Where Have All the Millennials Gone? Entitlement in the Economy and the Church.

One of the first things I noticed when I met my husband was his kindness. He can have a good laugh just as much as the next guy, but he never does it at anyone else’s expense. Sensitive girl that I am, I was immediately drawn to that quality. I felt safe. I trusted him.

This same sensitivity to others’ feelings is what makes him such a great musician and songwriter. He’s attuned to beauty and art. He tells me he’s not articulate about his feelings, but he wears his heart on his sleeve. He sings it.

But those same qualities that inform and inspire his talent as a musician are the things that keep him from thriving in his job as a security officer. It’s just not the work he’s cut out for. He’d rather use the talents God has given him to work as a full-time musician. And yet, for the past six years since he graduated college, he’s pretty much worked any job he can so that we can make ends’ meet, even the ones he hates. When we first got married, we held seven part time jobs between the two of us. From August to March of the past year, he worked as a security guard part time, taught guitar lessons, and led worship at our church. Today, he works full time as a security guard and teaches guitar lessons after his shift ends. He does odd jobs to make a little extra cash. He knows he has to get creative about earning an income as a musician. He’s no stranger to working hard.

But I’ve lost count of how many times our “loved ones” have made that implication whenever Matt talks about work. He’s been told everything from “you’re lazy and entitled and selfish” to “your music is just a hobby, now go out and get a real job” to “suck it up and stop being a pussy about your work ethic.” (Yes. Someone actually said that.)

Some men look at him and see his traits of kindness and creativity as weakness. But I look at him and see strength.

The narrative that my husband is lazy because he pursues a different kind of work than his father, a construction foreman, is the same one that the rest of my generation is being told when we talk about our desires to thrive in our work and pursue fulfilling careers.

You’re entitled” has become a straw man argument for why a large percentage of millennials  are struggling in the job market.

But is it really the job market we can’t hack? Or is it the 9-to-5/mortgage for a house in the ’burbs/2.5 kids + Fluffy the Dog lifestyle that is unrealistic? (The very same lifestyle in which even our parents are getting taxed out of affording?)

If the rest of our generation is anything like Matt and I, they’ve been working their asses off in crappy, unfulfilling jobs for close to a decade in a broken economy, and it has come down to two choices : surviving or thriving. Either we work the job we’re not fulfilled in and weren’t cut out for so that we can fit the lifestyle, or we adjust the lifestyle to thrive in the career to which we were called. And it is almost inevitable that changing our lifestyle means moving. To somewhere less costly, to a community less bent on pressuring people into living a certain way.

The job market hears us expressing a desire to work fulfilling jobs and pay our bills, and responds by telling us we have a false sense of entitlement. But I listen to it and hear my generation saying that they want to create a system in which classism is the system that gets broken so that the economy can thrive for everyone equally.

When Rachel Held Evans posted her article for CNN a few weeks ago “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church,” social media and the blogosphere erupted with reactions, and reactions to those reactions. On and on it went, while I watched quietly as a familiar pattern emerged.

The same people looking for more fulfilling jobs in a broken economy are the same people looking for more fulfilling faith communities in an abusive and apathetic church culture.

And as younger generations expressed disillusionment with the system in which they’re expected to function, older generations decried their laziness and entitlement. The straw man argument returns.

Indeed, my discussions with my husband about finding more fulfilling work and a less expensive place to live feels eerily similar to the discussions we had when we were desperate to find a healthy faith community. We found ourselves in church after church where we were expected to function within the system without asking too many questions or seeking too many changes. We’re asking ourselves the same question, “Is it time to move on?”

Millennials see these abusive power structures and harmful theologies and say, “This system is broken and unless it changes, I can’t thrive here,” but their concern is met  with shaming and silencing tactics. We’re being told to “suck it up” and “work harder” and “stop acting like a bunch of pussies” and “in a few years you’ll realize that this is where you belong,” and “I don’t have a problem with it; why should you? This is just how things are.”

If the parallel between an economy suffering in the hands of the corrupt and a Church suffering in the hands of the abusive makes you uncomfortable, GOOD. It makes us uncomfortable, too.

Older generations of believers look at millennials’ desire to engage culture as catering to secularism and weakness toward sin. But I look at it and see a desire to embrace the marginalized and oppressed.

Let’s get real. It isn’t the millennials’ attitude that broke the economy. It isn’t the millennials’ mass exodus that is breaking their churches. The cracks in the system originated much earlier than that.

The cycle of shame that perpetuates hurtful comments about my husband’s manhood and work ethic is the very same one that oppresses our economy and sends masses of people heading for the church exits. There are huge, ugly parallels between “man-fail” shame and the “laziness” and “entitlement” shame that older generations are heaping on younger ones in a broken economy and the way that churches shame their fleeing congregants. It’s called patriarchy, and it functions for no one, not even the men.

It isn’t how we’re meant to live. It’s not how we’re called to thrive.

Yet at the same time, this discussion is not about pointing fingers and blaming the older generations for corruption and abuse, either. Are these the same struggles that generations before us experienced? Absolutely. Will we deal with it the same way as they did, too? Definitely not. Every generation is different. Even amongst members of our own generation, it will be as varied as unique as we are.

We have to get creative about all of it – about the ways that we earn our living and the ways that we thrive in the workplace and the ways we experience God and the ways we engage our culture.

