04.25.16

Trust is a Two Way Street by Nick Mance

youth specialties.com

What do teenagers want? It’s a question many of us have asked ourselves over the years. Based upon how confused my parents were when their five children went through their teen years, I would guess that most parents have no idea what teens want. Many teachers don’t know either, which we see in their sometimes comical attempts to relate to students.  I’ve seen churches try to relate to students by holding teen nights that usually include loud music, junk food, a speaker hopped-up on caffeine and sugar, and a bonfire. But if you were to take a poll of the students in attendance and ask them if their needs were met, most of them would say no.

This is not true in all cases. Some parents, teachers, and churches do an absolutely wonderful job relating to their students. And for those of you who do, I commend you. You’re seeing, hearing, and meeting the call to reach our youth. But this post is about those who aren’t doing this well.

If there’s one thing you should know about students, it’s this: they don’t trust easily. Students in today’s society have learned to be guarded, reserved, closed-off, and withdrawn from anyone they see as an authority figure. They don’t trust people older than they are because that trust has been broken too many times to count and they don’t want to be hurt again.

Our students need for us as their leaders and mentors to be trustworthy. This is the first thing youth leaders must realize. Students see this so clearly in everything we do and say. If we say we’re going to do something, be somewhere, take them out, show up at their school, or anything else, we had better stick by it. Students today have been so lied to, strung along, hurt, and misdirected that they’re just waiting for us to break our promises.

Think about this for a moment: Were you ever lied to as a student? Did someone tell you they would be there for you and they weren’t? Did you ever feel as if someone let you down? The answer is yes. We’ve all had this experience. But the truth of the matter is that over time this reality has gotten worse. Students today have come to accept this as the norm. Our word no longer means anything. Telling someone you’re there for them has no meaning for them. Students no longer trust us. We need to earn their trust by showing them we’re invested in their lives, their futures, and in them personally and spiritually.

As believers, we’re told to stick by our word. Matthew 5:33-37 points this out very clearly for us. We’re told to let our answers be honest and true. We’re told that our relationship with Christ is based upon trust and faith. And if we can’t model this to our students, then why should they listen to what we have to say?

Trust will change our students’ lives. Could you imagine what would happen to just one student if someone kept their word to them 100% of the time? Can you see them beginning to trust that person? Can you see the relationship that could be built? In order for us to reach them with the gospel, we first need to establish that we can be trusted. If we’re not being truthful, then why should they trust what we have to say? There’s no reason for them to believe if they can’t trust those who are teaching them about belief.

As leaders, we have a high calling to lead younger generations toward the saving grace of Christ. This can only be accomplished by first building a framework founded upon trust in the power of the cross.

04.25.16

I Want to Give My Kids What I Didn’t Have Growing Up by Tim Elmore

growlngleaders.com

I recently finished speaking to a crowd of parents. My topic: “Parenting a Generation of Paradox.” I relayed the litany of new realities our children are growing up with today that we never had to deal with twenty years ago. An issue came up during the “Q and A” period that is worth talking about here.

As Generation X gives birth to babies from Generation Y, and Generation Y gives birth to babies from Generation Z, I find those parents saying the same thing:

“I want to give my children what I didn’t have growing up.”

It’s our attempt to respectfully improve upon our mom and dad’s parenting style. Let’s face it. With each of the last four generations of parents, (starting with mine who grew up during the Great Depression), we have all wanted to give our children the advantages and luxuries that we never enjoyed ourselves, as kids.

It makes sense. There is just one problem. What does that really mean?

When so many well-intentioned parents say: “I want my kids to have what I never had when I was growing up,” are we clear about what we mean? If we are honest, it usually has to do with money and material possessions. Every now and again, it actually is about our time or attention, but most of the time, it’s something else. We Baby Boomers have thrown money at our problems, even the ones we have with our children—and even the ones we have with our adult children.

