The Difference Between Generation X and Generation Y

The EDGE Journal of Cutting Edge Youth Ministry for the 21st Century
Issue 6a + b



This issue looks at the difference between Gen X and Gen Y.  We start
by looking at Generation X.  We will then look at Gen Y, and follow
this by a look at the factors affecting the world of Gen Y.  Only
after laying this groundwork will we get to practical helps.

Generation X

This generation's first birth year is identified in America as 1961. 
This is fairly controversial amongst demographers and media - many
would place the date as late as 1967, and as early as 1958.  There
are a number of reasons, however, why 1961 seems more accurate (as
far as generalisations go).  "Annual polls of high school seniors
show that those born just after 1960 came of age much more fearful of
national catastrophe than those born just before" (Strauss and Howe
1991:317).  It was also in 1960 that the Birth Control Pill was
introduced (Snider 1990:online), and thus the birth boom ended as
women began to take pills to stop having babies.  A number of
important international events happened in 1960/1: The first women
Prime Minister in the world (Ceylon), a massive anti-Soviet campaign
at the UN, the election of JFK (the first American president to be
born in this century), the Apartheid riots in Sharpeville (South
Africa), the closing of the border between East and West Berlin, the
rise of Castro in Cuba, the Bay of Pigs debacle, and Russia and
America both put men into space in 1961/2.  Additionally, "the strain
[on America] of being both an economic and a military superpower
started to show.  The federal deficit in 1959 jumped to 2.6% of gross
domestic product, the largest since 1946. By the 1960s, ambitious
social programs and the widening war in Vietnam led to higher taxes,
while economies in Europe and Asia began to make inroads against the
U.S." (TIME, July 28, 1997).  Bret Ellis, in a New York Times article
entitled, "The Twentysomethings: Adrift in a Pop Landscape" stated
that "few of my generation were alive from, much less remember, the
assassination of John F. Kennedy, but the oldest of us, even at age
2, could sense something had gone wrong.  For the rest of our
childhood, things seemed to go that way" (quoted in Strauss and Howe
1993:50).  Added to this is the anti-children mentality of this age,
as older Silent generation parents saw the energy and freedom of the
younger Boomers and viewed their children as a hindrance.  The Xer
youth, largely left to their own devices as the young adult Boomers
were still in self-absorbed rebellion, grew up very quickly and
remain street-smart. Their parents were largely from the Silent
generation, who were reacting to their own over-protected and
suffocating childhood memories, and therefore they were allowed a bit
more latitude and freedom than their over-protected (and spoilt) next-
 Elders, the Boomers.  

In America, their end birth year in America is largely agreed as 1981
(Strauss and Howe 1991:317).  This is mainly due to the fact that
1982 marks the birth year of those young people who will graduate
High School in the year 2000 or later.  The ending of the X
generation is marked by the start of the next, rather than anything
significant of their own. 

This is, in fact, characteristic of this generation: They are defined
more by what they are not (i.e. they are not like their next-elder
nor the next-younger generations) than by what they are.  They are an
enigma to other generations.  

In South Africa, Generation X can be loosely defined as all those
young people old enough to remember apartheid and be judged by
history to have been part of it, and yet not quite old enough to have
been involved in any form of struggle against (or on the side of)
apartheid. White Xers would have just missed out on national service,
and black young Xers would not have been old enough to join the
school children of 1976 who demanded "liberation before education". 
Yet, they have all grown up in the shadow of these events, sensing,
as Ellis said above, that "something had gone wrong".  They are now
viewed as being culpable and "part of the problem", even though this
may not necessarily be the case. In July 1961, Nelson Mandela
persuaded the ANC Executive to form their armed wing, Umkhonto we
Sizwe.  This was a turning point for the struggle, as it began the
process of armed resistance.  This led to the reign of terror
(enacted by all sides) that was the defining atmosphere of the mid
1970s onwards.  Black young people growing up in this time were much
more exposed to the terror and difficulties of the time than their
white counterparts.  As noted above, the social engineering of
apartheid extended the Boomer generation years for white South
Africans until about 1970.  Young people born after 1970 were forced
to deal with the realities of apartheid regardless of their
background (in fact, this was the whole purpose of Umkhonto we Sizwe,
who wanted to "raise the stakes" in the resistance to apartheid). 
Thus, in South Africa, non-white young people would probably fall
into the Generation X cohort if they were born between 1965 and 1990.
 White English speaking young people would probably be Generation
Xers if born from 1970 to 1990.  And white Afrikaans speaking people
if born from 1975 to 1990.  As always, and especially because of the
diversity of South African culture, these are only very broad
generalizations, and even then are only likely to apply more closely
to urban, middle class communities of all racial groupings.  

