Talkin’ Bout My Generation: Demystifying Millennials (Tim A., Erica H., Emily M. & Rev. Marti Keller)

READING – Erica

Today’s reading comes from the book, Millennials and the Pop Culture, by William Strauss and Neil Howe with Pete Markiewicz.  (pp. 77-78)

Every generation contains all kinds of people. But each generation has a persona, with core traits. Not all members of that generation will share those traits, and many will personally resist those traits, but – like it or not – those core traits will substantially define the world inhabited by every member of a generation.

The following are the seven core traits of the Millennial Generation (born between 1982 and 2000). On the whole, these are not traits one would have associated with Silent, Boomers, or Gen Xers, in youth. Far more closely, they resemble the era of G.I. Generation teens.

* Special – From precious-baby movies of the mid-’80s to the media glare surrounding the high school Class of 2000, older generations have inculcated in Millennials the sense that they are, collectively, vital to the nation and to their parents’ sense of purpose.

* Sheltered – From the surge in child-safety rules and devices to the post-Columbine lockdown of public schools, to the hotel-style security of today’s college dorm room, Millennials are the focus of the most sweeping youth-protection movement in American history.

* Confident – With high levels of trust and optimism – and a newly felt connection to parents and future, Millennial teens are beginning to equate good news for themselves with good news for their country.

* Team-Oriented – From Barney and soccer to collaborative learning and a resurgence of Greek life on campus, Millennials are developing strong team instincts and tight peer bonds.

* Conventional – Taking pride in their improving behavior and quite comfortable with their parents’ values, Millennials provide a modern twist to the traditional belief that social rules and standards can make life easier.

* Pressured – Pushed to study hard, avoid personal risks, and take full advantage of the collective opportunities adults are offering them, Millennials feel a “trophy kid” pressure to excel.

* Achieving – With accountability and higher school standards having risen to the top of America’s political agenda, Millennials are on track to becoming the smartest, best-educated generation of adults in U.S. history.

Here ends the reading for today.

SERMON

REV. MARTI KELLER:

Today we will bring you five common generalizations about the Millennial Generation that we’ve all heard multiple times before.  But it’s far too easy with generalizations to forget the individual people behind them.  What do individual Millennials think about these generalizations?  And how can we all, including this Boomer momma, learn from them.

First, I take the liberty of a ministerial moment by prefacing my portion of the sermon crafted by our three Millennials for this morning by sharing with you an e-note sent on his I-phone by my own Millennial child in response to an e-request sent on my first generation I-phone that he share  with me and thus you the five things that are the most annoying or disturbing to him about his Boomer parents.

In response- he sent this: not exactly on assignment but worth sharing for sure:

I love the baby boomers, they made me. But there seems to be a natural generational divide between the boomers and the millenials (sorry Gen Xers, nobody cares about you). My baby boomer parents were wonderful (hint one of them is currently reading this to you). I wonder what my upbringing would be like without the things I so commonly associate with the baby boomers: Rewards for stuff that you’re just supposed to do. Trophies for participation at soccer games. Gold stars for drawing a lion mixed with a panda. These aren’t necessarily bad things. Self-esteem is obviously important to the baby boomers. And yet, many boomers seem to believe we millenials are lazy, under-committed, over-achieving, and cocky. I wonder how that happened?

A USA Today article from 2006 has this to say about the Millennial generation.  “Millennials have grown up with technology and use it constantly, not just for work, like many of their elders, but to maintain relationships. This is the group whose multitasking lifestyles rely on iPods, instant messaging, cellphones and social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. “  Is this true?  Are Millennials always plugged in?

TIM:

Millennials are generally constantly plugged in.  And I for one am thankful for it.  I can’t imagine life without it.

I’ve been on the internet since I was in the fourth grade, all the way back in 1992, after my elementary school gave us a computer with a modem.  All we had was Prodigy, which at the time was in its pre-World Wide Web days.  And I’ve been meeting people all over the globe ever since.