When we say, “I want to give my child what I never had,” do we mean emotionally or financially? Do we mean intellectually or materially or spiritually? My experience tells me it is not about “needs,” it is about “wants.” And quite often, it is not about their wants, it is about our wants.” It’s what we want for them. Let’s just be honest. We want them to have that amazing car. Or, smartphone. Or, furniture for their dorm.

Just remember—buying them “stuff” won’t bring back your childhood. It won’t relieve your guilt for not giving them intangible gifts like your time and attention. In fact, it will never take the place of you. I believe in most cases, what our children really want is our time and focus. They want us most of all. It matters little whether it’s a college professor offering a little mentoring outside of office hours; a football coach offering extra time off the field; or a teacher offering an idea for a better approach to a project. Or, a parent who simply wants to sit and listen to their son or daughter. But, alas, we still find ourselves in this inward battle, wanting to give them things we didn’t have. It feels so good.

By this do we mean—we want them to have a better life?

If so, is this really what happens? Can we genuinely say that giving them something we never had growing up, actually helps them when they’re grown up?

The Downside

Let me offer some common sense wisdom on the other side of this desire. There is a downside that a faculty member reminded me of this last month. When we think this way, there is a huge possibility of this reality:

“If we give our kids what we didn’t have…they often won’t get what we earned.”

Giving young people gifts that we never got doesn’t automatically create slackers, or employees who have a poor work ethic. But it could. When we give them what we didn’t have, there is a real possibility that we cultivate a mindset of entitlement in that area. Kids start feeling like they deserve it, automatically. It isn’t a gift—it’s a right. And this mindset, frequently disables them. They are ill-prepared to earn it as adults. A “free lunch” is hard to bring ourselves to pay for, once we got it without working for it the first time.

Giving kids what we never had feels good in the moment. It doesn’t work too well, however, in the long run. We end up with an adult who is unable to function as an adult without that “gift.” And sooner or later, they realize in the real world, they actually won’t get everything they want—so they might as well get used to it.

A father shared the following story with me about what his 23-year-old son told him recently. “Dad, I know this sounds weird, but thanks for not buying me all the stuff my friends got from their parents. They actually act kind of like spoiled brats. I don’t want to act like the way they turned out.”

That’s one young adult who sees the big picture.

04.25.16

Suicide Epidemic Among Teens by Mark Gregston

heartlightministries.org/2016/04/suicide-epidemic-among-teens/

For a teenager to be so unbearably unhappy that he would choose to kill himself is something that is almost too painful for a parent to think about. But with the increasing prevalence of teen suicide, no parent can afford to ignore the possibility. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for high school students.

Kids look at this world as being more and more hopeless.  And many are choosing suicide as their solution. When I was in high school — a school with 3,000 students — I never knew of any of my peers committing suicide. And even working in Young Life after college, suicide among teens was a very unusual event that we rarely heard of.

Fact is, before the 1960’s, suicide by adolescents happened only rarely; but today, nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. While suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled.

Between the sexes, teen boys are more than four times as likely to commit suicide as girls. But girls are known to think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys. The difference is the method; girls attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves, and thankfully most are found in time and rescued. Boys tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights. Continue reading

04.25.16

What Would Jesus Say on Social Media? by Karen Ehman

If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! – Proverbs 30:32

Here it is, translated for social media: “If you are tempted to slam someone online or brag on Facebook or send off a nasty tweet, turn off the screen and walk away!”

That’s it in a nutshell, but maybe we should spell out some rules of thumb that might keep our thumbs and fingers from wandering off into slander, arrogance, or combativeness. Here are six that work for me.

1. Pray Before You Post

My friend Suzanne wrote a great online devotional in which she talked about how many people run to check their Facebook page first thing in the morning. She encouraged her readers to instead make sure they consulted their “Faithbook” first — the Bible. How true this is! Perhaps if we spent time ingesting words of truth before we switched on the computer, we might not write things that are unkind or hurtful. At the very least, we should whisper a prayer before we post, asking the Holy Spirit to tap on our hearts if we are tempted to post anything online that would not glorify him.

