Who or what are the Mosaics? They are the generation born between 1984 and 2002, and are often referred to as Generation Y or as the Millennials. How do the Millennials or Mosaics differentiate themselves from the Elder (1927-45), Baby Boomer (1946-64), and Baby Buster (1965-83) generations that preceded them?
They are identified by factors like fluidity, diversity, complexity, and uncertainty. They are living in a fast-paced, diverse, and fluid society with challenging and complex demands, that often leave them with uncertainty about faith, belief, and absolute truth. According to Barna Group president, David Kinnaman, they live in a new technological, social, and spiritual reality that can be best described under the terms of Access, Alienation, and Authority.
The average American consumes 34 gigabytes of data per day, an increase of 350% over 30 years ago. Teens and 20somethings perceive and interpret reality through screens (just watch the teens in any church service and notice where their eyes are focused). Information is mostly visual and digital. Words on paper are consulted less and less. Information is no longer in a book, but at their fingertips. Apps for smartphones or tablets have given a whole new dimension to “let your fingers do the walking” through the yellow pages. Accessing information, like the weather, watching movies, doing financial transactions, listening to music, shopping, or finding a Thai restaurant, can be accessed in seconds.
The real and imaginary worlds have traded places. Mosaics endure jobs, school, or church, and enjoy their “real lives” online, whether it be games, social media, or web surfing. Personal news isn’t real until it has been shared on Facebook or Twitter. Instant information is no longer a luxury, but demanded. Where we used to receive personal family news once a week or month via letter, we now expect to access it minute by minute throughout the day. The present technological revolution and information explosion has been equated with the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. We are truly living in a new world.
Alienation of family and personal relationships is rooted in the massive social changes that began in the 1960s. In the 1960s, 5% of babies born were of unmarried mothers, by 2011 it was 42%, eight times higher. In 1970 a majority had completed the transition to adulthood by age 30, and settled down with a job, marriage, and a home. That is no longer the case today. Mosaics approach marriage and family pragmatically, i.e. “Does it work for me?” The result is that marriage and childbearing has been pushed back more and more, until it suits them.
Mosaics have fewer close friendships with family and community, while they may have hundreds or thousands of online friends or followers. It is becoming more and more important to broadcast yourself to the world, to express yourself, and cultivate followers. The paradox is that people have become more private and withdrawn in their personal, local lives and more exposed in their online lives. They seldom visit their neighbors or family, but are constantly in touch and available on an online platform. Whereas the extended family is still the source of information in many third world countries, it has long since been replaced in western society by the nuclear family, and today, even that has disintegrated to a singular and very lonely online society of non-tangible friendships. Mosaics would rather trust an online peer for information than a family member. As a result, some teenagers may land themselves in tough or dangerous situations when their online “friend” turns out to be an abuser.
This is where the local church family can become a true, authentic, and supportive community of love and caring, that banishes isolation, loneliness, and alienation.
The huge sets of Encyclopedia Brittanica in our homes are gathering dust, or have long since been recycled. An online authority for the people, by the people, like Wikipedia has even mothballed Microsoft’s Encarta. Hierarchical structures of knowledge and authority have been flattened. On the internet everyone is an expert and has something to contribute, and access has made it possible.
How does this impact spirituality? Mosaics are more inclined to consult the internet than their pastor about religious questions. The internet has a lot of information on it, as we all know, but differentiating between truth and error is the challenge. Everyone has an opinion and shares it online. To say, “I found it on the internet” is often perceived by Mosaics as a truthful claim. How do Mosaics respond to this dilemma? Most Mosaics fall into the trap of relativism, which says, “What is true for you, may not be true for me,” which leaves them “of the same opinion still.”
What is the result of this kind of thinking? Young people are left with a kind of spirituality, but on their own terms. They are exposed to a variety of religious content, without a grid or rule by which to measure or evaluate that content. Peers often become the most important influence in their moral and spiritual compass for decision-making.
So, how can we as a church family help our teens and young adults? How can we play a meaningful role in their lives, their choices, challenges, and their future? How can we help them to find a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior and Friend?
I would like to invite you to respond to this question – especially if you’re a Mosaic – to me by email, text, or phone, or to the editor of this newsletter. I would like to share some of your responses in next month’s newsletter.