The Values of Generation Y/Millenials That Will Help Transform Work and Church

I saw a tweet yesterday by Joel Black in reference to a blog post by Alan Hirsch regarding Leading Gen-F. Alan’s post was in reference to this great article, The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500 by Gary Hamel.

In the article, Hamel says this:

The experience of growing up online will profoundly shape the workplace expectations of “Generation F” – the Facebook Generation. At a minimum, they’ll expect the social environment of work to reflect the social context of the Web, rather than as is currently the case, a mid-20th-century Weberian bureaucracy.

If your company hopes to attract the most creative and energetic members of Gen F, it will need to understand these Internet-derived expectations, and then reinvent its management practices accordingly. Sure, it’s a buyer’s market for talent right now, but that won’t always be the case—and in the future, any company that lacks a vital core of Gen F employees will soon find itself stuck in the mud.

With that in mind, I compiled a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life. These are the post-bureaucratic realities that tomorrow’s employees will use as yardsticks in determining whether your company is “with it” or “past it.” In assembling this short list, I haven’t tried to catalog every salient feature of the Web’s social milieu, only those that are most at odds with the legacy practices found in large companies.

Hamel goes on to list these 12 characteristics as follows (read the article for the explanation of each one):

  1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
  2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
  3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
  4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
  5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
  6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
  7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
  8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
  9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
  10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
  11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
  12. Hackers are heroes.

Great stuff…and I totally agree with his conclusions.

I’m technically of Generation X, but I definitely think (in many ways), operate, and feel at home with Generation Y or Millenials. This is probably due to the fact that I have worked in youth ministry for 15 years–the last 7 in Los Angeles as a college pastor to USC, UCLA and LMU students primarily. They have some interesting philosophies on leadership, managment, work, etc. that I share with them.

I definitely like working in collaborative environments, with more of a bottom-up style of leadership, rather than top-down authoritarian. This obviously put me at odds with some church leaders during my tenure in full-time ministry. I have written at length about this generation (just do a search on my blog), but more recently I wrote on why I thought Obama really understood the role of connecting with them–and he did a great job.

Sometimes Gen Y/Millenials get a bad reputation–and there are some things/values that are of concern. But there are many things that I think they embrace that are valuable, and if we let them, they could be great teachers in helping us live and function differently in many areas of life.

There is lots of discussion about Gen Y/Millenials in the workplace, and for good reason. One can just do a Google search and find tons of information. For example, They’ve arrived at work with a new attitude, How dramatically will Gen Y change the workplace?. Or the now well known The “Millenials” Are Coming which was done by 60 Minutes.

Here is a sample of some collaborative resources that have really helped me understand the shift in thinking that Generation Y/Millenials bring to the table.


  1. by Ben on June 16, 2009  3:39 pm Reply

    Not to blow smoke up your caboose but blogs like this are why I become a better blogger. Excellent post and I have already forwarded it to my boss.

    After watching the 60 minutes segment, I realized just how much of a Millenial I am though I still have this blue-collar work ethic in me. While I don't like to jump around from job to job, I am constantly struggling with the feeling of underappreciation. That underappreciation is quelched though with simple things like staff lunches, getting to go on trips, etc.

    I would suggest, without any research to back this up, that eventually things will cycle and another group, like our parents, will rise up again. My grandparents were affected by the Depression, which caused a survival mindset. Now, millenials haven't had anything tragic happen to them that would cause them to need a survival mindset but if we had another world war or economic depression (the current one is nothing compared to the 30's) I think it would shift priorities big time.

    • by rhettsmith on June 17, 2009  3:42 am Reply

      Thanks Ben, I appreciate it.

      I think many Millenials have a great work ethic...though sometimes the stereotype is against that. I think because they are wanting different things from work than their Baby Boomer parents, they are accused of as being lazy. Which I don't think is a fair stereotype.

      I think there could be a cycle through as you suggest. For sure our social influences have an effect on this.

  2. by Ben on June 16, 2009  3:39 pm Reply

    Because millenials are dependant on their own needs as opposed to independant, many would end up in a fetal position rocking in the corner if they were confronted with the challenges that young adults had in the Great Depression.

    Not to make this long winded but I also think the "it's all about me" mindset that has come with Millenials has also caused a detriment of honor in our society. If we can't teach Millenials to honor those who have come before them, then how will they honor those who come after them? Just a thought.

    • by rhettsmith on June 17, 2009  3:42 am Reply


      It gets my wheels really turning as well....lots of great articles on this stuff out there. I will check out yours.


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  4. by Bill on June 17, 2009  12:25 pm Reply

    A very interesting list, considering that it also describes much of the philosophy of "management" that is part of the ethos at IBC. We don't always practice that philosophy in every thing we do . . . but this list most closely reflects that mindset.

    It's been a change for me during the last year and a half to adapt to that ethos, even though I've embraced (without knowing it) much of that list in my personal work style. When you come from a place where you are way ahead of the curve to a place where you're way behind the curve, it's a bit unsettling . . . while at the same time liberating.

    Anyway, this will get make the rounds here. I'm very interested to what my cohorts at IBC think . . .

    • by Rhett Smith on June 17, 2009  2:07 pm Reply


      Never too late to change our leadership style :-)

      I was about to go point by point, and then share how the Church views it, etc. I had these discussions many, many times with the leadership of the church I was on staff at in Los Angeles. That was a difficult situation, because we were PCUSA, so Gen Y didn't get the mainlines, and the mainlines didn't get Gen Y.

      One only need to look around at what is going on to see the paradigm shift taking place in management/leadership styles....and Gen Y is leading the way. I think that if we don't adjust some, many institutions, churches included, will find themselves a dying breed. There are a lots of great things that this Generation can teach us all, and hopefully we can all learn together from each other, and adjust when necessary.

      I could talk about this topic all day....Obama winning the presidency is just one example of how someone was able to capture the hearts and minds of Gen Y, and empower their leadership skills. It's happening all around...not a surprise that some of the fastest growing churches around are pastored by those with these same set of leadership skills.

      let's grab coffee again soon....


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