2. Imagine the Recipient Sitting Next to You

The Internet is so impersonal. We see tiny little thumbnail photos of people. We see words typed out on a screen rather than hear them spoken out loud. The pixels-and-pictures environment almost compels us to be rude because it lacks the subtle social cues — the wince, the moment of quiet — that tell us we’ve crossed the line. We feel empowered and also have a sense of anonymity as we tap, tap, tap away on our keyboards. But if a flesh-and-blood person were sitting next to us with eyes we could look into, perhaps we would state things differently. Before you post, ask yourself if you would say things differently if the person to whom you’re writing were actually sitting next to you.

3. Remember: When You’re Online, You’re Also on Stage

Unless we send a private message, our online words are available for others to see. Twitter followers see what we tweet. Facebook friends, and the friends of those on whose walls we post comments, also see what we say. And hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands, of people can see a comment we leave on someone’s blog. This reality should certainly cause us to pause before we post — especially if there is even a remote possibility we might later regret what we write. If I say something in person to a friend and am later convicted I was wrong, I can go back to my friend and apologize. However, if I post something on social media or comment on a blog and later want to retract it, I have no way to chase down all of the people who might have seen the original comment. Just this fact alone should cause us to really weigh our words before we type them out.

4. Ask Yourself If You’ve Earned the Right to Address the Subject at Hand

If friends on Facebook are hashing through a hot-button issue of the day, do you have any expertise in the area, or are you only slinging an underinformed opinion? We can’t always be an expert on every topic at hand, so when we aren’t, we might do well to refrain from commenting at all.

5. Ask Yourself If You Have a Close Enough Relationship with the Person to Warrant Offering Your Opinion

It both irks me and makes me laugh when I see who hops on my page to offer their unsolicited opinions. Suddenly, people I haven’t heard from in years pop up on my screen offering their pixelated opinion about something I’ve posted. They give me specific instructions and pointed advice on what I should believe about a particular topic. This always surprises me because I don’t have a close relationship with these folks. Why do they think I will take their advice or value their perspective on my issues when they have not been a close friend or confidant?

Would they be responsive to unsolicited advice if someone they knew years ago suddenly walked up to them on the street and started telling them what to believe and how to act? If you’re tempted to dole out unsolicited advice to anyone who’s not a trusted friend, then I encourage you to resist the temptation!

6. When You Do Speak, Let Your Speech Be Laced with Grace

No need for snark. No need for angry words or critical comments. Our mamas were right: If we can’t say something nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all.

When we do speak, we can choose to be gracious rather than accusatory or negative. Our words must glorify God and not just exalt our own opinions.

We should be especially mindful that there are people whom we don’t know who might be viewing our online speech. Here is a great guideline from Scripture:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Colossians 4:5-6

So maybe we should jot down these questions on a sticky note or two and post them near the computer to remind us to ask:

  • Is this comment wise?
  • Will writing this comment help me display God’s love to outsiders?
  • Is this comment full of grace?
  • Is this comment seasoned with salt?
  • Have I asked God if this is the best response?

Excerpted from Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman, copyright Zondervan, 2015. 

04.18.16

Navigating Your Teen’s Universe by Mark Gregston
heartlightministries.org/2016/04/navigating-your-teens-universe-2/

It’s been said that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. And teens? Well, they seem to be from a completely different universe! Sure, teenagers look human, but the way they speak, the way they dress, and the things they value all seem to point to an origin in a galaxy far, far away. I don’t want to “date” myself, but you have to admit, it is different. And it’s that culture that you and I have said “I’m glad I don’t have to grow up in today’s teen culture.” Ever said that?