I live in a world so small, I can contact a friend in Europe with a literal push of a button. I have friends all over the globe whom I’ve never met face to face but I count them among my closest.  And I don’t see it as “online friends” versus “in person friends” – they’re all friends, they’re all close to me.

My social network comes with me where I go.  It’s an embodiment of the interconnected web – and I can have it all from the comfort of my own cell phone.  I text my family more often than I see them, I send facebook messages instead of calling, I’ll tweet someone sitting in the same sanctuary as me.   And I keep meeting new people through my online interconnectedness.  I can send a facebook message to Gini Courter, the moderator of the UUA, and get a response back.

People say our internet activity keeps us from being truly social.  That we get distracted by our cell phones when we’re out at dinner with friends.  True, but in a way, I’m also at dinner with my entire social network in addition to the person across from me.

Yes, I can unplug if I want to or need to.  Face to face is just as important as social media.  But it never should be only one or the other.

I need a religion that’s available 24 7 just like my social network.  I might be feeling my most spiritual at 11 pm on a Tuesday night and I need a faith that’s there online with me.  It’s one of the reasons I volunteer to do our congregation’s social media – it helps me stay connected to our congregation outside of just Sunday mornings.

It makes our message spread farther than you ever thought possible.  I want everyone to take our your cell phones.  Go ahead.  Earlier we asked you to silence them but not to turn them off, and here’s why.  I want you to text, or facebook, or tweet someone.  Tell someone you love them, or that you’re at UUCA right now listening to this service.  Go ahead.  I’ll do it too.

I need a faith where not only is this tolerated, it’s celebrated.

ERICA:

While I agree with all the benefits of the Internet and social media that Tim just mentioned, I believe there are also many downsides to being constantly plugged in. Recent studies have shown a rising trend in internet addiction, which has been associated with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Studies have also found that spending time in nature can help to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD.

I have dealt with depression, generalized anxiety disorder and ADD since high school, but have only realized in the past few years how detrimental being constantly plugged in has been for me. I have since had to make conscious efforts to reduce my overuse and reliance on the Internet. For example, not only is my phone not “smart,” it doesn’t even receive text messages; and when I had to buy a new computer, I purposefully bought a desktop so that I couldn’t use my computer in bed.

Oftentimes, we don’t even realize how stressful and taxing all of this constant stimuli from our tvs, phones, and computers are because it is so ingrained in our every day lives and we have no way of escape – our jobs and relationships depend on it. I became aware of this while chaperoning the Coming of Age end-of-the-year trip, which ended up being an unexpected spiritual experience.

Our trip was to the Global Village at the Calvin Center, where we were supposed to experience a little bit of what it is like to live in a lower income country. We were out in the woods with no electricity or running water; we had one outhouse; we had to walk to get water; and we had to earn our food by working in the garden and making bricks. It was hot; we were sweaty, tired, covered in dirt, and itchy from bug bites. In short, we did a lot of complaining. However, I found that I was actually really enjoying myself.

Yes, I was physically exhausted and uncomfortable, but my mind had never been so at peace. I wasn’t depressed; I was still anxious due to a few injuries, but gone were the thousands of thoughts that constantly race through my mind: schoolwork, finding a job, my future with a capital “F.” Since we had no electricity, at night we hung out by the campfire, but then were forced to go to bed. I didn’t have the option of staying online until 4am, doing absolutely nothing and not being able to fall asleep. So I went to bed by 9:30 and had the most restful sleep ever. Without technology, the students and I were forced to hang out, commiserate over how terrible the food was and bond. And I know they won’t admit it, but I think that they had just as much fun as I did.

So yes, the Internet with its infinite resources at your fingertips is a great tool. And we definitely need to build our online presence to attract more people to UUCA and UU in general. However, being constantly plugged in can also detract from our mental and spiritual health. And this isn’t a problem just for Millennials and younger, but for older generations as well. The great thing about UUCA is that we have so many different ways to find spiritual fulfillment. However, our various groups can only continue to exist if we have new volunteers ready to step up. So seek out us Millennials – we can help you get plugged into technology, and you can help us plug into our spirituality.

REV. MARTI KELLER:

I’ve heard that this constant technological connection is a sign that millennials are just…bored.