Some of us will need to go off into the wild in order to better hear the voice of our Shepherd. Some of us will stay and tend His sheep. Some of us will keep watch for wolves. Some of us will tell stories and sing songs of the peaks and valleys of this faith and this time. Let us remember that no matter what each of us choose, all of us belong to the flock, and that the Shepherd doesn’t say to His sheep, “Suck it up.” A healthy community doesn’t shame its people into functioning within the established order when it fails to keep everyone safe.

We need to take an honest look at our strengths and our weaknesses – double-edged swords that they are – and learn to wield them well. I have hope that this is possible.

Some people look at all of this, the broken economy and dying churches, and see the end of everything. But I look at it and see a new beginning.


  • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

    My word for 2011 was faithful. It’s a great word, one that’s still dear to my heart. This year I’ve chosen joy.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      That’s so encouraging to hear others who have chosen the same word before. Would love to hear more about what that year looked like for you, Katie! And joy is a great word – I pray you find it in abundance!

      • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

        That year wasn’t the most pleasant one since it consisted of graduating and unsuccessfully job hunting but I clung to Lamentations 3:21-24 (and still do).

  • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

    That’s a good word, Bethany. I think it’s an overlooked word, that will bring a lot of depth and richness to your life. It’s also a “secret” word because not every one notices or sees it. It will be a year of tremendous quiet growth, I imagine.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Thanks so much, Sarah. I think you’re right about faithful as a word – I thought of several before this one finally hit me, and I was reluctant to choose it at first because to me, faithfulness requires hard work. But that’s what I need, and I’m ready to invest in it. I hope your prediction of tremendous quiet growth is right! Have a happy new year, friend. :)

  • shalom08

    He is indeed faithful! This is definitely my 2013 word as well. :) Happy New Year!

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      A One Word twin! Love it, Shalom. I hope it reaps a lot of growth and gratitude for you, friend. Happy New Year!

  • Becky Daye

    Thank you for this post and the honesty in it. I am sorry for your loss, but thankful for the way that you give glory to God in the midst of your grief. My word is faithful as well. He is such a faithful God- I want my response to be the same!

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      So great to hear that someone else has chosen the same word, Becky! I hope that your journey in faithfulness is fruitful. Would love to hear from you as time goes on! Happy New Year!

  • Tom Poland

    I hope for 2013 to be a year of ‘getting on with life’ while I fully deal with the inevitable loss of my mother – at whatever stage of the year that happens. Thanks for the warning that grief gives fluctuating levels of energy – I will keep this in mind and not let myself get frustrated about it! Will just try and accept it as part of the grief process.

    My word for 2013 is simplicity. Chose this word because in the past years life has got messy and trying to do everything thing at once has not helped. Will chose a life of simplicity, doing what I can and making simple daily choices to get me through.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Simplicity is probably the best word you could have chosen, Tom. The chaos is inevitable, but focusing on only the things that matter are what help us survive experiences like this. I pray that the peace and simplicity of God’s presence finds you in this chapter of your life. Be encouraged, friend. Happy New Year.

  • http://www.lifeisforlivingbook.com Anita

    My word is CHOOSE because it means being decisive and not a victim

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Great word, Anita. I think it’s important to choose a word that challenges you!

  • emmillerwrites

    The one word I kept coming back to at the beginning of 2012, before I realized people set one word for their years, when I just knew God was trying to tell me something, was “new.” Which was exciting. And exhausting. And hidden in there was a reoccurring theme about rest and peace and abiding and grace and trust and enough-ness that I’m still trying to suss out and put into one word for the new year.

    I can’t wait to read how God is faithful to you, too, this year.

    Happy New Year’s friend!

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Can’t wait to hear about your year too, friend. Much love and happy new year!

  • Sally Nash Boyd

    My word for 2012 is unfinished. I realized that in the last three years I’ve said I was going to start or do something and I never follow through. For 2013 my word will be completion or finish, if you will.

    As always your words inspire me. Here’s to a blessed and Happy New Year.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      I hope that you accomplish a lot of what you’ve aspired to in 2013, Sally! Blessings and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

  • Andrea Beltran

    Beautiful, inspiring post, Bethany. I’m adopting your word for 2013 as mine for the year too. THANK YOU. Wishing you love, happiness, and hope this year.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Awesome! Cannot wait to hear about what “faithful” yields for you in 2013, friend. We are in this together. :)

  • Hila

    Happy New Year Bethany, I hope this year brings you much peace and happiness. xo

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Thank you, Hila! I hope the same for you!

  • Jenn LeBow

    Bethany, “faithful” resonates so strongly with me. I had to stop reading other people’s words until I finally gave in and officially chose the word that I knew was supposed to be mine this year, so I just read this post today. Love it. Can’t wait to hear more.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      I know what you mean, Jenn! I kept reading all the other One Word post and thinking,
      “that’s a great word! why didn’t I think of that?” until “faithful” hit me, and it felt clear and right. Just like our stories, our words have to be our own.

  • victoriaFM

    Happy New Year, Bethany. As always, such a beautiful post. Your paragraph about grief is spot on. Thank you, again, for putting words to my feelings. My word for 2013 is Brave. In 2012 I learned that I could go on and in 2013 I want to take that to a new level. It is my year to live authentically, without fear. Part of that, I think, is having Faith. I love your word, it’s a beautiful desire and goal for a new year. Wishing you and your family peace and love.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Brave is a good, challenging word and definitely requires faith. Wishing you peace and love and an abundance of bravery in 2013, friend.

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    Great word for 2013. My word is epiphany. I’m excited to see God revealed in new and exciting ways in the coming year!