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If You Ask a Millennial

One day my husband came home from work in a panic.

“We’re Millennials!” He exclaimed. After years of ridiculing them, he realized he had barely made it into their lot.

“Not me,” I gloated, clinging tightly to my proud late seventies identity.

But it’s true. We are millennials, basically. And we aren’t. Missing an entire generation by just a few months gives me just as much bragging rights as I have with the Gen X’ers. Which is not much. I’m smack dab in between.

And let me tell you, though I grew up in the 80’s on Full House and Oregon Trail on tiny Macs and Babysitters Club books(the cheap paperbacks NOT the graphic novel ones populating the Barnes & Noble now), I have spent my fair share of time with Millennials. My sisters are both 80s babies, my husband is one, and most of my friends are. And my entire adult life has been working with or serving them in one capacity or another.

4th of July 1987
What Gen X’ers did for fun on the 4th of July in the 80’s (apparently).

As Baby Boomers amble into old age, and Gen X’ers turned 50 last year (YIKES!!!), Millennials are sought after and adored. They are the unreachable. They are an elusive generation. They are demigods in their own right. But I have a bone to pick with us-their predecessors.

Let me explain. In the last 15 years of my life I’ve worn lots of hats: youth minister, college ministry volunteer, small business owner, and mom. I feel like I know this generation like the back of my hand.

Millennials, with all their tech glory and perfect (young) skin, and fancy Instagram filters, still need us. Not only that, they want us. And we are doing them a disservice. I have been in one too many meetings aimed at “reaching young people,” and the solution is almost always new paint, new logos, and social media revamping. We are not trying to reach robots. We are trying to reach PEOPLE.

These people want relationships! Millennials are a vast and unclassifiable generation, yet they’ve been stereotyped and classified (I admit, I’ve done it, too). Because they created new ways to reach out, we assume that’s all they want. Tech. Not only do we assume that’s all they want, that’s all we give them.

Huge corporations are paying Millennials ungodly amounts of money to tell stories with social media when really the story we all want to be a part of is only somewhat on the internet (like maybe 10%). The story we all really want to be a part of is in front of us. It is across a cup of coffee with a human. It is crying at a kitchen counter with a hurting friend or family member. It is holding hands at the store with your spouse. It’s a playdate with other frazzled moms. It is laughing at your kids being insane in the playroom. It’s movie night with pizza and Pixar.

Years ago, in a company call with the corporation I owned my small business through, our CFO encouraged us to explore what our Purple Cow might be. In other words, what sets your business apart and draws in the client? I knew what it was immediately. Antiquated and old fashioned and despite the fact that I spent hours on emails, and newsletters, and Facebook, and tagging people, and posting on community sites, what got my clients to come and stay was presence. It was looking at their faces with my face and seeing them with my eyeballs and accepting them and loving them and hearing them and supporting them in the day by day. In person.

If you ask a Millennial what they really want and how they can really be reached, the answer will always be the same-now and when they are 70. It is through a kind word, a warm touch, a song, beauty, laughter, authenticity.  Yeah, you might hook them with social media or a moving video or warm paint, but that’s not why they’ll stay.

There’s no need to totally reinvent the wheel for the younger generation. Just take care of it, and strengthen it. But the wheel is still the wheel.

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