As young people Xers were expected to grow up quickly.  In 1984,
psychologist David Elkind wrote that "teenagers are now expected to
confront life and its challenges with the maturity once expected only
of the middle-agedů. High schools, which were once the setting for a
unique teenage culture and language, have become miniatures of the
adult community.  Theft, violence, sex, and substance abuse are now
as common in the high schools as they are on the streets"
(1984:3ff.).  It is true that in 1999 there are still murders and
drugs in schools - the difference is that this is now international
headline news, in a new era that is over-concerned for its children. 
In the Generation X era, it was simply accepted as a given.  

During the 60s and 70s, divorce rates increased dramatically. 
According to the U.S. Public Health Service, the percentage of all
children involved in divorce increased by 300% from 1940 to 1980
(chart, Strauss and Howe 1993:58).  In addition, many of the Xer's
parents were out actualising their own potential in the spiritual
awakening of the 60s and 70s.  In the 80s, the teen and early young
adulthood years for Generation X, parents were living the yuppie
dream of middle-class suburbia, but both parents were required to
work long, hard hours to sustain this lifestyle.  The concept of the
"latchkey kids" was created for Xers - those young people who came
home from school to empty homes, and looked after themselves, and
even their households, on their own. This is a generation that has
arrived home to an empty house, with both mom and dad working, or a
single parent home where the remaining parent is having to work to
survive. Often, especially in the latter situation, the young person
has been forced to take on part-time employment as well.  "The
international phenomenon of children and youths living on the streets
has also become an issue of concern in South Africa. A related
phenomenon is 'latchkey children', i.e. children who are left to
their own devices usually outside school hours. It is alarming that
studies indicate that nearly a third of Johannesburg's children, and
nearly half of Soweto's fall into this category" (van Zyl Slabbert
1994: 3.20, pg. 76f.). This is also the generation that has spent
every other weekend at their other parent's home, and has seen a
profusion of different family relationships, such as "dad's
girlfriend", "mom's previous ex-husband", "my second step-father", or
"my step-brother's father's ex-wife". This has caused young people to
be skeptical of relationships, yet still feel the need to fill the
void with something else. Friends and peers become surrogate
families, as a small number of dependable relationships are valued
highly.  

The Generation X generational cohort was born during an awakening
era, when their next elders, the Boomers, were rebelling against the
systems.  This attitude of rebellion was thus fostered within the
youth, but the values that underlie the Boomers' rebellion were not. 
Thus, with Xers, it is rebellion for rebellion's sake.  Generation X
is characterised by a total apathy towards those in authority.  

Generation Xers are a very spiritual generation, having had their
earliest years in the shadow of the Boomer's spiritual awakening in
the 60s and 70s.  They are seeking a spiritual home where they can
truly belong.  Their early experiences of church have been dominated
by the vision of church provided by the clash between Boomers and the
Silent generation.  This ongoing battle between different styles of
worship, preaching, church structure and governance methods has led
many Xers to have a cynical view of the church's relevance.  In-
fighting has produced a church divided.  They will spend most of
their lives either putting the churches back together or leaving and
starting their own churches. Because of their experiences in broken
relationships, small group experiences are more attractive,
especially when there is an emphasis on family and relationships. 
For them, faith is experienced.  Yet, they are growing up during a
time when charismatic and pentecostal churches are beginning to join
the decline that mainline churches are still experiencing.  Churches
with radically new approaches will be attractive. The Xers will be in
the forefront of pioneering these new approaches, and will be ready
to lead the next civic generation into them (just as the GIs
experienced this at the start of this century, so now the Millennials
will do the same at the end of it).  