One big area of research on Millennials is how Millennials work best.  There have been countless studies focusing on Millennials in the workplace. This quote, from Blake Sunshine, a millennial herself, appears in the article Managing Millennials: What Am I Doing wrong?

Does my Millennial employee have enough work to do? – This is the most important thing you can ask yourself! Millennials get bored easily, actually we get bored reallyyy easy! And if a Millennial doesn’t have enough work to do he or she is going to find some way to stay entertained. So do us all a favor, and give us work to do.”  Is she right?  Do Millennials get bored easily?

TIM:

This is true.  I admit it – I hate saying it that we get bored easily, but we do.  There’s just so many different things I could be doing – if something isn’t aligning with my passion like I thought it would, I tune out and want to start something new.

I don’t want to stick to one faith tradition.  I don’t want to stick to just one way of thinking.  Because it might not make sense to me tomorrow.  If there’s one thing life has taught me – it’s that nothing in life is ever guaranteed to be the same.  My worldview was shaped by life changing instantaneous events like Columbine and 9/11.  I know there could be no tomorrow.   Life is simply too short to stick to something it turns out I’m not interested in.

So much of my life has been spent on what I ought to be doing.  I ought to be in the fifteen afterschool clubs I was in back in high school.  I ought to be in college at Georgia Tech but still change the world in my spare time.  It’s been programmed for me, and I often didn’t get the most say in it.  And now that I’m out of school, I can decide things for myself.  I don’t know if I’ll find something interesting – I’ll get involved if it sounds interesting, but will it pan out like I expect?  If not, I get bored and start thinking about what else I could be doing.  After all, I don’t have a lot of free time.  Why spend it on doing the same old thing every day?  How can I change the world if I’m falling asleep in a committee meeting?

This is a huge challenge for churches and places of worship.  How can we keep Millennials interested in congregational life knowing they might get bored easily? In my time here at UUCA, I’ve gone all over the map with my involvement, from organizing the games at a church picnic, organizing the auction, being on the stewardship campaign, teaching RE, youth advisor, and more.  Sure sometimes they overlap, but I’m able to embrace my inner ADD by volunteering in many different aspects of the church.  It’s just not in my nature to hunker down with one activity and stick to it for six years.  I need a faith community that’s challenging me with all kinds of different ways to be involved, all kinds of different ways to volunteer.  Because although I might get bored on the Stewardship committee, I won’t get bored with UUCA.

ERICA:

In responding to this question, I have to talk about the Coming of Age class again. I probably got more out of being one of the teachers for the class this year than the students got out of being in it. But I suppose that happens often to teachers, you learn more from your students than they learn from you.

I have to admit that teaching the class this year was a challenge – much more challenging than I had ever anticipated. It is not easy to keep 8th graders engaged on a Sunday morning when they are exhausted from a full week of school and a full weekend that doesn’t provide a break from extracurricular activities and homework. They were often bored and they always let it be known.

So when we went on the end-of-the-year trip, I expected more of the same, but instead was very pleasantly surprised. Ok, actually, I was ecstatic. Most of the students really threw themselves into the activities; I saw a completely different side of them. I really enjoyed seeing this difference in one student in particular. This student had complained every week about having to be in class, hated to participate and was always bored. But out in the woods, this student was always the first to volunteer for everything – from walking a mile to get water for the rest of the group, to cooking breakfast over a coal stove. It’s true that I had never watched anybody make bricks before this trip, but I’m pretty sure it had never been done with such gusto.

So this made me think – As a Millennial teaching Millennials, why was I trying to get them to do what had never worked for me? In high school, my senior class voted for me as “Teachers’ Terror” and somehow ALSO 2nd place for “Teachers’ Pet.” I love learning, but I HATE being in the classroom. So, I realized that if I were to commit to teaching the CoA class again, I would have to really change how I approached the class and the students.