But maybe I exaggerate. Just because some elements of the new teen culture are alien to us, doesn’t mean our kids are from another dimension (even though it can seem that way). Let’s face it; the world that our sons and daughters are growing up in is far different than the one in which we were raised. When we wrote a school paper, we had to travel to a place called “the library.” Students now have the all the information they need at their fingertips, just by visiting Google. Our TVs carried three stations. Today, teens have access to a thousand different programs, not only on TV, but on their computers and phones. I grew up respecting coaches, police, clergy, and those in authority. Our teens live in a culture where the flaws and mistakes of those in charge have left them questioning their leaders.

You could likely come up with even more differences between your world and your teen’s world. We could also spend considerable time beginning conversations with “I would have never done …” or “I couldn’t have imagined saying …” or “They didn’t have this when I was …”, but I’ve come to realize that such nostalgic comparisons don’t accomplish much. The homespun wisdom of how we navigated our world does little to help our teens survive theirs. No doubt today’s culture is vastly different, and perhaps even more dangerous, than our own. But instead of preaching the virtues of a bygone era, as moms and dads I would suggest we learn how to live in this culture, and guide our kids in the here and now.

In order to do that, let me offer a basic crash course on the universe your son or daughter currently inhabits.  Continue reading

04.18.16

The 4 Cries of a Student’s Heart by Doug Franklin

leadertreks.org/the-4-cries-of-a-students-heart/

Most adults think it’s hard to build a relationship with a student. They believe that, because students are completely different from them, they’ll never understand the world students come from. I don’t buy this. Students have real needs, and if you can meet those needs, you can have a transformational relationship with them. Their hearts cry out for four basic things, and adults of all ages and backgrounds can answer that call. The four cries of a student’s heart are

1) Spend time with me.

Students know your time is valuable, so when you give them your time, they recognize they are valuable to you. As students discover how important they are to you, they will be more and more willing to open their hearts to you. Here are some practical ways to spend time with students:

  • Take them places you are going anyways.
  • Go to their activities (for example, plays, sporting events, and musical performances).
  • Hang out where they hang out.

2) Discover me.

Students have a favorite subject: themselves. Not many people want to talk with them about that favorite subject, so if you ask questions about them, they will be your friends forever. Here are a few question you can ask to learn more about students:

  • What is your favorite movie, song, or book?
  • What are your dreams, goals, and fears?
  • Who do you like? (This may seem awkward, but few people actually ask them this question, even though it’s something they’re thinking about constantly.)

3) Connect with me.

All students have hobbies, interests, and activities that they love. Some of these activities are the same things you love. Find common interests and bond over them. You may like the same sports teams, hobbies, or cooking. When you connect on a passion, plan a time to get together and do that activity together. Take that student to a football game. Plan an afternoon of art. Cook something together to share with the rest of the youth ministry. Through a shared experience, you will create a lasting bond.

4) Pursue me.

Students want to know you will never quit on them. Many adults in their lives have left them and forgotten about them, and they don’t want to be treated that way. By pursuing them, you demonstrate how much you care. So write notes (the best ones come in the mail), make phone calls, text, and ask to have coffee. These actions will communicate that you are different—you care.

If you understand the four cries of a student’s heart, you can build a transformational relationship with them.

04.18.16

Are You Worth Following? by Tyson Howells

youthministryunleashed.com

You are involved in youth ministry.  Therefore I have an assumption that you want to impact the lives of students.  In fact you probably want to mentor some of them.

The simple question I have is, “Are you worth following?

I really don’t care how cool you are or if you are immensely talented.  I am talking about other things; deeper things, things that anyone can have, if they are willing to work for them.

Here are 4 criteria that you need to see if students should be following you or not.

1. Substance Matters

I am not anti-technology, I rely on it as much as most people.  However, my fear is that technology has caused us to focus on flash and forget about substance.

Being a person of high character is foundational in our day and age.

  • Do you keep your promises?
  • Do lead by example us much as by your words?
  • Would you be comfortable for all of your students to know every website, video, show, movie that you have watched this month?
  • Do you guard your thought life?
  • Are you careful with your words?