As the Boomers grew into their moralistic and narcissistic midlife,
the Xers were moving into their teens.  They were (and still are)
very much left to fend for themselves, and are given a lot more
freedom than the Boomers were as children.  As rising young adults,
the Xers are being seen as arrogant and "lost", and very little hope
is pinned on them by older adults.  They buck the system by being
nontraditional in their approach and also by forging new employment
opportunities and opportunities overlooked by established businesses,
and being prepared to take enormous risks.   

As young adults, maneuvering through a sexual battlescape of AIDS and
blighted courtship rituals as the legacy of the 60s sexual revolution
and feminism lives on, and remembering with pain their Silent
generation parents' failed marriages, they date and marry cautiously.
The music of Generation X, from grunge to hip-hop, reveals a hardened
edge.  Their most famous cartoon character is a fitting
representation of these young people.  Bart Simpson is irreverent,
self-reliant, and really doesn't care what adults think about him. 
Always in trouble, he nevertheless always lands on his feet, and
often fixes up the messes of his father.  

Politically, they lean toward pragmatism and nonaffiliation, and
would rather volunteer than vote.  This was evidenced clearly in the
1999 General Elections in South Africa, when the 18-25 year old age
group had one of the worst registration and turnout rates of all. 
This has caused a lot of tension between old and young, especially
within black households, as older people who fought so hard to earn
the right to vote feel that their own children have very quickly
become blasé about it.  This apathy towards voting also indicates an
aversion to institutions, and to giving control of anything that is
theirs over to someone or something else. 

Bill Clinton successfully wooed this generation by being the first
MTV president, by initiating the first live televised presidential
debate, by being the sax- playing guy-next-door, and because of the
savvy of his very young team, headed by the Xer, George
Stephanopolous (Deputy Campaign Manager and Director of
Communications in 1992, who left the Clinton team in January 1997 for
a lucrative network news and lecturing career).  The low voter
turnout in the 1996 USA elections is an indication of their aversion
to affiliation.  

In the work place, they are similarly skeptical of institutions,
realising that long-term commitment is unlikely to pay the dividends
it did to their parents and grandparents.  They are therefore opposed
to paying their own dues, and look for quick, short-term rewards,
prepared to embrace risks and work hard for themselves.  This
entrepreneurial, selfish and individualistic attitude is often seen
as a similar rebelliousness to their next-elder Boomers, and many of
the older generations simply ignore it, believing that Xers will soon
grow up and move out of this phase. 

However, "in marked contrast to the Baby Boomers, Xers' individualism
has very little to do with rebelling against authority - our self-
assuredness comes from a powerful sense that we have been able
largely to fend for ourselves" (Tulgan 1995:49).  

Economically, Xers are among the poorest people in America.  That
label belonged to the previous Reactive generation for most of their
lives, as in the 1950s to early 1970s, "the over-65 age bracket
showed the highest poverty rate" (Strauss and Howe 1991:327), and
then, due to the 1970 recession this mantle was passed directly to
the next Reactive generation, the young Xers, without touching any of
the other generations in between.   Moving into midlife, they are the
first American generation who can expect to earn less (in real terms)
than their parents.   

As they move into midlife, the end of the awakening era is being
heralded by major events that disturb the collective psyche of
culture.  These political, economic and other disappointments lead
people to look inward, and begin an inner-directed era, which is
formative for the young adult Xers.  It forces them to become
realists and pragmatists in order to survive.  In fact, survival is a
key motivating factor for many Xers.  Economic realities are brought
into sharp focus as Xers reach their midlife years (this is beginning
to happen in America).  When they are at the height of their earning
potential, the economy is likely to be at a low point during the
looming crisis.  But during this crisis, Xers will rise as powerful
leaders.  Because of their pragmatism they are able to make critical
decisions and because of their resilient patience, are able to
energise the younger generations who grow weary of the crisis.   

