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Working with “Twentysomethings”

SpringHill summer staff in first aid training.

SpringHill summer staff in first aid training.

“One of the largest issues we face is working with ‘twentysomethings’. Their work ethic is poor, they expect everything to be given to them, and they won’t stay with a commitment. We just don’t know what to do. And now we’re even beginning to wonder about the future of the Church if this is who will be taking over in the years ahead.”

This was the perspective expressed by a leader of a large Christian ministry at a round table discussion of Christian ministry CEO’s I participated in a couple of years ago. And after making his statement most of the other 20 leaders in the room all shook their heads in full agreement with many joining in with their own “horror stories” about working with those” darn twentysomethings”.

Ironically, there was one other Christian camp CEO in the group and when we heard this statement and the following discussion we just looked at each other with our eyebrows raised. You see, Christian camp ministry’s built on the good and faithful work of those “darn twentysomethings”. We couldn’t do what we’re called to do, nor do it nearly half as well (nor nearly as fun) without them.

This whole dialogue came rushing back to me earlier this summer as I interact with our nearly 1000 “twentysomethings” staff we hired to help us create SpringHill Experiences this summer.

Instead what I see in our summer staff is the total opposite what these Christian leaders expressed in that forum. As I shared with that group of leaders we, at SpringHill, serve alongside young adults who are highly committed, deeply concerned about others and the world, and who are willing to make great sacrifices to advance Christ’s Kingdom.

Then I said to these CEO’s – “maybe, instead of looking at the faults of twentysomethings, we should first examine our own leadership and the culture of our organizations to see if we have our own adjustments to make before we write off an entire generation of leaders, because in my experience poor followers are usually the result of poor leadership.”

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. As someone who has hired twentysomethings (ie: millennials) right out of college, I will say I had reservations at first.

    My experience has generally been that they are so much like my own generation coming into the world. They know they have a bad reputation and many of them want to succeed. The ones who don’t have the drive, who don’t seem to get it? We didn’t hire them.

    The ones we did hire? The ones who grew up with much different circumstances than my generation? They worked really hard to prove themselves.

    Honestly, it’s just another form of ageism as far as I can tell. Find something superficial not to like about someone so we can deal with someone more to our prejudices.

    Hey, all stereotypes have a grain of truth. I’ve seen that often enough. That said, when dealing with an individual, they should stand on their own merits.

    Keep sharing your positive experiences. How are these young adults ever going to prove themselves if more people write them off right away?

    June 18, 2013
    • Thank you for your perspective. Very well said. I agree with you giving them an opportunity. It’s part of our responsibility to them and to the world.

      June 18, 2013
  2. I think it’s an individual thing. I work with a millennial right now who is, usually, great if a little too certain of her own worth given her current lack of accomplishments. I enjoy working with her and the usual media addiction that her generation suffers from actually works for her because she is in the public information field. I think she’ll go far as she is adjusting to working in an adult environment.

    Prior to this job, I worked with several millennials who were the definition of the stereotype for the generation. Lazy, bossy, obsessed with their smart phones, back-stabbing, extremely certain of their own less-than-adequate skills, and always certain that they were in the right about everything. Since the new executive director wouldn’t consider looking for actual experienced workers, it provided me with the final grease to leave a long time job that had once been great, but had become a struggle — in part because those above me thought youth and enthusiasm could overcome poor skills and no work ethic.

    Yes, sometimes poor following is a result of poor leading, but my experience with millennials is that unless you have the authority to fire them, they won’t respect you and so all the leadership skills in the world won’t overcome their poor work ethic and lack of respect for the skills gained only by experience.

    June 19, 2013

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