In the midst of our coffee shop pilgrimage, my friend Beth lamented, "Cody has my blonde hair and blue eyes, yet at times it seems like he belongs to another world."
"Well, that's partly right," I replied. "Cody is a Millennial."
Born between 1984-2002, Millennials are a generation like no other. In The Second Coming of the Church (Word), Christian sociologist George Barna states, "The core attributes of our society—language, customs, dress styles, dominant leisure pursuits, relational emphasis, values and the like are being reshaped and reconfigured every few years."
As a result, Micro-Millennials, young children 2-5 years of age, think, relate, and learn differently than previous generations. When you were growing up, you probably had only a handful of adults in your life. But children today have a much broader range of relationships. They have caregivers, preschool teachers, perhaps a step-parent or step-grandparent. Even if they don't, they have friends who do.
The idea of family has been stretched like never before. Children now accept that families come in all shapes and sizes—some with a mom and a dad, some with just a mom, some with no mom or dad, just grandparents. Even the concept of church has changed. Rather than sticking with one church home and developing one family of faith, the trend today is to shop around, perhaps participating in the worship service at one church and the children's program at another.
These shifts in themselves aren't all bad. Children today will likely grow up without the kinds of prejudice and intolerance that can often lead to hatred. They may be more likely to embrace their Christian brothers and sisters from other cultures and be more open to non-Western ideas on how we can express our faith in Christ.
The best approach to shaping the faith of your Micro-Millennial is to lay a strong framework of trust in God. In his book, The Christian Educators Handbook on Spiritual Formation, Dr. John Dettoni writes, "[The word formation] is the root of the word morphe, found in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18. It suggests that the inner being of the person is radically altered so that he or she is no longer the same." This process of morphing is one we need to walk our children through carefully. In time, young children can "morph" to magnificence and soar.
Here's how to help them get there:
Be an intentional parent. Faith formation doesn't just happen. Choose an unwavering course for instilling God's love in your child's heart; concentrate your time and resources, then act. Ask God for wisdom, insight, and discernment. He says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God" (James 1: 5).
Be a model. There is no replacement for a parents' involvement in their child's spiritual development. Parents are the living image of faith to their children. We show them what it means to follow God day in and day out. Keep Christ a living, talked about member of your family.
Provide a legacy. Young Millennials need the sense of security faith provides. They need a sense of God's unchanging love and faithfulness. Start a Family Faith Journal where you detail God's work in your lives. Retell your Christian heritage, events, and stories. Record worship traditions and holidays. Share this journal with your children often.
Let the "morphing" begin!
—Mary Maslen is the Early Childhood Specialist for Awana International. She makes her home in Illinois.
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine.
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Fall 2002, Vol. 15, No. 1, Page 23