Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Parents of mosaics (millennials) struggling with their Christian faith often beat themselves up over these struggles. I sure do. Behind these moments of self-indictment often begin with the catch phrase: if only I had… Too often we observe our kids mimicking, not only our strengths, but also our weaknesses . …Maybe especially our weaknesses…
As a parent of 3 mosaics, I wish that I had demonstrated use of scripture and prayer in daily problem solving (a discipling approach) instead of relying on general bible study and church participation (acculturation approach). I implicitly assumed that the future would be more or less continuous with the past. That is to say that my path to discipleship would also work for my kids. I was so wrong…
In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman cites Bob Buford who observed:
“I think this new generation is not just slightly different from the past. I believe they are discontinuously different that anything we have seen before” (37).
Kinnaman observes that “it’s not that they’re not listening; it’s that they can’t understand what we are saying.” (39)
I remember as a new high school graduate with a bit of unexpected time on my hands the summer before starting college. So I announced to my parents that I would be biking to college (about 625 miles from Washington DC to Bloomington, Indiana). That was 1972—no bike helmet, no companion, no cell phone, no credit card. My parents never doubted my ability—I was an Eagle Scout—and they raised no objections. I did the trip. I was 18 years old. Today, the evening news reports when parents “free range” their pre-teen down the park in their neighborhood. How exactly can we communicate with our kids about taking risks if they have never had opportunity to take any?
Kinnaman sees mosaics living in a new technological, social, and spiritual reality summed up in 3 words: access, alienation, and authority (39). Let me dig into this a bit.
Access. My kids grew up Googling information; I grew up making trips to the library and cruising the card catalog. Gigabits of information is available where we had almost none.
For example, when I left as a foreign exchange student for Germany in 1978, I could not find a map of Germany (even in the library) with enough detail to find the town, Göttingen, where I would be studying. Today, not only can you Google directions to Göttingen University, but you can pull up a satellite map and take a virtual walk around campus .
Kinnaman writes that this increase in access to information makes everyone a potential expert (of sorts) with an expectation of respect. Kids have become dismissive of hierarchy, are aware of global events, and expect both to participate in events and be informed in real time (43). Information is power. They have it; they use it.
Alienation. Think of “alienation as very high levels of isolation from family, community, and institutions” (44). Mosaics are much less likely than boomers to have known both their parents (8 times as likely), to have attended church, or to have completed the 5 key developmental tasks of being an adult (leaving home, finishing school, becoming financial independent, getting married, and having a child; 45-47).
As a boomer, I was extremely late in marrying—age 30—because of my doctoral studies. Most of my peers had been married one or more times and had kids by that point. Among mosaics, Kinnaman reports that only 46 percent of the women and 31 percent of the men are married by age 30 (47).
If your church is primarily made up of married couples with children, then mosaics must feel really out of place when they visit. This implies that they are unlikely to have many older mentors in their lives to help them navigate uncharted waters. This is not a trivial observation. Most of the gun men from recent shooting incidents (and volunteers for ISIS) could be loosely described as alienated mosaics out of work. How would life today be different if these young men had mentors and churches really looking out for them?
Authority. Kinnman observes that Christianity is no longer the default setting of American society. Citing John Westerhoff’s book, Will Our Children Have Faith?, Kinnaman see 6 different arenas of culture—community, church, religious programming, public schools, popular entertainment, and stable family structure—that all used to embody Christian values, which no longer do so in whole or in part (51). Kinnaman observes, for example, that among mosaics Paris Hilton is more favorably viewed than Billy Graham (53). They are also much less likely than previous generations to believe that the Bible has a claim on their obedience (52).
David Kinnaman’s book, You Lost Me, paints a very challenging picture of the church’s relationship with mosaics based primarily on changes in the environment in which they find themselves. Their attitudes and beliefs may still be faithful to the tradition in which they were raised but they find themselves struggling with making their own way through the cultural transitions going on. You Lost Me is a book that parents (as well as pastors and lay leaders) might find helpful reading.
In part 3 of this review, I will turn my attention to Kinnaman’s comments about the church.
Westerhoff, John. 2012. Will Our Children Have Faith? New York: Morehouse Publishing.
 We know from scripture that such dark thoughts are not of God. The Prophet Jeremiah, for example, prophesies a time: “In those days they shall no longer say: The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:29-30 ESV) The gloss on this passage is under the new covenant in Christ each of us is responsible for our own sins. We are not off the hook for bad parenting, but we are also not responsible for the peculiar sins of our children.