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The Millennial’s Secret

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I think I know a secret held in the heart of many Millennials…

A number of years ago I was flying back from a conference and was traveling through Toronto in the middle of winter with my then teenage son Sam. We hadn’t had much time together in the previous month, so I thought it would be fun for him to join me on the trip. We had a great time, but on the journey home the weather closed in and we found ourselves stuck in the Toronto airport. As we waited for the weather to clear, much to the consternation of the hosts of anxious travelers, the airport began closing down. Sam and I decided to settle in and enjoy the time together. As we whiled away the time we turned to reminding each other of funny stories from our past. It was great fun.

After a while, Sam went to find a vending machine and no sooner had he gone than a young man in his twenties took the opportunity to come over and talk to me. He said, “I’ve been watching you and your son and you seem to have a great relationship.” Somewhat shocked and if I’m honest, a little embarrassed, I thanked him. He looked at me with real intensity and said quietly, “My wife and I are having our first child soon – it’s a boy – I would love to have a relationship with him like you have with your son, could you give me any advice on how to raise him?” I looked at him more closely, he seemed to be very open and earnest and more than happy to wait for my reply. Clearly, it was an important moment for him, so I began to share my wife’s and my philosophy of parenting that centers on Love, Discipline, and Freedom. He was fascinated and continued to question and listen even after Sam returned. He was particularly interested in what discipline meant.

The time went by quickly, our flights got their clearances and we parted ways, but I’ve often thought about that young Millennial-father and wondered how he was doing with his little boy. I’m sure he’ll be fine — anyone humble enough to ask a complete stranger for advice is sure to learn everything necessary to raise a family.

But to me that young man well represents his generation because he expresses what I’ve noticed about the Millennials in general: they all have a secret desire to be mentored.

Of course, this is the generation that has had a constant flow of mass media elevating the role of the mentor; from Star Wars to Harry Potter from Obi-Wan Kenobi to Dumbledore. In our world, mentors – unlike parents – are presented as vital to anyone who would seek to do well.

Renowned anthropologist Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces), whom George Lucas famously consulted in the writing of Star Wars, would say that every culture has very similar heroic tales designed to help us understand the nature, purpose, and responsibilities of life. Every heroic tale in every age involves an unlikely hero (Frodo) entering ‘another world’ (Mordor) to fulfill a great quest (destroying the Ring of Power) in which an older and wiser mentor (Gandalf) directs and aids. With the massive impact of movies, books, video games and other media and the continuous propagation of this heroic ideal, the Millennials, perhaps beyond all other generations of the more new era, have this ‘heroic story’ in their drinking water, in the very atmosphere they breathe.

Cynics might say that Millennials are too quick to think of themselves as ‘special’— that their parents have not helped because they have too readily invested in the idea of their ‘specialness’. They might even say, as some have recently suggested, that the whole generation has a tendency towards narcissism (Time: May 9, 2013). Personally, I don’t buy it and I think it’s wrong to rubbish the clearly expressed aspirations of so many. My sense is that we are seeing the emergence of a generation that longs to reach beyond the limitations of individualism and self-assertiveness of past generations, believing we are all here to make a difference.

We are in a time when many in the emerging generation want to embrace the ‘Hero’s Journey’, a journey that is most perfectly expressed in the life of Jesus. But of course, this requires that they find mentors who will guide, encourage and cajole them along the way.

I wonder whether you long for a mentor? Or perhaps you feel the call to function as a living example to another, becoming their mentor? My guess is that as you look around your mentor or mentee is right there in front of you.

About Mike Breen

As a speaker, author, and entrepreneur, I have been working throughout Europe and the US for the past 25 years. My passion is to continue to invest in the next generation of leaders, and one of the ways I have sought to do this is to write several books to help equip those working in the missional movement. Building a Discipling Culture, Covenant and Kingdom, and Family on Mission are a few of the most notable titles I have released.