Millennials benefit greatly from kinesthetic learning – we need to move around, use our hands, DO. We also like choice and collaboration. Unlike Baby Boomers, we like to collaborate first and then work independently, rather than the other way around. In fact, in preparing for this service, the first thing I did was seek out my friends. In particular, my friend Patrick Etienne spent hours with me sharing his ideas and giving feedback. And talking things over with him, made me remember things that I wouldn’t have been able to put together on my own.

So how do all my lessons learned go beyond RE and apply to UUCA in general? Well, when Millennials get excited about something, they throw themselves in, they work hard, they collaborate, they work efficiently, and they get things done. So invite Millennials to be on your committee, we have great ideas and skills to share. But remember, if you simply invite us to the meeting, we’ll probably get bored. Let us help set the agenda, give us choices, and let us share the responsibility of deciding how to get things done.

REV. MARTI KELLER:

The American Business Journal interviewed Ray Williams, a Co-Founder of Success IQ University and President of Ray Williams Associates – “Things have changed,” he says. “At one time, employees were loyal to the company regardless of how they were treated. Work was transactional—if people were paid on time, they stayed around. But Millennials don’t perceive work that way.”

A CBS news 60 minutes report was even more brutal.  “Today more than half of college seniors move home after graduation. It’s a safety net, or safety diaper, that allows many kids to quickly opt out of a job they don’t like.”  You might get bored, but is it true that Millennials just can’t commit?

EMILY:

If I find something worth committing to, I’ll commit. I graduated 3 years ago with a Bachelors in Math. Being committed to close the income gap by teaching inner-city middle school math in Phoenix, I gave my soul to Teach for America and to 130 rough and directionless students. After struggling immensely with my semester-long daily failures at classroom management, I decided that I needed to quit.  I moved to Atlanta to start a new career as a software training and testing coordinator. That job lasted one and a half years. I had not succeeded in finding meaning in the job; I felt like I had failed because I wasn’t really helping anyone; I quit. Since then, I’ve spent one year at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with a new career direction. I’m trying to inspire children to save lives through a school program called Pennies for Patients. I see myself there for 2 more years, tops, because the job isn’t quite meeting my expectations – I’m not helping enough. I’ve been 25 years old for one month, and I have had 3 entirely different careers. I’ve also had 3 very serious, but entirely different, boyfriends. I haven’t made a lifelong commitment to anything or anyone. 

My generation learned that we have innumerable options; the world is literally at our fingertips. With online resources, I can find a job in Atlanta while living in Phoenix. Or I can surf dating sites to gain access to the oh so many fish in the sea.

Millennials generally all had parents that held us to high expectations. Instead of rebelling against the high stakes, most of us embrace them. We hold ourselves to high expectations today, in our 20s or early 30s. Instead of sticking to a job, we leave when it isn’t meeting or we aren’t meeting our expectations. Whatever it is that I do choose to pursue, I feel like I have to do a really fantastic job at it. Or else.

I mentioned that I haven’t made a lifelong commitment to anything or anyone, which includes a commitment to God. I realize I have options; the abundance of options has made it challenging for me to pick and stick with any of them.

Here, I can believe in God or not or somewhat. UUCA, not only offers a variety of sources of wisdom, but it’s a place where I can safely change my mind without the label of “quitter.”  I can commit to UUCA without committing to a certain spiritual belief that I will, honestly, probably reject in a few years.

However, I might still have unrealistically high expectations from UUCA like I do from my job. For example, I want service to inspire and uplift me in an exceptionally divine way every Sunday.

Most of us are looking for an unattainable something that is worth our commitment.

ERICA:

Like Emily, I can also list many things that I have been unable to commit to: school, finding a career-related job, getting exercise, cooking regularly and eating healthy, a boyfriend, reading and keeping up with world events and politics as much as I would like to – the list goes on.

My behavior towards commitments is fairly typical of Millennials. It’s not that we are lazy and not willing to work – it’s that we prefer and expect our jobs and activities to not just earn us a living or be a commitment that we’re “supposed to do”, but also to arouse our passions. We want them to be mentally stimulating, emotionally engaging, and spiritually fulfilling.