If you want students and leaders to follow you or be mentored by you then your character must be high.

2. More Than Jokes

Everyone loves to laugh.  If you are funny, be funny.  However, you need to be more then jokes.  You also need to be knowledgeable.

Do you know what you are talking about?  We both know that you cannot be an expert at everything.  But could you point people in the right direction.

Remember, you are more than a social convener.  If this is true then you need to have more to offer then a social convener does.  The best way I know how to do this is to be a learner.  Whether that is by reading books, watching videos or having great conversations you must learn.

  • Are you learning about youth culture?
  • Are you learning about theological issues?
  • Are you learning about spiritual development?
  • Are you learning about the pastoral life?

The key is that you have a base of knowledge to offer students and leaders.

3. The Sunday School Answer Is The Right Answer

I always joke that if you don’t know the answer just say Jesus.  He is never a bad answer.  I know, a little cheesy but the principle is there.

Are you a lover of Jesus?  This question is different then, “have you said the sinners prayer.”  What I want to know is if there is a passion between you and Jesus.  Is it a love that is growing and being challenged.

If the answer is yes, fantastic, you have something to offer.  If it is no, then I hate to say it but I am not sure you are worth following.

4. It’s About Them, Not You

You don’t invest in students because it will make you look good.  You don’t do it because it will help the ministry to grow.

You do it because you love students.  This is why you got into youth ministry in the first place.  You love God and you love students.

Never forget your love for students.  When it is genuine students can sense it.  And when it is genuine you are worth following.

How about you?  Do you have other criteria that you could add to my list?  What are they and why would you add them?

04.18.16

6 Tips to Running Better Games by DYM Games Guru Ken McIntyre

blog.downloadyouthministry.com/guest-post-title-7-pro-tips-for-better-games-in-your-youth-ministry?hsFormKey=144ddf6d5720c6dfb23b26a5119fb90a&submissionGuid=fce5724f-dc2b-4293-93d5-0ba7809d0cc9#blog_subscription

I recently had a coaching session to discover my core values (principles that dictate behavior patterns). I wasn’t all that surprised to find out that my top three core values are: (1) fun, (2) competition, and (3) transformation. Everyone else around my table had core values that seemingly had more depth, such as generosity, compassion, and forgiveness. I wasn’t bothered by it, though. In fact, my first thought was “That’s why I love youth ministry games so much!”

A youth worker once told me “if you can make them laugh, you can make them listen.” Games leverage fun to quickly gain relational access to a student. Without this relational access, it’s significantly more challenging to convince them they should listen to you, especially for new students. I operate under the notion that games are part of the toolkit God has given youth workers to advance the Gospel. Games aren’t the point; the Gospel is.

If all of that is true, youth workers should make a point of running incredible games! I get the opportunity to travel and hang out with other youth pastors and their groups frequently. Here’s what I’ve noticed: some youth ministries are knocking games out of the park, other youth ministries make me wish I was knocked out just being in the same room!

With that in mind, here are 6 Tips for Running Better Games in your youth ministry.  Continue reading

04.11.16

Selfies, Sexting, and Censorship by David R. Smith at The Source for Youth Ministry

youthministry.com/selfies-sexting-and-censorship/?utm_source=internal_ym&utm_medium=email&utm_content=selfie&utm_campaign=ym_20160408_content

Teens and the Pics They Take of Themselves

Pose. Snap. Hastily delete. Re-pose. Re-snap. Save. Add filter. Add another filter. Upload/Tweet/Send. Enjoy all the likes, retweets, shares, and positive comments.

But what if the outcome isn’t so positive? Welcome to the convoluted world of teens and selfies.

