The Class of 2007…

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The following is a brief (though long) summary of the incoming freshman class on college campuses all accross America.  I got this idea from Beloit college, adapted it, and now pass it out to my leaders each year in College Life.  The point of this is to not only paint the picture of the next generation that is coming up the pike, but to also show how vastly different they are from the folks who came before them, only a few years prior.  Hope you enjoy….

In the coming weeks, a new generation of students will arrive on campuses throughout the country to mark the start of their first year of college.  Most of these students were born in the year 1989.  Also born that same year:  Hi-Definition TV, Daniel Radcliffe, The World.Wide.Web,  Freddy Adu, the 486 microprocessor, Chris Brown, GPS Satellite, Michelle Wie, Nintendo’s “Game Boy,” and Microsoft Office.  Making the headlines that year: The Exxon Valdez spills 11 million gallons of oil off the coast of Alaska, The Berlin Wall is torn down (uniting East & West Germany), The first ever gene-transfer is performed (genetic engineering), George Bush Sr. takes office as President, serial killer “Ted Bundy” is executed, a 7.1 Earthquake strikes San Francisco during the middle of the World Series (A’s go on to defeat Giants 4 games to none), Barry Bonds hits his 84th home-run, 49’ers defeat the Cincinnati Bengal’s in the Super Bowl, Shea Sumlin begins the 10th grade, Gallon of gas hits a year- high at .97¢,  stamps rise to .25¢, US planes shoot down two Libyan fighters, & Oliver North is convicted in the Iran-Contra affair. Top Movies: Batman, Indiana Jones 3, Ghostbusters 2, Back to the Future 2, The Little Mermaid, and Dead Poets Society.  Newly formed groups “Naughty By Nature, Cranberries, EMF, Nickel Creek, Marilyn Manson, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, & Green Day” hit the scene – and new TV shows “Cops, Baywatch, Saved By The Bell, Dragon Ball Z, Seinfeld, & The Simpson’s” also hit the air.   

For the 5th year now, College Life is distributing this page to our staff and leaders as an indicator of the many ways in which entering 18 year-olds see the world differently from their leaders, professors, and mentors.  This page is a reminder that the worldview of today’s new college student is significantly different from the intellectual framework of those students who entered only a few years earlier… This is a class that has no memory whatsoever of the Ronald Reagan or the George Bush Sr. era.  They were just finishing potty-training when the Gulf War was waged.  Black Monday is as significant to them as the Great Depression.  Until the year before last, there has only been one Pope in their lifetime.  They were 2 when the Soviet Union broke apart, and have only known “one” Germany in their lifetime.  Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines, “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” means nothing to them.  Peeps are not candy- they are their friends. Spam is in an e-mail, not in a can. Coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.  They have never needed to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.  DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible in court.  And “Google” has always been a verb. 

Their lifetime has always included AIDS.  They never had a polio shot and likely do not know what it is.  Bottle caps have not only always been twist off, but have always been plastic.  Atari pre-dates them, as does the “Commodore 64.”  The expression “you sound like a broken record” means nothing to them since they never owned one.  They have likely never played Pac Man nor heard of Gallaga.  They may have heard of an 8-track tape, but chances are they probably have never actually seen one or played one.  Chicago and Alabama are places, not musical groups.  Kriss Kross most likely had the number one theme song at their 3rd Birthday party, while the Rugrats were probably the actual theme of their 3rd birthday party! This generation has always had an answering machine- though now it’s pretty antiquated compared to voice mail.  Most have never seen a TV set with only 13 channels (within a choice of UHF or VHF)- nor a black and white TV.  They have always had cable & a VCR, and cannot imagine life without a remote control.  This generation has probably never experienced the thrill of accepting a “long distance phone call.” Mini-Vans have always been their family vehicle of choice. Reality shows have always been on TV, They have always had a “PIN number”.  Their President has always been a “southerner”.  Cars have always had eye-level rear stop lights, CD players, and air bags.  Non-Denominational Churches have always been the fastest-growing religious organization in the U.S.  Brides have always worn white for a first, second, or third wedding.  Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.  Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.  George Foreman has always been a barbecue grill salesman.  A “hair band” has always been some sort of accessory- and it was the U.S. Supreme Court of their day who voted that “sleeping” was a form of free speech… 

Understand that one of the deepest values of today’s culture is independence; which explains why they are likely to be single, to cohabitate, and to avoid having children.  Commitments such as marriage and parenting would require them to live sacrificially, therefore undermining their independence.  Their value of independence also explains why they tend to prefer independent bookstores, coffee shops, music stores, record labels, music bands, restaurants, and clothing stores over national chains and products.  It also explains why they are reluctant to attend church and embrace a spirituality that requires that a denomination, a theology, a pastor, the bible, or even Jesus be in authority over them.   

For those of us wanting to reach this “Millennial Generation”, we need to remember five Key character traits of this incoming group… (1.) Options are a must… choice is one of their most deeply held values; (2.) They want people to customize to meet their needs… they have to be met where they are, not vice/versa; (3.) They need the option of changing their mind… they are growing up in a world where fixing a mistake takes a click of the mouse, and they believe changing their minds should be equally as painless; (4.) They have to try before they buy… they are users and doers and reject expert opinions in favor of forming their own; and (5.) They desperately need authenticity and transparency in a relationship before they can trust someone.   

Most of today’s collegians have come from divorced homes or dysfunctional families and are now in need, again, to be re-parented.  Patience is key.  Prayer is key.  Time invested is key.  Jesus died for this generation as much as the one before them.  We must seek to engage this culture in love, by seeking to understand them before we judge them.  But we must also be bold with the Gospel, not backing down from its eternal truths which never change- and are still able to redeem and transform anybody- no matter how different they are from us or which generation they come from. To God Be the Glory- and may we be bold in our witness for Him!

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~ by Shea Sumlin on August 16, 2007.

4 Responses to “The Class of 2007…”

  1. Hey Shea, It’s Samuel Taylor. I just checked out the new Web site and love the blog idea. I’m here in San Antonio working for KSAT 12 News as a part-time Web editor. My life is great. Got a house, headed toward marriage, etc. God is doing some great stuff. It has been forever since I’ve seen or talked to CL folks, but I never forget how God used all of you. Thanks, by the way. Hope we can stay in touch. God bless. Love in Him. Please send me some prayer requests.

  2. shea, where did you get those key traits of Millennials? The other data?

  3. The original format is adapted from Beloit college (there’s a link at the top of this post). They do a report each year for their staff on what kind of mindset to expect from their incoming classes. I have taken it, done further research myself, and adapted it for our students.

  4. Thanks for a great post.

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