As Emily said, Millennials have innumerable options. Commitments are much easier to make when you don’t realize that you have other options. When my grandmother was 16, her options for the rest of her life included: getting married to the guy my great-grandparents chose for her and having kids OR getting married to the guy my great-grandparents chose for her and having kids. My grandmother is Hindu because that is what her parents were and what everyone else around her was. It was what she was supposed to believe and she never questioned it.

I was fully committed to the Hindu faith until the ripe old age of 10. For me then as well as now, Hinduism essentially boiled down to: “One God, Many Paths.” So even though I knew that other religions existed, they never seemed to be in conflict; they were ultimately all about the same thing and I never questioned my faith.

That is until one day when I was in the 4th grade and I met a friend who didn’t believe in God. And my world was blown. I had never even considered not believing in God as a valid option and all of a sudden I was filled with all sorts of questions – was she right, is there really no God? Is she a bad person? What will happen to her? And I haven’t been able to stop questioning since.

Over the years, I went from being Hindu, to being agnostic, to being Chrindu, back to agnostic, to currently atheist and perhaps UU. Yes, that’s right, I’m still not sure if I am UU – yes, I love UUCA, but would I love another Unitarian Universalist congregation? Can I still be UU if I don’t have a congregation? I just don’t know yet.

Millennials can’t commit. It is said reproachfully. However, I think that this is a great thing. Millennials are the most diverse population America has encountered thus far and most of us celebrate that diversity – we’re open to new ideas and new experiences and don’t buy into all the things we’re “supposed to do.”

I think my life would have been a lot easier if I hadn’t spent the last 16 years questioning so much. I would probably have been less anxious, less depressed, less lonely, and less of an outsider at times. I would have also been spared much pain in various relationships over the years…But I might also have been spared those relationships completely. And ultimately, I wouldn’t have found UUCA, where I don’t feel like I have to compromise any of my values and beliefs to be an insider and where I feel like I am mentally stimulated, emotionally engaged, and spiritually fulfilled.

So if being able to commit means connecting with fewer people, learning less, and being closed to new experiences, then I’m content being discontent – for now at least, who knows, in the future perhaps I will commit to being committed, I haven’t decided yet.

REV. MARTI KELLER:

Allison Casassa in her article My Generation: Is Life a cakewalk for Millennials in [X]press Magazine has this to say.  “This positive mentality and as-soon-as-possible approach to life stems from the structured schedule their parents implemented at birth. Moms have carted toddlers around to organized activities with play groups and child development programs like Gymboree and Mommy and Me from the very beginning. Pretty soon, a Millennial is juggling soccer practice, tutoring and piano lessons on top of their AP homework and community service for their college applications. According to Howe and Strauss’ book Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, these kids have been overscheduled and over pressured, not knowing how to relax or even do things on their own because adults have told them what to do their entire lives.”  Are millennials really this overscheduled?

EMILY:

When Tim asked me to participate in this sermon, my biggest fear was in sharing my thoughts, worrying that they’re not profound or deeply reflective enough. In responding to this stereotype, I agree that my peers and me are generally over-scheduled. In college especially, I was so consumed with my busy-ness and structure that I didn’t find time to dive deep into my soul, to discover myself. Hence, my fear that you all won’t find me deep enough.

In my last year of university, I was the cross country team captain, a leader on the executive committee of my sorority, a resident advisor, a student council representative, a district-wide chairman on our Circle K service club, our Society of Women Engineers K-12 outreach coordinator, and happened to graduate magna cum laude from a premier engineering and science college.

Listing off my resume-boosting activities should feel like bragging, but, instead, that felt like a confession. My full calendar left spiritual cup empty.

How does this affect what I want from UUCA? That’s two-fold. Part of me wants to cut out the committee commitment to leave time for reflection and force me to pause, avoiding the tendency to overfill my calendar. The other part of me thrives off of being busy and distracted (aka blissfully ignorant). The conversation today helps me to see that responsibility to save reflection time is on my shoulders.  And that I need to consciously pick the activities that go on my calendar, so they are meaningful and support my spiritual growth.