Snapping, Sending…and Regretting

Young people have a fascination with their smartphones. Specifically, the cameras on them. They really like taking pictures of themselves. A lot. In fact, according to an interesting survey conducted by Luster Premium White, Millennials will take more than 25,000 selfies across their lifetime (if their current rate of selfies continues, that is). It’s no secret that Millennials, those born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s, are fairly enamored with themselves; young women in this group spend a total of 5 hours every week snapping selfies. That’s because 47% of them admit to practicing their facial expressions before taking the pic, and, on average, each snap takes 7 minutes to capture.

Taking selfies is such a popular pastime there are now tons of videos on YouTube, like this one, that show users how to take better selfies. Most of those selfies wind up on Twitter or Facebook or some other social media platform to gather the all-important “likes” or “retweets,” but some of them are destined for other purposes…like sexting.

And now, New Mexico teenagers (between the ages of 14 and 18), can legally exchange nude photos of themselves without the fear of criminal prosecution. The “consensual sexting” bill signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez (Rep), exempts minors of child pornography charges that could include prison sentences and the long-lasting title of sex offender.

The driving thought behind this statewide decision was the admission that kids are going to do what they want. According to George Muñoz, a Democratic state senator who authored the bill, “Kids will be kids, and they’re going to make mistakes. You can’t punish them for the rest of their lifetime with a charge of child pornography…if they’re consensually sending photos back and forth.”

Of course, the bill has its opponents, for example, Attorney General Hector Balderas. “I cannot support an amendment that weakens protections for teenagers from predatory activity, creates a dangerous new child exploitation loophole, and places New Mexico’s federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force funding in jeopardy,” he said. It also raises immediate questions like, “What if the photo is shared for the first time consensually, but not the second time…or the 66th time?” Or, “What happens when a 16-year-old boy who has nude photos of his girlfriend who once lived in Albuquerque relocates with his family to Flagstaff, AZ?” Time will soon tell how this new law will impact kids.

And though many teens have no problems sharing pics of themselves – with or without clothes – they’d really rather their parents not do that to them. A recent study of 249 parent and child pairs conducted by the Universities of Washington and Michigan found that one of the most common requests from kids between the ages of 10 and 17 were for parents to stop posting pics without their permission. The kids said the over-sharing of content was embarrassing for them and they were frustrated that their parents would impact their online presence without their permission. (It’s always a strange time when kids think that parents should be getting censored.)

The takeaway is obvious: communication between parents and kids about sharing online pics should take place before hitting send…and should be a two way street.

Solving Selfie Problems

But there’s more that parents – and youth workers – can do to help teens steer clear of troubles related to selfies. After all, prevention is always better than cure. Here are a few very simple ideas:

  1. Find out where YOUR kid stands on these issues. Granted, not every kid spends half-a-day each week taking pictures of themselves. Nor is every kid willing to send a nude pic of themselves to a friend. But, as parents and youth workers, you need to know exactly where your kids land on these issues. Here’s a “ready-made” guide that Common Sense Media just released for teenagers. Use it as a discussion tool, or just ask them some questions about their practices and beliefs, like these:
    1. When does texting become sexting?
    2. Legality aside, what are the consequences of sexting?
    3. What is appropriate to send in a message, and what is inappropriate? Why?
    4. If you received – or were asked to send – a sext message, how would you respond?
    5. In your opinion, what are the best ways to protect your image online?
  2. Teach mobile device responsibility. Jonathan just wrote an entire article about this on TheSource4Parents.com providing 5 steps parents can take to help their kids learn to be responsible with their mobile devices.
  3. Encourage and model responsible use of online pics. Though it may be common sense, it’s not always common practice, so let me be blunt: if you don’t want to see vanity in your kids, don’t model it yourself. If you don’t want to see questionable content on your kids’ social media stream, keep yours clean, too. If you want your privacy protected, do you part to help protect the privacy of your kids, too. These actions on your part won’t guarantee avoidance on their part, but any hypocrisy on these matters will weaken your stance in their eyes.

A teenager’s image is something worth protecting. Be as proactive in this arena as you can be, doing all you can to prevent problems that would damage their image.

