I read a lot about the Millennial generation (born roughly from 1980 - 2000) and how they're supposedly lazy, self-absorbed slackers.
This week, though, I ran across some evidence to the contrary.
I was called upon to donate peripheral blood stem cells to a cancer patient. To be honest, I'd forgotten that I was on the Be The Match registry until I received a call about two months ago telling me that I was a potential match for a leukemia patient living overseas.
I was assigned to a case-worker of sorts, a woman who took care of my paperwork and walked me through the donation process step by step. I started talking with her about friends of mine who had donated bone marrow or stem cells, and it turned out that we had a mutual acquaintance or two. One of those mutual acquaintances was a student involved with our college ministry.
"You know," she told me, "I've never had a college student decline to donate bone marrow or stem cells when needed." She told me that "grown-ups" say no all the time. They're too busy to donate, or they hate needles, or they just don't bother to respond to her request.
But college students (at least among the ones she's talked to) agree to give 100% of the time. They still believe in the power of one individual to change the world, or at least to change the life of one other person. For Christian students, that gives them the potential to excel as disciples of Jesus Christ and as disciple-makers. That's why my church expends so much energy, time, and money reaching students, a group that many have written off as lazy and selfish and hopeless.
Because they're not lazy or selfish or hopeless. They just need something worth caring about and investing in. I believe in the power of the Gospel to provide that something. And I do believe that a few Millennials who are strongly dedicated to Christ really can change the world.
Why do you think college students and young adults get accused of selfishness and laziness so often? Do you think the stereotypes are accurate or inaccurate?
I ran across this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about how college students use their time on a daily basis:
A few things struck me as I looked at it. First, the average college student spends more time in leisure and sports activities than in going to class and studying. That's a bit surprising, although it's not totally inconsistent with my own college experience. Second, despite the perception that students don't get much sleep, they seem to average more than 8 hours of sleep each night. That's more sleep than the average adult with children. Third, I was surprised that students travel for an hour and a half on average each day. Maybe because I lived on campus as a freshman and sophomore, my travel time was significantly less than that.
At any rate, the value of information like this is that it hopefully inspires you to consider how you use your own time. It might not look exactly like this chart, but it's worth considering whether you're using your time effectively. Psalm 39:4-5 talks about how we are a mere breath, and our lives are like a vapor that appears and disappears just as quickly. Will you and I live in a way that pleases God, "making the most of the time" (Eph 5:16)?
Does your use of time resemble this chart? If not, how does it differ?
Do you struggle with using your time well? If so, why?
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Over the past 60 years, the average age of first marriage in the United States has been steadily climbing. In other words, people are generally waiting longer before getting married. In 1950, the average man was 22.8 years old at first marriage, and the average woman was 20.3 years old. In 2011, the average man was 28.7 years old, while the average woman was 26.5 years old.
Most of the reasons for the change are obvious. First, in the past six decades, people have extended the length of their education. It wasn't uncommon in 1950 for a woman to get married shortly after high school. Today it's much more common for her to pursue an undergraduate degree and even a master's degree prior to getting married. Second, young adults tend to express more of a desire to "experience life" a bit before getting married. Third, the high divorce rates of the Baby Boomer generation have convinced young adults that they shouldn't be in a big hurry. Waiting and trying out different dating partners is viewed as a way to make sure they marry the right one.
However, all of this poses a challenge for young adults who want to get married young. Sometimes college students ask me about the benefits and drawbacks of getting married before completing college. Those who choose that path often receive resistance from their parents, their friends, and society in general. So is it a bad idea? Should everybody wait until they're 25 or 30 before pursuing marriage?
If you're thinking of marrying during college, how do you know if you're ready? Here are a few things to consider:
- Have you prayed and sought advice from your parents and other trusted advisors? This is necessary at all ages, but particularly if you're young. Don't rush into a lifelong commitment based on a few awesome dates. Take your time, pray about it, talk to some wise people, and make sure you're thinking straight. (Actually, you're probably not -- the hormones and emotions that accompany attraction muddle everybody's thinking. That's why this step is so critical.)
- Are you prepared to be financially independent of your parents? Your parents might be extremely generous and willing to help support you after your marriage. Nonetheless, marriage ought to entail what the Scripture calls "leaving and cleaving" (Genesis 2:24). If you're not prepared for financial independence if necessary, then you should wait to get married. Why? When push comes to shove, if your parents are still supporting you financially, then they have the right to exercise authority over you. If you get married, you and your spouse might need to make decisions that conflict with your parents' desires. You'll need to listen to them and to honor them, but ultimately you'll need to be free to decide before the Lord what's best for your family. You can't do that if Mom and Dad are still paying the bills.
