Why I Believe in the Next Generation

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I work with young adults. That is to say, when I employ them on my staff, my goal is for them to work with me, not for me. I have learned over the years that people rise to meet the expectations placed on them. So I raise the bar as high as possible and challenge the young people I encounter to rise. And they do!

I believe in the next generation, in their abilities, their ideas, and their values. The future rests in their hands. Let’s help them by investing in them with all that we have.

I believe in the next generation for five reasons: ingenuity empowers them; injustice enrages them; challenges enthrall them; culture equips them; and hope inspires them. The future they face is not as bright as the one they should have inherited; but I know that they will rise to the challenge!

Ingenuity Empowers Them

They are not bound by any pre-conceived ideas or limitations. A simple example is the I-Phone. It was supposed to be a closed system; applications would have to be approved. Young adults took this as a challenge and “hacked” their I-phones and created a myriad of specialized and individualized applications. One author contends that those of us who are older (that hurt since I’m “only 43”) think linearly, but Mosaics (my preferred name for this generation) think in webs. Every line interacts with, informs, and influences every other line.

Injustice Enrages Them

This generation seems to have an inherent moral compass that makes them completely intolerant of social injustice. Whether it is the crisis in Darfar, the AIDS pandemic in Africa, or local poverty, they attack injustice. Whereas some might be content to send $10 to the cause of the day, Mosaics pack their bags and head to Bolivia to dig wells and to India to distribute mosquito nets.

Challenges Enthrall Them

Mosaics love to be told what they cannot do and what is “impossible.” Challenges give them the opportunity to utilize all of their resources to attack and discover new ways of beating the system. Mosaics think fast and act fast. They love a fast-paced, challenge-laden environment.

Part of their ability to adapt to any challenge so quickly is that culture has equipped them to be flexible, fast, and focused. The pace of change in our culture is faster than at any time in history. And Mosaics swim in the waters of change almost effortlessly. Culture has taught them to be flexible and keep their options open, to think and act fast because the opportunity will pass you by, and to be completely focused on the emergent problem at hand so that, once it is solved, you can move along to the next one.

Hope Inspires Them

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, amidst the rapid pace of change, the challenges of our world, and the injustice that surrounds them, Mosaics continue to manifest hope. They are not blind optimists, but deliberate realists, who still believe they can change the world. They are unwilling to accept the status quo and are ready to make their mark upon the world. It is now our job to help them mold that energy into a synergistic force for good and then get out of their way.

Advice for Faith Leaders

If I were to offer faith-based leaders three words of advice, they would be: 1) expose Mosaics to big ideas; 2) equip Mosaics to lead; and 3) encourage Mosaics to follow their dreams. Never underestimate the power of a Mosaic to be willing to study, research, and grapple with big ideas. This is a generation built upon the idea that intellectual capital is the greatest force on earth.

Allowing Mosaics to lead is risky but rewarding. They will not follow the path of those who have gone before them, but that does not mean they will go astray. Mosaics will try new things, come up with vastly different ideas, and be willing to take risks. So what if they fail as long as they learn and are able to take their experiences and fail forward. Let them lead!

Finally, be a dream enhancer rather than a dream eliminator. Help them grasp the scope of their dream and map out a way to accomplish it. Help them understand the cost of following the dream and the benefit if it is accomplished. One ridiculous dream may be what it takes to save the planet! I believe in the next generation, in their abilities, their ideas, and their values. The future rests in their hands. Let’s help them by investing in them with all that we have.

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About Author

Marty J. Cauley is Director of Content and Coaching at the Office of New Faith Communities at the NC Conference of the United Methodist Church. An ordained elder, he was also Director of Ministry with Young People for the Southeastern Jurisdiction. He blogs about ministry and living with terminal cancer at www.martycauley.org and has written a book, Dying to Go on Vacation.


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