04.11.16

Four Lies Millennials Tell Themselves About Older Generations by Andrew McPeak

Four Lies Boomers Tell Themselves About Millennials by Tim Elmore

growing leaders.com

Millennials are the largest generation in history. And being primarily in their 20s, they still have a lot to learn about the world. I should know—I am one of them. Because of the gap in perception between generations, one of the greatest mistakes that Millennials can make is to assume things about the generations that have come before us. These are lies that form deep in our brains, and all too often they have very negative consequences. Let’s explore four crucial lies that I see in my friends and myself—not to mention my generation, in general. As you are reading, challenge yourself (if you’re a Millennial) to combat these lies wherever you find them in your subconscious. If you are classified with an older generation, ask yourself if you are helping to create these misconceptions. Then consider what you can do today to dispel these lies.

Lie #1: “They don’t understand what I’m going through.” 

Because of how different the world is today, Millennials have started to believe that past generations somehow don’t understand what life for a young person is like today. But the reality is that while iPhones and the internet have drastically changed career paths, social hierarchies, and self-identification, the essentials of life are still around (and will always be). We’ve all felt lonely and abandoned. Older generations just never felt that from the spheres of Facebook or Instagram. We’ve all experienced the joy of success; it just wasn’t always after winning a new level in a video game. I would say, in fact, that Boomers specifically may understand what Millennials are going through better than anyone. They are the generation that was larger than previous ones. They experienced technological shifts, and world-wide culture shifts. If anyone understands what Millennials are going through, it would be the Baby Boomers.

Lie #2: “I’m better than they were.” 

Our parents told us we could be anything we wanted to be. I know why they did that too. They looked out at a world of opportunity and saw that any path was open. What we heard in our 10-year-old ears, however, was that we had the ability to be anything we wanted to be. Some of us got big heads about it, too. At least, I know I did. Today, Millennials often see older generations as out of touch or slow. And even though there can be a learning curve when it comes to technology, that doesn’t mean that we are more prepared for the mantle of leadership. In a recent study, 69% of Millennials surveyed expect to be in a managerial role within 10 years. Millennials think they are already prepared—or will very soon be prepared—to replace their boss. But are we really going to be ready for that kind of leadership, so soon?

Lie #3: “They don’t want me here.”

No doubt Millennials have read a lot of articles just like this one. People tell them why they are awful, selfish, or destined for failure. I want to make it clear that I don’t see it that way. And in fact, we should all be careful because Millennials are starting to get the impression that older generations don’t want them around. That may help to explain the huge problem that older managers are having with turnover. According to a study, 58% of millennials expect to change jobs within 3 years. Millennials have started to think that the only way to be appreciated is to leave—or at least threaten to leave. Most Millennials believe that the only way they will be appreciated is to work for themselves. However, the reality is far from this perception. Millennials are hotly desired commodities these days. In fact, 53% of hiring managers say it is difficult to find and retain Millennials. They want us around, and in fact many companies are acting desperately to get Millennials to stay at their current places of employment.

Lie #4: “They don’t need me.”

It seems like older generations in leadership positions are doing just fine—without Millennials—but this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is something going on in our world today that we at Growing Leaders call a “leadership gap.” Boomers, who were once the largest segment of the workforce, are retiring. Generation X, which was a smaller segment of the population, literally doesn’t have enough people to replace all of the vacant leadership positions that Boomers are leaving behind. This leadership gap means that Millennials are already the largest section of the workforce, while they are still under the age of 35. It is more essential than ever that we, as Millennials, take a step up into leadership positions with both confidence and humility. Here’s the truth about Millenials. We are desperately needed.

So What Can We Learn?