- Do you have a plan to finish school without incurring an enormous debt load? Massive amounts of debt can prevent you from pursuing the path God has for your future. Getting married during college might require one or both of you to work full-time in order to make ends meet and avoid debt. Spend some time thinking about how you'll finish school and move forward after that. Plans can and will change, but a wise person will at least try to prepare a bit.
- Are you prepared to shoulder the responsibility of a child if pregnancy occurs? I'll be direct: There's no such thing as birth control that's 100% effective. Whatever you believe about the ethics of birth control and whatever you plan to do, be prepared to have a baby. Trust me on this one.
- Are you generally prepared to spend the rest of your life living with this person and caring for him or her? Marriage often presents unexpected challenges. Conflicts pop up about family relationships, financial decisions, sexual intimacy, career choices, and a host of other things. I would strongly recommend pursuing premarital counseling at your church prior to marriage. An experienced and wise older couple can get to know each of you and help you spot potential red flags before you move forward.
If you can answer yes to these questions, then you might be ready to get married. Everybody's experience is different and every person is different, so these are just general guidelines. On the whole, I don't think 21 or 22 is way too young for marriage. I would simply urge caution and prayer.
What have I left out here? Also, do you disagree with any of my points above?
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Last Sunday, one of my fellow pastors spoke to our college students on the subject of world missions. In the course of his talk, he mentioned some statistics that I found intriguing (these are derived from a National Geographic Survey a few years ago):
- 63% of Americans between 18-24 cannot locate Iraq on a map.
- 75% cannot find Iran or Israel.
- 88% cannot find Afghanistan on a map of Asia.
- 48% cannot locate the state of Mississippi on a U.S. map (and 50% cannot find New York State).
- 54% believe that Sudan is in Asia (it's in Africa).
- 30% believe that the U.S. has a population between 1 and 2 billion people.
- 48% think that the majority of India's population is Muslim
Those are just a few of the somewhat alarming stats. I should mention that the survey includes those in college and those who are less educated. Still, many of the wrong responses come from college-educated men and women.
Do you think young men and women are ignorant of the world outside their small community? If so, why? And what can we do about it?
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Below are a few books I highly recommend. I've limited this list to those topics that are particularly useful for college students and young adults. Many of these books, though, are helpful to any Christian regardless of your age or station in life.
The Lost Art of Disciple Making by Leroy Eims -- This book focuses on the ministry strategy of Jesus and how we can implement it in our churches and lives today. Eims discusses the concept of spiritual multiplication, a concept that's often "lost" in today's bigger-is-better culture of church. Start with a few men or women, train them to know Jesus and share the Gospel, and empower them to train a few others who train a few others who train a few others.
The Powerful Percent by Patricia Bergen -- Sadly, this book is out of print, so you'll have to track down a used copy on Amazon or AddAll. College students are only about 1% of the world's population, but many (if not most) of the major movements of God in Christian history have been initiated by students.
The Fuel and the Flame by Steve Shadrach -- This is a great discussion of how to "ignite your college campus for Christ." It contains some great practical ideas for how to minister to college students. It's particularly helpful for those in college ministry, but I think students can learn a great deal from it as well.
Survey of Bible Doctrine by Charles Ryrie -- This isn't necessarily a gripping page-turner, but it's a good solid introduction to systematic theology and its categories. It's also short enough to read quickly and understand.
Thy Kingdom Come by Dwight Pentecost -- Pentecost is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, where I received my Master's degree. This book is a great overview of the flow of biblical history, using key covenants (agreements between God and His people) as signposts. If you've always struggled to fit the Bible together as one coherent story, this book will help.
To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson -- There are a number of great Christian biographies, but this is my favorite. Don't be intimidated by its length or small print; once you begin this book you won't be able to put it down. Judson was one of the very first American missionaries. He left for Burma at the age of 25, and spent his life sharing the Gospel there. I really can't recommend this highly enough.
A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards -- This is a fabulous little book about the importance of respecting and submitting to authority. Edwards uses Saul, David, and Absalom as models of the right and wrong ways to interact with authority in our lives, whether it is just or unjust authority. You can probably finish this book in 3-4 hours.
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster -- Two great books about the importance of the spiritual disciplines in the life of a believer. Willard's book provides a theological discussion of the disciplines, while Foster's book provides a very practical overview of them.
Honest to God? and Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels -- Hybels is a very practical and easy-to-read author. Honest to God is about living a life of authenticity before God and others. Just Walk Across the Room is a challenging but down-to-earth approach to personal evangelism.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you have other recommendations, feel free to share them in the comments here. I'm always looking for new resources to read and to share!