In a few years' time, as Xers move through midlife to elderhood, they
will be the pragmatic workers that get the job done, at the same time
helping the aging Boomers to "get real" without losing themselves in
apocalyptic visions.  They will be cunning and deft in business and
elsewhere, quick to seize opportunities and adapt to changing
environments.  And they will be nice to be around.  They will "have
that Twainlike twinkle in the eye, that Trumanesque capacity to
distinguish between mistakes that matter and those that don't"
(Strauss and Howe 1991:415).  However, their earlier risk taking
makes way for caution, "their wildness and alienation [will turn]
into exhaustion and conservatism, and their nomadic individualism
[will mature] into a preference for strong community life" (Strauss
and Howe 1993:217).  They will become restrictive and over-protective
parents of the next generation, and will bolster social structures,
such as the family, by calming the social mood and slowing the pace
of social change down.  

In elderhood, they are likely to be quickly forgotten, with not many
of them left to lead the institutions they helped during the crisis. 
The era following the crisis will be one of reconstruction and growth
(like the1950s) and will demand younger leadership. Xers will
probably not be too concerned about this.  They will continue,
however, to fight for the rights of other generations, especially the
Millennial generation immediately following them (see below).  Even
in their old age, they fight for the rights of the young, rather than
for their own rights as the old. They are independent, even caustic,
elderly, not much loved, but leaving a lasting legacy for the young.
Throughout life, Xers hardly ever draw attention to themselves as a
generation, and are good at covering up what they really think and
feel as a group.  Maybe because of this, they are some of the most
investigated and berated generations in history. However, this should
not be taken as meaning that they work as a cohesive unit.  In fact,
the opposite is true.  The X  generation is atomised and
individualistic.  

The defining characteristics of this generation, at the end of the
twentieth century include: relationships matter the most to them;
they are risk-taking challenge-lovers, sex is expected yet confusing
and dangerous (because of AIDS), they live with change, and embrace
it, they are stressed out and organised to death, pain and anger are
rising, they want rules from the right authorities, their now matters
more than their future, they have a new style of learning and
communicating, "truth" and reason don't matter, they don't want to
know "is it true?", they want to know "does it work?", they are
spiritual seekers who believe in the supernatural, music is huge - it
is the "window on their soul" and the language they use to express
themselves (cf. Codrington 1999:online
http://www.youth.co.za/resource/genx12.htm).  

In terms of church ministry, they prefer:  small, cell-based
ministries;  they are very attractive to short-term mission
opportunities, especially at a local community level; missions is
seen as anywhere outside the doors of the church;  theologically,
they are more traditional and conservative; worship is not so much
valued by style or volume as by the level of intimacy involved; they
prefer "how to" sermons; and, they prefer less structured, more
interactive learning environments.  They are the most "different" of
all the generations, and the most misunderstood by the others.  


***********************

Generation Y:

This generation is called the "Millennial" generation by most
American demographers since they will graduate High School in the new
millennium.  They have also been labeled the Bridger Generation
(Rainer 1998), the Net Generation (Tapscott 1998), Generation Y
(Codrington 1998), the Nintendo generation (Online 1997) and many
others besides.  Their first birth year in America, 1982, coincided
with the first "Baby on Board" car stickers, as "social trends
started to shift away from neglect and negativism, and toward
protection and support" (Strauss and Howe 1993:14).  This shift was
abrupt, as demographic data indicates.  In South Africa, this
generation consists of those born after 1990, with members who have
no personal memory of apartheid (the undemocratic and unjust system
of government that officially ended in 1994).  This generation is the
recipient of free health care and free primary education in South
Africa.  They are a civic minded generation, in many ways likely to
mirror the GI generation (see above) as they have been born into a
similar historical situation - the ending of an upbeat era and in the
shadow of a looming crisis, following a "lost" generation. 