If you are a member of the Millennial generation, I invite you to see the best in the older generations—your family members, your bosses and co-workers, your teachers and coaches. These men and women have so much to offer us, if we are willing to listen. We don’t have to agree with every piece of advice, but life is not always full of people with whom we agree. Reach out to those you respect and want to know. Ask them to meet you for a cup of coffee and “pick their brains.” Ask them to mentor you. You’ll find that your relationship with members of older generations will improve as you get to know them and learn from them. As life goes on, and as you open yourself up to their advice and their perspective, it’s likely you will develop a mutual admiration for one another. Let’s not lie to ourselves anymore.

Part 2

Let me share four of the most prevalent lies my generation (Baby Boomers) tends to believe about Millennials:

  1. These young people don’t care about anything but themselves.

I hear this all the time from employers and educators. I’ve even felt it was true myself as I watch many Generation iY kids taking multiple “selfies” every day, and post what they’re doing on Instagram or Snapchat even when they have little of meaning to say. I believe, however, that it’s a lie to say they’re only interested in themselves, once they are exposed to great causes or needs. They actually do care once they’re introduced to problems that invite big ideas or solutions. I’ve watched a narcissistic, lazy adolescent become completely engrossed in raising money to dig wells in Africa—once he learned about their need for clean water. He just needed to discover something more interesting than himself. We are all better versions of ourselves when we lend our talents and energies to something bigger than “me.” It’s our job to expose students and young employees to such causes and problems.

  1. Their attentions spans are too short to go deep into any topic.

I have written about the research on this issue. In 2,000 teen attention spans were 12 seconds long. In 2015, they’d been reduced to 6 seconds. This means that kids will divert their attention to something else—perhaps another screen—if we don’t offer an interesting change to what we’re saying. The truth is, this has less to do with attention spans and more to do with the strong filters adolescents have developed inside. With so much information everywhere, they have little time to pay attention to any one item. But they can and will if it’s compelling. We all know students who will binge watch eight or nine hours of content on Netflix, so they do know how to stay focused. Sadly, we often fail to engage them with anything worth their attention or time. When we do, I’ve seen them stay engaged. My friend Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children, produced the video on Joseph Kony, called “Kony 2012.” It was a 30-minute long video, that got over 100 million views and was shared primarily by young people. Our message must be three-fold: very compelling, always changing and stylistically creative.

  1. They won’t take risks.

I am concerned with the risk-averse generation today’s parents and schools have created. With our obsession over safety (or litigation) we unwittingly tell to play it safe, wear a helmet, don’t do anything dangerous. When I talk to college students, I find far too many who are paralyzed by the thought of failing. The first 18 years of their lives have been about avoiding it. While this may be their track record, we’ve begun discovering young adults who’ve taken great risks, once they are led well, and conditioned to not fear failure. I know educators who lead classes called “Failure 101” attempting to recondition students to see failure as a step on the path toward success; to realize it’s not as disappointing as refusing to try at all. Too often, we’ve conditioned them to fear disappointing a parent or told them they are “awesome” or “the best” and now they hesitate attempting a task for fear they wont live up to expectations. Life is all about managing expectations. Adults need to exchange our report card for them—and start communicating the value of wise risk taking.

  1. These kids don’t follow our example in ethics and work ethic.

This one is significant. Very often, I hear my generation whine about how kids today don’t follow our leadership. I beg to differ. I’m concerned they’ve followed our lead far too well. Our example has been obvious and it’s often been unhealthy. Adults are frequently guilty of abundance or abandonment—we’ve done too much for our kids or we’ve done too little, and have been absent in our leadership. But our behavior is always an example to follow. If students act entitled, how do you suppose they got that idea? If they are lazy, is it because we’ve done so much for them that they never had to build a work ethic? If they have no manners, aren’t they simply following the model in front of them at home or school? I believe something at its core: Kids rarely listen to their elders, but they always tend to imitate them. By default or design, we have created most of the messes we see in their life.

Today’s youth may be the greatest generation America has ever produced. But, only if we lead them well. Let’s start a reverse mentoring relationship with a student, where we can both give to, and receive from each other.