Have you ever noticed that every time you use Google or Facebook something has changed? And more than often, irritatingly so because change implies abandoning the way you did it before.
If there is one reason why modern phenomena like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have thrived is because they are committed to constant change. They are always cranking out new ways of doing it. At the helm of these modern movements are young twenty-somethings who have redefined their generation. leaving older generations to scratch their heads in reservation.
Constant Change. They have been called the “Google Generation”, “The Social Networking Generation”, and even “Generation Flux”. They are today’s generation of twenty-somethings who are defined by constant change that is fueled by technological innovation. The “Gen-Flux Generation” (as we will refer to them for this article) are like chameleons, always morphing into new things so that they become like constantly moving targets. Not only are they constantly changing, but they are doing so while they are on the move. While they are walking, watching TV or (we hope not) driving, they fire off emails, thumb out texts, and update their Facebook.
Non-Nostalgic. “Gen-Fluxers” prefer to adapt to new situations than to perfect the status quo. To them, there is no status quo; there is only a process of change. The new generation of young innovators has been described by technologist Peter Diamandus as in “Permenant Beta” (works in progress). In other words, when it comes to new ideas, instead of remaining on shore, they continually launch out into the unknown. This young, elusive generation possesses a non-nostalgic focus on the future that resists being stuck in the past. Just ask a “Gen-Fluxer” when is the last time they visited a post office or used a stamp and you will see what I mean. They would sooner send a text and on a rare occasion an email.
Always plugged in. “Gen-Fluxers” get their life perspective from multiple sources of media without even being there. Just when you think they miss a church event they will say, “I caught the pod cast on my phone”. To “Gen-Fluxers”, the conversation never ends because they are always connected through technology. There are, however, limits to getting all your interactions, and revelations from media. Media can be remixed and manipulated to service unique points of view. It also goes without saying that media can never compensate for the absence of face-to-face connection. Too much is missed when you are not together within the same time and space.
Uncertainty. Because of this type of culture, “Gen-Fluxers” must endure ambiguity with their lives going in many directions at once. They no longer rely on established business models that promise long careers up corporate ladders. So they become jacks of all trades with many spinning plates in the air. These can include more than one job, carrier, or business venture.
The uncertainty that comes in the wake of all the spinning plates is accompanied by instability, a vague sense of identity, and in many cases moral relativism.
How did we get here?
A question must be asked in all this. If this new generation is called Generation Flux, than what is the older generation called? Leonard Sweet, in his book Viral, calls them the “Guttenberg Generation” because of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press around the year 1440. Before the printing press, books were hand-written by scribes and very rare in the world, resulting in the slow progress of knowledge. With the printing press also came the multiplication of knowledge throughout the world. With that knowledge came the culture of getting our perspective from “paper” or words on a page. The “Gutenberg Generation” tends to enjoy holding a book in their hands versus reading on a device. They focus on knowledge and ideas while “Gen-Fluxers” on relationships and connection.
Interestingly, for some Gen-Fluxers, when it comes to spirituality, they gravitate away from the ever-changing evangelical culture that has been marked by heavy emphasis on evangelistic preaching, testimonies, extemporaneous prayer, and strong emotion, They do this in search of what they perceive as a deeper and richer worship experience. Their image-based customs attract them to the visual representation and the mystery in liturgical worship, the sacraments, the communal element of worship, the focus on Scripture and prayer. These produce beautiful, immutable visuals which appeal to a small segment of this generation.
When things began to change.
When the first personal computer came out in the late 1970’s, the way knowledge was distributed started making a quantum leap from paper to digital. Today, people read books on their tablets and reading devices as well as research information on the Web. Even some of us older ones have adapted using our Apple and Android devices for speaking.
How do we reach Generation Flux?
Although much can be said about reaching them, we can only give some places to start.
Celebrate their passion for finding spirituality through connecting with people. Remember this young generation is addicted to relationships through media and not necessarily attending a local church.
I know this may sound strange to us Guttenhergers, but this is the way the Church in Acts began. After the proclamation of the gospel came establishing the believer through connecting with other believers. This happened when they went “house to house”. Making disciples does not simply classroom instruction, but living out life stories together.
The older generation can also come along-side “Gen-Fluxers” by helping them see the difference between hating nostalgia (the past) and learning from it. Although the past is not a hitching post, it should be a guide post. Truth is relevant to every generation regardless of culture, philosophy, or innovation. The Ten Commandments come from our past and regardless of what age we live in, it is still wrong to kill, covet, and worship other gods.
“Gen-Fluxers” can be helped by the preceding generations if we stop trying to correct them before we connect with them. We older Christians love perfectly laid-out scriptural arguments and well-reasoned doctrine, but this young generation is more interested in questions like: Am I loved? Is there hope? Do you really care? These are not just lovely ideas but questions that invite encounter. God is not some abstract idea we put in a test tube, but a living Being who longs to touch humanity. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”