What sort of religious leaders do the young seek?

There's a growing cottage industry of people opining about how to make Church relevant to young people, many of whom have grownup in homes with little or no exposure to religion other than negative views in the mass media. Someone finally decided to ask young people directly.

The Christian Post reports on the results of a survery 1,200 "older" millenials (who's cohort represents to the largest sociological cohort in the US today):

Though we asked relatively few questions about leadership in our study, the intensity of their responses provided clear indication that this subject was one of great interest to many in this generation. At the conclusion of our study, we found four major leadership foci among the Millennials. We dubbed them simply “What Millennials Want in Leaders.”
  1. Mentoring. This generation has great respect for those older than they are. Most of them have good relationships with their parents. They have learned from older people all their lives, and they don’t want to stop now. They want to be led and taught in their places of work, in their churches, and in their families. They particularly want to learn from couples who have had long and successful marriages. Many Millennials see such examples as heroes to emulate.
  2. Gentle spirit. This category is easier to describe by what Millennials do not want in leaders. Divisive, loud, and acrimonious persons turn them off. They loathe politicians and political pundits who scream at each other. They are leaving churches to some extent because they see many Christian leaders as negative and prone to divisiveness. They are repulsed by business leaders with harsh and autocratic spirits.
  3. Transparency and authenticity. I wish Jess and I had counted the number of times that Millennials used the word “real” to describe leaders they want to follow. As one Millennial told us, her generation “can smell phony and pretentiousness a mile away.” They don’t want phony; they want authentic. They don’t want pretentio us; they want transparent.
  4. Integrity. The Millennials are weary of politicians who don’t keep promises. They are tired of Christian leaders who fail basic moral standards. They are fed up with business leaders who are more concerned about personal gain than serving others. They want leaders with integrity.

All of which, frankly, isn't all that different than what others age cohorts want. What do you think? Is there something new here?

Comments (1)

Interesting article from "The Church Times" in August of 1987 by Fr.Kenneth Leech -- not much changes:

"There were exceptions, but on the whole the Church [in l967] was baffled [by the hippies]. As it simplified its liturgies and became 'relevant,’ the hippies turned to caftans, bells and incense, and read 'The Cloud of Unknowing' . . . Young people who had come through the hippy experience to local churches. . . had moved often via LSD and Eastern meditation, towards an interest in the spiritual tradition of Christianity. . .We needed Christian people, clergy and laity, who would be able, unselfconsciously and with integrity, to minister to these young people out of the riches of the Christian spiritual tradition. But it was very hard to find such people. Sadly, I found that many priests were quite useless at communicating the deep things of the spirit. The hippies complained that they [the priests] did not seem to know God as the Eastern teachers did. They were into words and activity more than silence and contemplation. Christianity came over as a very head-centered and bourgeois movement. . . Twenty years on, I am not sure that we have learnt the lessons of that summer."

(Nor forty years on.....)

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