when they felt loved, satisfied or good about themselves. They described positive personal emotions. As one respondent put it, “It’s easy to forget what’s wrong in the world when you are pretending to be a puppy with your daughter.”

It’s as if people no longer see life as something that should be organized around a specific vocation, a calling that is their own way of doing good in the world.

Everything feels personalized and miniaturized. The upper registers of moral life — fighting for freedom, struggling to end poverty — have been amputated for many. The awfulness of the larger society is a given. The best you can do is find a small haven in a heartless world. One respondent said he found meaning in the tiniest things: “Small-scale nature — individual bugs and plants — are quite pleasing. I like to be able to focus on things that don’t care about me or the larger world.”

The Job Advice You Wish You Knew How to Give

Times have changed so much that parents puzzle over how to guide their sons and daughters toward a career

Nearly 2 million students will emerge from U.S. colleges with bachelor’s degrees this year.

Many will enter a job market their parents barely recognize.

Competition for entry-level jobs is fierce, despite the tight labor market. Many applicants run a gantlet of internships and tryouts before getting a toehold on a permanent job. Career ladders of old have been replaced by zigzag job-to-job paths. Entry-level pay gainshave fallen short of housing-cost increases in many regions, and grads’ average debt has tripled since the early 1990s.

All this can leave parents off-balance and hard-pressed to offer advice.

Chloe Roach worked two part-time jobs during college, and three unpaid internships, before graduating from the State University of New York at Geneseo last summer with a degree in communications. She took another unpaid internship after graduation to get the ad-agency experience employers wanted, before finally landing a six-month hourly position.

“I’m exhausted just watching her,” says her mother, Monique Patenaude, a university media-relations director at her daughter’s alma mater. “She just turned 21 and she’s had more phone interviews, Skype interviews, in-person interviews, first, second and third interviews, than I’ve ever had.”

.. When Thomas Plante, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University, told friends he was going to grad school after getting his bachelor’s degree years ago, they assumed he was becoming a doctor or lawyer. Today, students seeking advanced degrees have far more career options to choose from. When his son, Zach, laid plans to go straight to grad school after graduating from Dartmouth in earth science and physics, his professors told him instead to work in research for a while so he could make a more thoughtful choice about next steps.

While Zach is working as a research assistant in labs at Stanford University and the U.S. Geological Survey, his hourly pay isn’t high enough to afford housing, so he’s living with his parents in Menlo Park, Calif. Dr. Plante and his wife, Lori, were able to buy their house years ago with their entry-level salaries and some savings. Today, his daily runs take him past a two-bedroom cottage listed for sale at $3 million.

He finds it ironic when parents complain that their sons and daughters didn’t work their way through college or land a high-paid job before graduation. His advice: “Your reality back in the 1970s or 1980s is just not the world of 2019. You’ve got to get over it.”

The New Rules of the Post-College Job Search

Encourage your child to:

Get workplace experience before graduating.

Start building a network early.

Acquire technical, analytical and interpersonal skills not taught in college classes.

Avoid relying heavily on online job boards.

Build a robust LinkedIn profile.

Seek out other experienced adult mentors for advice.

Skye Jethani: The Church is Not a Corporation with Dave Gibbons


Do your church leaders want to use you or equip you? Pastor and cultural architect, Dave Gibbons, joins Skye for a conversation about the future of the church. Having experienced everything from fundamentalism, to the seeker megachurch, and urban multiethnic ministry, Gibbons has an interesting take on where things are heading. Hint—its about launching people not institutions. Phil and Skye also discuss Andrew Sullivan’s new article in which he argues that America’s new religion of “progress” is an empty shell that has made our politics worse. Plus, scientists are implanting mice with human mini-brains. What could possibly go wrong? And Phil tries to convince Skye not to learn golf.

 

How do you shape a community.  Its clearly not just the didactic teaching.

Generation Z is looking for something authentic that engages with them.  They can get good shows other places.

Is there a fallout from this model?  How am I going to get people in the nursery?

There is going to be suspicion of white, non-diverse churches.

There needs to be people who don’t have charisma.

Younger people are looking for individualized, authentic, customized communities.  They are suspicious of am industrialized model.

They need to be a hub, resource center.  Discipleship.

Your motivation is to love them.  You don’t have to worry about saving them.

People sense that their pastor is more interested in using them than in loving them.

Church planting -> People planting

Just have meaningful conversations, love them, trust the spirit