To my generation, I applaud those of us who are using their strengths to support UUCA. A lot of my Millennial peers can successfully plan an event or serve on a committee today because they probably joined 30 different clubs and school extra-curricular activities in high school and college.  We’re used to that kind of service.  We need others to step down and my generation needs to step up.

If you’re not contributing your strength, why not? Are you overscheduled?

To other generations, I need to know that I have your support and your trust in my ability. I need to know that you recognize that I prioritize UUCA despite my busy-ness. And my generation might need your guidance in teaching us how to fill our spiritual cups, not just our calendars.

TIM:

I don’t remember where I first heard this quote – but if you want to get something done, ask someone really busy to do it.  My senior year of high school alone I was involved in a ton of student organizations: Jr. Civitan where I had been president for three years, academic decathlon, French club, French honor society, beta club, national honor society, our school’s literary magazine, achiever’s international, mu alpha theta, math club, and a couple more that escape my memory.  And that’s on top of six classes, four of which were APs, a senior project where I interned with the local weatherman in town, and more.  I got used to being over scheduled, where I would have three club meetings on the same day.

I kept that same level of involvement when I went to college.  Like Emily, I could rattle off which sounds like a really impressive resume for someone my age, but it’s not that big of a deal.  Because most of my friends have one just as long.

Over commitment makes spirituality hard for me.  It takes time for spiritual practice.  I haven’t been able to schedule it in on a regular basis.  And I wish it wasn’t something I had to schedule in, but I know my life.  I work a full time job, do UUCA’s social media, help lead the 2030s group, advise our youth group while trying to maintain some kind of life.  Downtime is so rare for me – and downtime is never really down.  I still have something on my mind, something to do.  I need a way to schedule in some kind of spiritual practice that also meets my personal schedule.  I need my church to teach that to me.

I need a way to fit church into my schedule.  I can’t do weeknight meetings with my overscheduled life – I can’t count the number of leadership positions that’s kept me out of here at UUCA or how many adult Re classes I wanted to take but couldn’t.  There are those of us who can’t even fit Sunday mornings into our overscheduled lives – we need to be able to have services beyond just Sunday mornings.  We need a church that both challenges us but also works with us.

REV. MARTI KELLER:

I remember hearing some pretty harsh things on 60 Minutes in 2007 in a report on Millennials. “You do have to speak to them a little bit like a therapist on television might speak to a patient.  You can’t be harsh. You cannot tell them you’re disappointed in them. You can’t really ask them to live and breathe the company. Because they’re living and breathing themselves and that keeps them very busy.” “So who’s to blame for the narcissistic praise hounds now taking over the office?”  I hate to ask this, but are millennials…kinda selfish?  Apathetic?

EMILY:

Yes.

The Webster Dictionary defines selfish as “devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.” Hmm. I talked with my mom about my concern that I typically speak more than my friend Kathleen when the two of us go out for coffee; I was worried that I was being too self-absorbed. My mom gave me advice: ask Kathleen more questions, give less answers. I had to make a conscience effort to seem more interested in Kathleen than myself.  Ironic. I was selfishly trying to appear selfless so that I could feel better about myself and so that Kathleen would like me more.

Regardless of my motives, building up Kathleen and supporting her through a tough break-up is important. Giving her love adds meaning to my life. My selfish motives have a positive result.

I live alone; on a daily basis, I don’t make sacrifices for anyone else – I don’t have to wash someone else’s dishes, pick up dry cleaning for a husband, or pack a child’s lunch. This consistent, simple selfish behavior seeps into my world views, my friendships, my spirituality.  Although I read The Economist and listen to NPR, I am not extremely passionate about the happenings in Lybia, for example. I’d prefer to concern myself with myself and do things that improve the immediate “world” around me.  For instance, I volunteered to tutor English for immigrants. I LOVED that; it made me come alive.

When I’m feeling guilty, like a bad citizen of the world, I’ll get online and read and sign petitions on Amnesty International to stop injustice in far-off locations.  I get very little satisfaction; perhaps because I need instant gratification, like what I receive from a student in an English class.

