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The Millennials Have Spoken: NO MORE COMPACT DISCS!  by  Shane Versteeg

I am a Generation X guy. A “GenXer.” Generation X population members are those born between the mid 1960s through around 1980. My TV: Seinfield. My music: REM. My movie: The Breakfast Club. I played Atari and Nintendo. I was there when people started using email for the very first time. I was around when mobile phones went from small boxes to flip phones available at stores like Best Buy.

Speaking of Best Buy, it was announced this week that all Best Buy stores will completely phase out stocking and selling compact discs by the end of this summer. What the world?! People have been buying cds since 1983. I myself have almost 2000 of these iconic silver discs nestled in plastic cases with my favorite bands and artists printed on the sleeves, stored in boxes that haven’t been opened in years. Unbelievable.

So yes, a major retail chain will stop selling the Generation X’s favorite music-listening platform. More retail chains will follow suit. Want to guess why? Because 85% of the music-buying consumers are millennials. And millennials have never used cd players. They stream music files online from Tidal and Spotify. It is as if millennials are saying, almost apologetically and very politely to us old guys, “Nah, no thanks. We don’t need that stuff.”

This is just one example of how millennial consumer behavior is shaping the marketplace. No other generation before them as has been as economically influential as millennials are, and they will become more influential over the coming years as they begin to outnumber Baby Boomers in the marketplace. Economists are intrigued by millennials. So am I. And so are you. And if you are not, you should be.

One of the reasons millennials have become so economically influential is because they are socially and psychologically unique when compared to GenXers like me and Baby Boomers. I don’t want to give a complete rundown in this post, but let’s just say that their psychological hardwiring and what neuroscientists call neurosequential development was far more directly influenced by and linked with technology development than that of preceding generations. Millennials were shaped by tech, and they shaped tech, mutually, back and forth. It is almost like millennials and consumer technology were same-age siblings, growing up with each other into functional adulthood. The typical millennial is naturally neurologically at home and synched up with our current collective place in the digital age.

And millennials will impact our future in ways that have never happened before. As millennials near their peak consumer activity over the coming ten years or so, the impact on how all of us shop, study, connect, travel, and dwell at home will be unprecedented. According to Scott Hess, an expert on millennial marketing and consumer behavior, the millennial generation will soon be in market control of how each of us will behave as consumers. They will set the tone. On a global economic scale, millennials will become more influential over the coming 3-5 years than any preceding generation has ever been.

On a slightly different note, I get to hang out with millennials more and more these days. My family worships at new church start City Chapel, which meets downtown Grand Rapids.   Ron Radcliffe is the pastor and church planter of City Chapel and has been collaborating with Fifth Reformed Church, Zion Reformed Church, and LaGrave Christian Reformed Church to launch this very important ministry. Ron and his wife, Anna, who is an RCA Denominational Office Ministry Team member, are both ordained pastors. Both are highly talented servants. And yep, they are millennials.

And when they worshipped for the first time last month as City Chapel, who do you think Anna and Ron were surrounded by? Non-watered down, super-authentic millennials. Lots of them. Drinking full-bodied coffee and artisan tea. Playig raw, gritty, and pretty-but-not-too-pretty music. Guys had beards and retro-looking sunglasses sticking out of their shirt pockets. Some tattoos here and there. Lots of professionals, some students, and some service industry types. Thoughtful conversations before and after worship. Some chatter during worship. Nothing fluffy or out of proportion. It was, in a word, authentic.

David John Seel Jr explores this demand for authenticity in his book, The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church. Millennials are more secular than preceding generations, and they are explorers, not “dwellers.” But what really sticks out about millennials is, simply put, demand for authentic friendship. “Not friendship-evangelism, either,” says Seel, “but friendship-FRIENDSHIP.” Authenticity only. Nothing more, nothing less. Leather, not pleather. Slow-growth oak, not plastic. Jesus might not be brought up all the time among millennials. But if Jesus is brought up, it needs to be in the context of an ultimate level of authenticity.

Millennials are uniquely authentic.   And as millennials are emerging as leaders in the Church, my hope is that their demand for and practice of authenticity are at least as influential as their music listening habits have been to kill off the compact disc.

~~ For 17 years Shane has served as a pastor, chaplain, and therapist.  He founded a clinic in Iowa called Compass Clinical Associates and then moved to Michigan a couple of years ago.  He now coaches emerging leaders and established leaders in the church and in the corporate world, and consults with psychiatrists who use neurostimulators to treat depression.  Shane lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Jill, and their four boys, each of whom can beat Shane in basketball.

Shane Ver Steeg

Shane Ver Steeg is a minister in the Reformed Church in America and licensed social worker who has various positions in the field of mental health.

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