In their youth, Millennials have experienced abortion and divorce
rates ebbing, with popular culture beginning to stigmatize hands-off
parental styles and recast babies as special.  The new "status
symbol" of an up-and-coming family is to have a stay-at-home mom. 
Child abuse and child safety have become hot topics, while books
teaching virtues and values are best-sellers.  There are an
incredible amount of "good parenting" books being released, and
churches which run parenting classes cannot keep up with demand. 
Today, politicians define adult issues (from tax cuts to deficits) in
terms of their effects on children (one of the big debates just
beginning to brew in the run up to the 2000 American Presidential
elections is what to do with children living in poverty).  Youth
organisations have historically flourished during the Civic-type
generation's youth, and this has the effect of standardising youth
culture, leading them away from the individualism characteristic of
their next-elders, and towards a more collectivist community approach
to life, where "belonging" is important.  We can see this already
beginning in churches with, amongst others, the True Love Waits
campaign and SYATP (See You At The Pole prayer meetings).  The
Million Man March and Promise Keepers will be part of the early
memories of family for the Millennial kids.  AmeriCorp (created in
1993) is a government initiated program of civil service as a
requirement for High School graduation (Goldsmith 1995:online).  In
South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund is aimed solely at
Millennial generation kids. 

Even Hollywood is replacing the Gen X-type, cinematic child devils
and lost children (e.g. Rosemary's Baby 1968, The Exorcist 1973, The
Omen 1976, Taxi Driver 1976, Halloween 1978, Children of the Corn
1984, Ferris Bueller's Day Off 1986) with child angels and heroes
(e.g. Home Alone 1990, My Girl 1991, Little Man Tate 1991, Look Who's
Talking Now 1993, Power Rangers 1993, The Sandlot 1993, Matilda 1996,
Fly Away Home 1996, Leave it to Beaver 1997, Kundun 1997).  It is
interesting to note that the only movies listed in the Internet Movie
DataBase's archives under the category "kids-outsmart-adults" were
made after 1990 (
http://us.imdb.com/List?tv=on&&genres=kid-outsmarts-
adults), indicating an adult deference to children, and recognition
of their ability to "beat" adults.  Cable TV and the Internet are
cordoning off "child-friendly" havens.  While educators speak of
"standards" and "cooperative learning", school uniforms are surging
in popularity, and USA test scores are faring better in international
comparisons (from the FAQ at
http://www.fourthturnings.com).  

Whereas the generations before have worshipped rugged individualist
heroes, like Superman, GI Joe, the Lone Ranger and Captain Kirk, the
superheroes of this generation are the Power Rangers: When summoned,
these ordinary youths transform themselves into thunderbolting evil
fighters.  Cheerful, confident, and energetic, Power Rangers are
nurtured to succeed in the face of great odds.  Whatever they do -
from displaying martial arts to piloting high-tech weaponry - they do
as a choreographed group.  Their very motto, The Power of Teamwork
Overcomes All, speaks of strength in cooperation, energy in
conformity, virtue in duty. Their missions are not chosen by
themselves, but by an incorporeal elder in whose vision and wisdom
they have total trust.  Come the [next crisis era], coming-of age
Millennials will have a lot in common with these action toys. Strauss
and Howe, 1997:293 

In terms of traditional heroes, however, this generation is sorely
lacking.  They have celebrities instead of heroes.  The Millennial
"heroes" are actors, multi-million dollar performers and sports stars
whose claim to fame is popularity rather than for "heroic" act of
intrinsic value.  Most celebrities actively promote a destructive
lifestyle, and tell young people not to follow their example.  Yet,
these are the people who gain the headlines and the admiration of
today's youth.  This is not to say that heroes of generations past
were not human or never made mistakes, but rather that the acts that
conferred hero status onto them were acts of value or benefit to
society, rather than the ability to manipulate the media to gain
publicity. 

In addition to an overactive entertainment industry, today's
schoolchildren have grown up immersed in a world of computers and
other information technologies. They play video games; they listen to
music on digital compact discs; they help their families program the
computerized controls of videocassette players.  They have on their
desks and at their fingertips access to more information of every
sort than any human beings have ever had in the whole of history. 
They have in their homes more raw data processing power than most
nations have ever had.  To put this in a bit of perspective, consider
the following illustration: Let's say you're going to a party so you
pull out some pocket change and buy a little greeting card that plays
"Happy Birthday" when it's opened.  After the party, someone casually
tosses the card into the trash, throwing away more computer power
than existed in the entire world before 1950.  The party gift you
give is a system called Saturn, made by Sega, the gamemaker.  It runs
on a higher performance processor than the original 1976 Cray
Supercomputer, which in its day was accessible to only the most elite
physicists. Huey 1994 