Spiritually, I believe that the spirit of life is all of the love in this world combined. I believe we are on earth to build up this collective love. For me, this is done through intimate human interactions. For me, I care less about international politics and more about the happiness and dreams of individuals with whom I’m close.

I can’t speak for my entire generation, but my lack of investment in the big picture stems from my more pressing desire to contribute my love to individuals.  That fits the definition of selfish alright, although, in a fairly positive light.

ERICA:

Yes, often Millennials are indeed selfish and apathetic when it comes to what is going on outside our social bubble. We are consumers. If you want us to “buy” what you’re selling, you have to making it appealing. And it seems like these days we’re just constantly bombarded with grim news from 24-hour news networks where everything is partisan and hyper-sensationalized; everything is a war on something, a something-gate, a something-mageddon, or a something-pocolypse. Latest case in point – carmageddon. If everything is a crisis, then nothing is a crisis. Why get involved and waste our time on something characterized by in-fighting, inefficiency, and a lack of results? We’d rather focus on what is personally meaningful to us – our school, our job, our friends, our family, our hobbies and interests.

So rather than describing Millennials as selfish and apathetic, perhaps it is more accurate to describe us as self-absorbed. Millennials are often accused of having an, “It’s all about ‘ME’ attitude.” But again, perhaps that’s not such a terrible thing.

I firmly believe that I would not have found UUCA if I hadn’t decided that I needed to be a little more “All about Me.” I started coming to UUCA in August of 2009. That summer was pretty rough; I had just been dumped, both my roommates were interning abroad; I was still fairly new to Atlanta and didn’t really have friends; and my health problems were causing me to really struggle in school and I was extremely anxious about my future. I desperately wanted a community and some spiritual fulfillment.

If I had told my mom how I was feeling, she would have told me to pray and go to temple. But Hinduism wasn’t speaking to me. It was all in Sanskrit and there were issues regarding social structure and gender equity that I found deeply troubling. So what my parents likely saw as selfishness and apathy every time I refused to attend religious events while I was living at home, I saw as unwillingness to compromise some of my values for the sake of community.

After college, in an attempt to find community, I started going to a Bible Baptist church in NJ simply because a friend had been going there. I met a lot of really welcoming and friendly people, and people my age, which was nice. However, every time homosexuality was mentioned, I found myself getting hurt and angry. So again, I wasn’t able to compromise my values for the sake of community.

Finally, I decided to volunteer for MoveOn.org; I felt that I could at least find something mentally stimulating and emotionally engaging, if not spiritually fulfilling – at least we had similar values. And that’s where I met Claire Whitfield. One day after standing in the hot sun for hours in front of the Decatur Marta Station, asking people to sign our petition in support of the Healthcare Bill, Claire offhandedly remarked, “Well, it’s ok that we didn’t get as many signatures as we had wanted. I can just take it to my church and easily get a 100.”

What?! We’ve been standing here for hours and there are 100 people at your church who will sign this?? Umm…I think that’s where I need to be. And that is how I found UUCA. Thank you, Claire.

The thought that if it hadn’t been for an offhand remark, I would not be standing here in front of you right now, I wouldn’t be teaching CoA, and I wouldn’t be friends with all those people up there – it terrifies me to the core. So how do we attract more young people to UUCA? We talk it up! Religion is such a touchy subject that I feel many of us are afraid to talk about it, especially in America where it is so often entangled in politics. And I am guilty of this too – so many of my friends don’t know what a huge part of my life UUCA is and what it has done for me. But we need to speak up! You just never know when your offhand remark will touch someone and change their life. Millennials are listening.

TIM, EMILY, ERICA:

And thank you for listening too.

SERMON RESOURCES:

Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next by the Pew Research Center.  http://pewresearch.org/millennials/

Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by Neil Howe, William Strauss and R.J. Matson

Generations of Faith: A Congregational Atlas by Carl Eeman

The Millennial Muddle: How Stereotyping Students Became an Industry – The Chronicle of Higher Education.  http://chronicle.com/article/The-Millennial-Muddle-How/48772/

Our 2030s group and Youth Group – ask anyone 10-30 for his or her opinions!