17 Comments

  • aescobar1173@yahoo.com' Arnoldo Escobar says:

    Great one! I totally agree with the statement of looking around we’ll find a mentor or mentee. Is not hard ,yet we don’t do it very often. A blue nose baboon confession!

  • I believe that you hit the nail on the head. We need to empower them to make a difference with love, wisdom and relationship.

  • aaronc71@gmail.com' Aaton Cantrell says:

    Thank you for the article. I can really relate to both sides of the spectrum. When I was in Bible College in the early 1990’s, I was in my early 20’s. I deeply longed for a mentor. I asked a professor to be my mentor. He declined, saying that I should be mentored by him in the context of class. I prayed for a mentor, and found one who was another staff person at the college, not a professor. He helped me greatly through the issues I was facing. I have found frequent mentors since then. I am extremely grateful for the mentors I have found in the last couple years, Rod Pasch, Jonathan Eilert, among others. And now Chris Norman. I can definitely relate to this secret desire of young people.

    Now that we have had some life experience and some great training in discipleship and mission, my family has a desire to share what we have with others by being living examples.

    Thank you Mike for your living example!

    • Mike Breen says:

      Bless you Aaron. The mentoring you’ve received has I believe prepared you a great discipling ministry! M+

  • akunce@lwccyork.com' Aaron J. Kunce says:

    Thanks Mike! I love the way you speak hope into peoples lives.

  • Jb@gatheringnetwork.org' Jordanne says:

    I don’t have enough hours in the day to disciple all who end up at my door, and it is heart breaking. From the simple skills of holding a conversation to the deep wounds of their past, they are longing for help and don’t know how to ask! They need cheerleaders, not critics! I pray often more leaders from other generations will see the opportunity and take hold soon!

    • Mike Breen says:

      Hey Jordanne! I completely understand! I think using the ‘huddle’ methodology we have developed at 3dm would help you a lot. You could then invest in a few and see them disciple others. Check out the huddle resources at 3dmpublishing.com or at 3dmovements.com. Many blessings on your discipleship work. M+

  • sjbloor@hotmail.com' Stephen says:

    Hi Mike,
    I was born in 1984 and what you’ve written has been true for me since my early teens. Likewise, I see it in so many of my peers, but there is also a block for many of them. Finding mentors who they can actually trust is something that both causes the want to be mentored but also causes them never tobe mentored in the first, second, third cases etc.

    Cheers

    Stephen

    Adelaide, Australia

    • Mike Breen says:

      Totally agree Stephan! I think using a discipleship huddle model would help the most. We have lots of trained mentors and coaches in Australia. Perhaps it would be worth dropping the 3dmovements.com guys a line? Cheers bro. M+

  • Sincerely appreciate your blogs.

    I wanted to affirm what your saying by sharing that this is exactly how I met Jesus back in August 10th 2011, having not grown up in the church at all or even really knowing what or who Jesus was. A buddy of mine who was into self help books and authors that mentored him into trying to become a millionaire as well as being a physical fitness trainer became my mentor in the gym. I looked up to him for many things, until he found Jesus. Before then he was kind of selfish in his mentoring but when he met Jesus he wanted to share Him with me and I rejected it (but desired his mentorship still). After much convincing and the Word and Spirit working I accepted Christ through his mentorship which led to a lifestyle of discipleship. I’m 26 now and have been leading our student ministry and discipling our youth for over 2 years.

    It also seems like, at least in my life before meeting Jesus that mentorship is desired but only if its offered or easily/readily available, otherwise we fight the tension of thinking that we are strong enough to track though life on our own.

    -Praying for more workers!

  • todd_nethery@hotmail.com' Todd Nethery says:

    A very provocative note! If I am asking the Lord for POP, then maybe a I should be more in tune and in touch with the millennial generation, who seem to be open to relationship and discipleship. This has peeked my interest in understanding this generation more fully. A good word.

  • Jeknoch1@gmail.com' Elliott Knoch says:

    Hmmm… Wow and yes! What do the hearts of the upcoming home lander generation long for?

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