After a break from the blog for student summer trips I woke up the other morning and read this article on CNN. Essentially it looks like more doom and gloom for millennials. The article highlights a new report in the U.K. that millennials stand to earn less over their careers than their parents' generation. This marks the first time that has happened in the U.K. None of this is particularly surprising when you factor in rising college debt, delayed marriage, and delayed career starts. All of these affect one's income. And certainly, life long income ought not be the only factor that one uses to determine the success or failure of anything. Nonetheless, the article describes a trend that ought to give us pause. But, it was what happened after I read the article that was so intriguing.
A few hours later I walked into a Verizon store here in my Washington town so that I could replace my dinosaur of a phone that has been malfunctioning lately. I am not a Luddite so it isn't as though I was using a flip model or anything like that, but the phone was definitely not working as "smart" as it should and wouldn't hold a charge for longer than about 2 hours. The store is a smaller Verizon store and I was a little worried that I wouldn't find the model I wanted on hand. What I did find was three teen and early twenty somethings staffing the location.
The one student named "Michael" was the first one to help me. He knew what he was doing and since we were waiting for my contacts to upload I started to ask him some questions about school, work, etc. These days after article reading and writing and the new calling I seem to be neck deep in I find I am very curious about teens and young adults and have lots more to ask them about. So we kept talking. But, it was when he asked me, "What do you do for a living?" that the conversation took off. I told Michael that I was mostly a minister who works at a local church. But, I also told him that when I wasn't doing that I was running a teen jobs program that helps teenagers find their first jobs. I explained about the program that we are still creating and he kept asking questions. We talked about school, debt, managing money, etc.
What was so fascinating though was that within about 30 seconds the other two associates were totally engaged in the conversation. They were telling me about their own struggles as young adults with money and about what they had learned trying to hold down a job. It was fascinating. I couldn't believe the level of engagement! I have never had anything happen like that before. They described the lack of training they were given when they started at the store and their own frustration with not knowing what to do next in life. Within 3 hours of leaving the store I received a text from Michael asking if I could help find him a better job.
What I am learning is that doing ministry in a way that blesses the actual lives of the teens and young adults is life giving for both me and the students that I serve. There is a huge need amongst teens and young adults for this kind of work. I think a major reason that the church is finding that young adults just don't care about what the church is/is not doing is that we are not speaking to the issues and life concerns that they are most concerned with. When I brought up jobs, money, future, and "adulting" I found that they were totally engaged. In fact, as someone who kind of likes to come in, shop, and leave I found it a bit overwhelming at first until I realized how cool it was. I think there are a bunch of lessons there for our churches. We need ministries asking different sorts of questions or maybe ones that are seeking to answer the questions of those we seek to love.