This access to knowledge and level of data processing power have
given children a different way of interacting with information
compared with previous generations. Many familiar communications
media-including television, movies, radio, newspapers, magazines, and
books-are essentially linear. The users of those media have little if
any control over the information they receive. They follow the flow
of information from beginning to end along a path determined in
advance by the providers of the information (cf. "The Nintendo
Generation", [Online] At:
http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/techgap/nintendo.html). 
Millennial kids, however, prefer their information to arrive in
"interactive" forms, and are especially drawn to Internet information
channels.  They have a much higher "information overload" threshold,
but have been forced to make drastic changes in how the process and
learn information.  This has been largely misunderstood by older
generations who attempt to force them into the older methods of
linear processing. 

As we noted above, the Millennial generation is in a very similar
societal period to the GI generation.  Strauss and Howe refer to this
phenomenon in great depth, as they show the cyclical nature of
history.  Thus, many of the characteristics that were true of the GIs
apply also to the Millennials.  One of the common threads is their
approach to faith and religious life.  As we saw above, .  "in such
periods, those traditions with the greatest emphasis on the personal
life and religious experience of the 'believer' will thrive.  It is
also in these periods that new groups spin off from existing
institutional structures" (Regele 1995:40).  We should expect to see
this happening, and, in fact, there are already movements towards
this.  But the emphasis is more directed towards "doing faith".  True
faith is seen in faithfulness and in building the institution that
becomes the vehicle for spreading the Gospel to the community. 
Commitment is given to those organisations that encourage and
actively develop meaningful "community" and relationships. 

This will be seen in community structures and an increasing
patriotism as well. The agenda of the Next New Deal will center
around young adults. In exchange, old Boomers will impose a new duty
of compulsory service, notwithstanding those elders' own youthful
draft resistance. Millennials will not oppose this because they will
see in it a path to public achievement. If inducted for war,
Millennials will cast aside any earlier pacifism and march to duty.
Like Power Rangers, they will not be averse to militarized mass
violence, just to uncontrolled personal violence - quite the opposite
of Boomer youths back in the Awakening. National leaders will not
hesitate to mobilize and deploy them in huge armies. Where Boomer
youths once screamed against duty and discipline, Boomer elders will
demand and receive both from Millennial troops. Strauss and Howe,
1997:XXX 

In South Africa, we are already seeing a call for a national
community service time for school leavers or graduates.  Although
Xers will rile against this for a few more years, we should not be
surprised if it is young people themselves who ensure, in a few years
time, that national service (in a civilian developmental capacity) is
ushered in. 

In terms of Christianity, around the world, there seems to be a sense
of expectancy, a sense that God is "doing a new thing".  The
Millennials are being influenced by this renewed reliance on the
Spirit, and by the sense of expectation of a move of God.  Even if
such a revival does not occur (in fact, there are reports of many
such revivals occurring, e.g. in Brownsville, Pensacola and in the
church in Brazil and Korea), the Millennial generation will have been
influenced by the excitement of expectation and the sense that church
must change.  They will most likely provide the leadership of the new
church structures that will emerge from the Boomer-led, Generation X
fuelled changes in Christian ministry that are beginning to take
place across the world. 

The generational characteristics of these young people have still to
be developed, and it is too early to identify a generational
personality.  However, armed with our understanding of the
generational cycle, as well as our early observations (and the
developing leading-edge Millennials in America), we can identify some
traits that are important:  Community matters the most to them;  they
are confident and energetic;  they are Passionately tolerant;  change
is constant, focus is fragmented;  they have a very weak morality; 
they value choice and variety, not size and volume;  they are over-
protected;  they only trust themselves;  there is an increasing
divide between rich and poor;  they have non-traditional family
definitions and are leading a sexual counter revolution; nothing
shocks them: they've "Been there, done that!"; and, they are plugged
in (cf. Codrington 1999b:online
http://www.youth.co.za/resources/geny12.htm). 

