Millennials could be called the “Jerk Generation.” Always finding something wrong with everything (sorry, Rio Olympics). Always criticizing one group or another. Always insisting that our way is best.
With that in mind…come invest in us! Come mentor us and take us out to coffee every week and pour your lives into us! Doesn’t it sound exciting? Aren’t you pumped?
No one ever said mentoring millennials would be easy. Human beings are very messy creatures. And when you make the determination to invest in someone, you’re setting yourself up for a whole lot of disappointment.
So you make the decision to develop an inter-generational relationship with someone younger than you. Awesome! Let me offer you some warnings:
- We will be ungrateful. This is one of the most disheartening things about investing in people – never getting recognized for your hard work…not even by the person you’re investing in! In fact, oftentimes I’ve found that the “mentee” is the very last person to recognize all you’re doing for them. Millennials are quick to complain, particularly about the older generation, but not quick to appreciate when the older generation takes steps to help them. If you’re deciding to invest in someone because you want to boost your self-esteem, you’re in the wrong business.
- We will show very little progress. People don’t change – at least very quickly! You can throw everything and the kitchen sink at a certain sin problem you see this young person facing. You can fight against it for years, with delicate prodding and compassionate pleas. And still, nothing happens. Many people talk about the stubbornness of old fogies – when in actuality, millennials can be just as stubborn. Or worse. If you’re looking for something to use as a success story on your resume, don’t waste your time mentoring millennials.
- We will break your heart. Every Paul has a Demas. Though relationship-building has been proven to help address the problem of millennials leaving the church, it does not fully solve the problem. You will have traitors among your Timothy’s. You will open your heart to this guy – be extremely transparent – only to have him gossip to the world about your sin problems. As CS Lewis so wisely stated, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” If you want a line of work that is low-risk and high-reward, consider the business world – NOT the relationship world.
The Jerks of Corinth
Now that I have you sufficiently depressed, let me offer you some small level of comfort – you’re not the only one who’s experienced pain in relationship-building!
The mentor-in-chief himself, the Apostle Paul, experienced it to the greatest extent in his ministry. And there was no church more of a jerk to Paul than the one in Corinth. Read 2 Corinthians in its entirety if you’re feeling discouraged in mentoring. You’ll find common cause in Paul.
At the end of that letter to a church full of jerks, Paul writes, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” (2 Cor. 12:15)
Hang that verse on your wall if you’re going to be a mentor. You will pour out of your emotional bank account, with very little return on investment. You’ll get tired. You’ll get discouraged. You’ll feel like giving up.
Lest I totally defeat the entire purpose of this blog – to develop inter-generational relationships – I want to end by sharing just a few of the many blessings of investing in the next generation:
- Eventually, they will recognize what you’ve done. And it’ll mean more than anything. As I look back on my short life-span, I’d say the biggest blessings have come when someone says, “Thanks for all you’ve done for me. I probably don’t say it enough…” I’m not guaranteeing it will come – and it will likely take months and months and years and years of investing to even get one thank-you. But when it does come, it will mean the world.
- Occasionally, you will have the joy of seeing God change someone. There is nothing more amazing in this world than watching God do a work in someone’s life. It’s the greatest miracle in the world. Darkness to light. Sin to freedom. Problems to grace. Is this guaranteed to happen if you spend a certain amount of time with someone? No. God moves in mysterious ways – we don’t know how He will use our investment in others. Maybe it will mean radical repentance before your very eyes. Maybe it will mean years down the road, getting an email from a changed mentee. Or maybe it will mean a meeting on gold streets to talk about what an influence you were on them.
- For every Demas, there could be a Timothy and Titus. You don’t know how their story is going to turn out. And it’s not for you to try to find out! Your job is to simply give your all for the people God’s placed in your life. Yes, Corinth had a lot of jerks. But it also gave Paul Aquila and Priscilla, who would become lifelong friends and partners in ministry.
Stay in the fight. Don’t quit. Yes, millennials are often jerks. Yes, people are messy – but as Tripp says, they’re a “mess worth making.”