Is this COVID-19 crisis the beginning of a blizzard or of a mini-ice age? Will it be like a 2008 bump in the road, or will it be a second Great Depression? My view is that it will be the defining event of our lives with ripple effects that continue for years.
But the good news is that young people will respond to it. The crisis will act as a summons to them, calling them out of obscurity to meet the the needs of a world in pain.
Recently, Ethan Wendle reminded me of an email I wrote him half a year ago analyzing the way Millennials and GenZs were different in responding to the World Race.
I said, “The GenX generation (Millennials) loved the Race – as Nomads, it gave them a way to explore the world. But their kids are the Hero generation. They will be defined by their cause. There is a big crisis coming in the next 5 years that will define the Hero generation.”
Little did I know that that crisis was just months away. I was referencing the book The Fourth Turning
, a book that describes the transition or “turning” from one generation to the next. In it, author Neil Howe predicted the crisis we are going through. A year ago in an article
Howe described what would happen in amazing detail:
The Fourth Turning, which is a Crisis.
This is an era in which America’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up—always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression finds a community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group.
To be clear, the road ahead for America will be rough. But I take comfort in the idea that history cycles back and that the past offers us a guide to what we can expect in the future. Like Nature’s four seasons, the cycles of history follow a natural rhythm or pattern.
Make no mistake. Winter is coming. How mild or harsh it will be is anyone’s guess but the basic progression is as natural as counting down the days, weeks and months until Spring.
In my email to Wendle, I quoted John Mauldin, whose weekly newsletter I read. Mauldin described what the fourth turning will look like for us:
It’s not going to be a short period of difficulty. It will be an existential crisis, one in which society’s strongest institutions collapse (or are severely challenged and stressed) and national survival is in serious doubt.
How will young people – the Hero Generation – respond to this crisis? If history is any indication, they will step up in ways that define them for the rest of their lives, in the process recovering those values that are most important.
I believe that one way we will see that is through their understanding of Church. Millennials were already leaving the Church in droves. But as I’ve worked with young people, I’ve seen that their issue is not so much with Jesus as with the wineskin of the Church that represents him.
As this crisis deepens, young people will begin to follow their yearning for faith and will rediscover what Church means and how it can become relevant again. Expect them to follow Jesus’ heroic example – taking on the world’s pain and bringing hope.
The world may be getting darker now, but young people will respond in ways that amaze their parents and their generation.