When asked about their generation, Millennials say "technology tops
the list of advantages while crime, violence, and drugs are the
leading problems the Generation 2001 students sees facing them" (from
Generation 2001 1998:online).  Bill Price & Associates research in
South Africa sees a remarkable increase in the importance placed on
the family (1998).  In virtually every poll taken of the Millennial
generation, the common indicators used to assess a generation are all
moving for the better.  In general, older generations (with the
probable exception of Generation X) will be drawn to these young
people.  They will make a good impression, especially with those
older adults who have battled so much with the Xers. New pop culture
trends will be big, bland, and friendly. In film, young stars will be
linked with positive themes, display more modesty in sex and
language, and link new civic purpose to screen violence. In sports,
players will become more coachable, more loyal to teams and fans, and
less drawn to trash talk, in-your-face slam dunks, and end-zone
taunts. In pop music, Millennials will resurrect the old ritual of
happy group singing, from old campfire favorites to new tunes with
simple melodies and upbeat lyrics. Whether in film, sports, or music,
the first Millennial celebrities will win praise as good role models
for children. Strauss and Howe, 1997:XXX 

Already this trend can be seen in Millennial music, as an example. 
It started with the Spice Girls, and the trend of music with a softer
edge and light-hearted feel has continued with artists such as Ricky
Martin, Shania Twain, Boyzone, Britney Spiers, Jennifer Lopez and the
ubiquitous "Mambo number 5" in 1999.  Of course, harder, edgier music
still exists and sells well, but the resurgence of a fuller, jazzier,
brassier sound that is fun, is characteristic of the current
mainstream musical trends (interestingly enough, the GIs saw the same
trend as youth, with the emergence of big band and the dance band
sound).  A similar move can also be seen in Christian praise &
worship music.  The older sounds of the Bill Gaither-style bands was
not just an "older" sound, but fundamentally, musically different. 
The beat, for instance was on the dominant notes, or the "on-beat" -
the feel, although up tempo, was still often solemn if not always
serious. These tunes were fairly easy to clap to and follow a rhythm,
which made them easy to learn.  During the late 1980s and early
1990s, Integrity, led primarily by Don Moen and Ron Kenoly, picked up
the beat of the 1980s, which was more on the "off-beat".  Older
people have real difficulty with picking up the beat of these songs
in many cases, and it is not natural to them.  The mid-1990s have
been dominated by Hillsongs, Australia who followed a similar feel. 
This worship was mainly aimed at Boomers (although the refreshing
newness captured Xers as well).  The latest trend is coming out of
Britain, especially from Soul Survivor and Matt Redman.  This is a
much softer sound, much simpler and "back to basics", with more of an
acoustic tone, but a real emphasis on "off beat" rhythms and
unexpected melodies that are not as easy to learn.  This "sound" and
"feel", combined with intimate words is really connecting with Xers
and Millennials.  The theme is worship - intimate worship one-on-one
with God.  I predict, however, that we will see a resurgence of bold,
brassy praise songs, as the Millennials begin to make their impact on
Christian worship. 

These children are being groomed to be the civic-minded, community-
oriented work force of the next crisis, who will then emerge as the
world's leaders in the outer-driven era that will follow.  And for
the first time in generational history, because of medical science
extending life expectancies, an older Civic generation (the GI
generation) is still significantly active enough to reach across the
generations and help raise the next Civic generation (the
Millennials).  This has the potential to create an even more powerful
and ambitious group of Civics than ever before in history.  This is
borne out in numerous surveys of Millennial generation attitudes. 
The Generation 2001 survey found that 88% of students have already
established specific goals for the next five years and 78% agree
strongly that they are sure that someday they will get to where they
want to be in life.  A strong majority of 75% disagree that "lucky
breaks are more important to achieving success than hard work" and
57% are willing to work more than 40 hours per week to reach their
career goals (1998:online
http://www.northwesternmutual.com/2001/summary.html).  

"If the generational cycle prevails, we will enter some kind of
crisis between 2015 and 2025.  In 2015 the oldest [American]
millennial will be thirty-three, and the youngest around eleven. 
Like the [GIs] before them, they will be at just the right age to
fill the ranks necessary to defeat the rising threat" (Regele
1995:142).  Unfortunately, with the pictures of the "GI" World War II
pasted in our minds, this is not necessarily a happy thought. 


Graeme Codrington
THE EDGE: Journal of Cutting Edge Yth Ministry for the 21st century

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