Home Equipping Leaders Adults A Wizard & The Hunger Games: A Divide in the Millennial Generation

A Wizard & The Hunger Games: A Divide in the Millennial Generation

I’ve always thought the lines between generations have been fuzzy, and now research by MTV confirms it.

Yes, I still feel weird referencing research by MTV, but hear me out: Youth ministry in the church, much like MTV, is a product of earlier incarnations of youth culture.

To stay relevant to generations who are now coming of age, we must pay attention to the younger members of the demographics we serve. Paying attention to research from a business that makes its living in youth culture like MTV can reap tremendous benefits for us.

The press release about MTV’s latest study can be found here.

A few of notes on their study before jumping into a review of other articles on MTV’s findings:

  • Those who came of age in the late 90s/early 00s (ages 18 to 25) identify with Harry Potter and a time of economic boom. Therefore, the study claims that these youth have an extremely optimistic outlook on life, reinforced by late Boomer parents who told them they were special and gifted. What better character to identify with than one entrusted with a magic wand destined to change the world?
  • Younger millennials (ages 14 to 17) identify more with self-sufficent Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. After all, this group has learned about life during an economic downturn and from internet searches. Self-taught skills and self-reliance are undergirded by Gen X parents who encourage these millennials to make something of themselves.
  • Over 75% of 14- to 17-year-olds: “I worry about the negative impact that today’s economy will have on me or my future.”
  • 60% of younger millennials say: “I believe my generation will be worse off than my parents generation.” Furthermore, 60% feel “very stressed about getting into a good high school or college.”
  • In 2010, 71% of 14- to 17-year-olds agreed with the statement “If I want to do something, no one is going to stop me.” Of today's 14- to 17-year-olds, only 51% say that.
  • 69% say “I put more pressure on myself than others put on me.”
  • 84% of younger millennials say “I know why I shouldn’t do something because my parents explain the consequences to me.”

Interesting responses to MTV’s research can be found at the Market to Me blog and MTV Insights.

Now, on to the business side of things.... Part of me wishes the church had the funds to carry out studies like this with young people. To remain relevant to the next generation, this kind of data and feedback is absolutely essential.

For all the altruistic inference, MTV ran this study for their business health. And the observations about how to market to young teens are fascinating, especially in terms of social media and transparency.

Excellent points highlighted below are sourced from here.

Key Findings re: Connections with Musical Artists
Zero-distancing. Artists are expected to be constantly accessible, especially on social media, offering unique and intimate moments to their fans.

Artist As “Friend.Today, there’s an expectation for direct interaction between fans and musicians. Millennials crave intimate glimpses into the mundane daily activities of their favorite celebrities.

  • More than 75% say they feel a stronger connection to musicians who are open about who they are.
  • 53% say the more an artist shares online about themselves, the closer they feel to them.
  • 91% say it’s okay if an artist shows flaws – it makes them human and likeable.

The Daily Feed. Millennials are looking for constant access to their favorite artist in social media. They have different expectations among the channels.

  • Facebook is the most “formal and official outlet” for tour updates and information.
  • Twitter offers a “blow-by-blow feed” and highlights interactions with other celebrities.
  • Instagram provides access to their world-view, literally.
  • Tumblr is the more intimate glimpse into an artist’s psyche/spirit.

Co-creation. A fan-artist symbiosis has emerged, with the two working together on social media as one another’s branding machines.

  • 25% of Millennials have parodied (and uploaded) songs, artists or music videos.
  • 64% like to be the source for new music for friends.
  • 58% say they are motivated to post and share music when they get feedback.

Music is on shuffle. Social media has made it easier for Millennial music fans to be exposed to different music genres. They are savvy at using different tools, apps, sites and wikis to dive into genres or artists from the past. A Millennial list of “fave artists” may be as diverse as One Direction, Etta James, Lil Wayne and The Supremes.

  • 85% agree that “among people my age, it’s cooler to listen to a diverse range of music versus one genre.”

There’s no such thing as selling out. As savvy marketers of themselves, Millennials understand that the system of getting free music/streaming means artists have to make their money somewhere.

  • 68% say as long as they are authentic, artists can't “sell out."
  • But 61% say they would think less of an artist who put out a product that didn’t fit with their brand/reputation.

Buying music is symbolic patronage for Millennials. Having grown up with free downloading software like Napster and Kazaa, this generation never needed to buy music. When they buy now it’s because they want to support an artist that they respect and connect with.

  • At the time of the study, only 25% had bought music in the past week and only 28% within the past month.
  • 68% say they only pay for music out of respect to the artist. They believe music should be free.
  • 81% say the closer they feel to an artist, the more likely they are to support them through purchase than free download.

Marketers who leverage music in their platforms should consider the unique relationships between fan and artists, giving them opportunities for brand-sponsored “zero distancing” moments. Metaphorically, what’s happened to the music industry (the collapse of hierarchy between fan and artist) is also being observed in other industries. Brands should consider giving Millennials opportunities to have a voice, to co-create and to collaborate.

Let’s look at each of the key findings, substituting ministry for music...
Zero-distancing. How does your ministry offer unique and accessible moments to your youth? How does social media allow you to minister in different instead of tired-and-ttried ways? Is there a low-tech alternative that meets this desire for accessible connection?

Minister as Friend. How do you provide glimpses into the preparation for experiences within your ministry? How comfortable are you sharing the flaws in your ministry or church? Would that match the 91% of respondents who are okay with artists having flaws because it makes them more accessible? Can ministers be more human in the same way?

Daily Feed. Yes, it's a lot to keep up with but each social media tool serves a different function. Is your ministry’s Facebook page the place where official info can be found? Do you provide chances for interaction on Twitter and Instagram? How many times have you asked your youth to document their ministry using instagram? How would a youth group keep up a Tumblr that feels consistent in message but different in content from a Facebook account?

Co-Creation. With over half of respondents saying they feel encouraged to post and share music when they get music, how can you and your ministry encourage youth to share their faith experiences? If they're already sharing faith experiences, how do you and the other leaders in your ministry provide encouragement?

Ministry is on shuffle. Just like one music genre is not enough, these young people value tremendous diversity in their experiences. How much variety in message, topic, format, experience does your ministry provide?

There is no such thing as selling out -- with a major caveat: As long as the product(s) endorsed fit the persona of the ministry. We can be a people united by cause, though we have to pay attention to how our ministries are branded.

Investing in ministry is symbolic patronage. Just like music is free for the taking, much of youth ministry can and should be freely accessible to the masses. Just don’t be surprised when numbers of participants shrink a little bit when they are asked to invest time (beyond showing up) or money into an event. When a participant in your ministry invests their time, energy or funds, give them special attention! They are in!

Hierarchy that separates youth ministry from the church at large, leaders from their youth, etc. interferes with young millennials' ability to meaningfully connect in a ministry setting. Ministry and the church, much like other brands, should offer opportunities to have a voice, co-create and collaborate.

My colleague Taylor-Burton Edwards, director of Worship Resources, has written in response to this post about the impact of technology to discipleship. Read it here.