I have just begun reading Generation Me by Jean Twenge. The book is an exploration of the values, practices, and other lifestyle issues that dominate the those born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Just two chapters in and I’m reminded of why it can be so hard to lead and pastor the generations younger than my baby boomer years. The author is a member of the early edge of this younger generation, born in 1971. The 70s were often called the boomer’s “me decade” but Twenge asserts that “compared to today’s young people, they were posers.”
Twenge seems to have used sound, objective research methods, and her observations in the introduction and chapter one certainly ring true with what I have experienced. This is not a Christian research book, but the insights will be helpful all of us in ministry. This is an extended generation that has been encouraged to speak their mind, reject conformity and question authority. Actually, Twenge says “GenMe doesn’t jsut question authority-we disrespect it entirely.” Essentially they have been raised with the undisputed conviction that the individual comes first … at least it does if they are the individual.
Twenge doesn’t really like the Generation Me label (I’ve found that none of the post-boomers like any label) and would rather use iGeneration instead … apparently that didn’t take with her publisher. I think it works on a couple of levels – the internet focus (also something shaping them) as well as the subtle play on “i” for individual.
Lest I offend any of my younger readers, I think we will find that all of us have the same sinful tendencies as leaders, followers, workers, parents, kids. I can be pretty self-absorbed, proud, individualistic, and hard to get along with. It just comes out in new ways as the culture continues to follow and live anything but the truth of Scripture. We all stand in need of God’s grace!
But Twenge holds that her generation leaves Boomers in the dust when in comes to self-absorbtion and that is both good and bad (or so she has foreshadowed in the early pages). They are more tolerant of differences, often more confident and definitely more open-minded, but they are also often cynical, lonely and anxious. And they are often depressed. I’ve been reading books about the emerging church and it’s younger leaders and members in the hope of being a better pastor/leader. This book will give me a better take on another generation that Jesus loves.