Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Generation Y To Church: "Bye"

This is a re-post of an earlier post. I'll return to normal posting on Thursday.

Is Judeo-Christianity Dying With Echo Boomers?

Barna research recently put out a list of six reasons why the Millennial generation is leaving church (also see Do Echo Boomers Lack Religion?). To be fair, this article applies to the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, as the growth or lack thereof of Muslims is unknown (and not discussed). A few of the reasons that the article lists, for instance, antagonistic toward science, are examples of how "trying to sell" can backfire.

Pertinent Blog Note:

I recently interviewed Dr. Thomas White on young men in Protestant churches to provide a perspective on why a branch of Judeo-Christianity is struggling with a particular demographic. On March 15th, I interviewed Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist to provide a secular perspective on the Millennial generation and how it sees atheism.

Of course, the Barna Group fails to offer decent advice, as I think the author recognizes the dilemma that churches face: change Judeo-Christianity too much and it ceases to be Judeo-Christianity, but don't change it enough and it fails to appeal to Echo Boomers. In both cases, the author warns of consequences that can come from either focusing on the young or the old. Essentially, it's the classic battle between the Progressives and the Traditionalists (from an economic standpoint, think Hayek versus Keynes). The below video, which features Dr. Jonathan Haidt, shows his perspective on this debate of traditionalists versus progressives, specifically conservatives versus liberals.

While Barna will argue its own way - a balanced approach, I would argue that its entire approach toward the young and old are wrong. Instead of focusing on what attracts people, focus on what can people, uniting together, produce. The first focus - on attraction - is consumptive and puts religious institutions in a dangerous place: they always have to appeal to people. This consumptive view assumes that people are trashcans of input that come to religious institutions to be filled by something.

The second focus - on production - sees what people can bring to the table to feed others beyond themselves. The productive view assumes that people are most fulfilled when they help others find fulfillment. In other words, "We eat to stay hungry so that others can eat."

Also, I would adduce that the energy of the young people combined with the wisdom of the old people will produce a congregation with a solid foundation in producing for their religious institutions. To draw a pertinent analogy: think of a college football game. The student section brings energy and excitement to the game environment, yet it is the wisdom of the older people who help the young people to understand that winning and losing aren't important, but showing up and supporting something that you love is.

A Lesson From History and Philosophy

Aristotle argued that the young people often brought change, and complained that it was for the worse. However, Aristotle understood that this change often occurred because of the energy of young people. He also recognized the wisdom of older people. While our culture may praise the energy of youth, any institution can also value the wisdom of age. This conflict of young versus old is not new, and if Aristotle had a wiser approach (see the Book of Proverbs1), he would have recognized that each carried their strength.

Essentially, there's no dichotomy, but opportunities that each bring to the religious institution, which can be used. Yet by placing a wrong focus on the generational conflict for attraction, most religious institutions will fall into the category of "failure."

End Notes

1 See Proverbs 16:31 (regarding age) and Proverbs 20:29.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Where Will Generation Y Move?

This is a re-post of an earlier post. I'll return to normal posting on Thursday.

As the economy changes (especially oil prices and the national debt), and Echo Boomers experience trouble with employment, some areas may see an increase in the Millennial population. An article shows this movement and the trends seem to indicate the South and West will be winners against the Northeast. In fact, notice that the Northeast has seen a large decrease in population, while the West has seen strong growth.

Look at the five top states where Echo Boomers are moving:

But notice that Texas had the largest increase in terms of amount of Echo Boomers (out of the top ten). I would argue that those areas will eventually see the strongest housing demand, and an early recovery in housing. On the flip side, expect housing and the economy in the Northeast will take longer to recover.

Regardless of what industry you intend to enter, these areas will offer the most potential in terms of demand from the Millennial generation.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Echo Boom Bomb In the Media

I recently wrote Health Tips From the Echo Boom Expert on Peter J. Reilly's blog, Passive Activities. Health experts can hurt people's success by overwhelming people with advice, from working out to eating healthy. If people found a way to have more energy for a few months, other healthy additions would feel easier than trying everything at once.

The Education Gap and the Generation Y Marriage Rate

In the past, I interviewed Stephanie Coontz, who wrote a recent article in the New York Times about female education and marriage. One thing I've noted and she also notes:

ONE of the dire predictions about educated women is true: today, more of them are “marrying down.” Almost 30 percent of wives today have more education than their husbands, while less than 20 percent of husbands have more education than their wives, almost the exact reverse of the percentages in 1970.
While it's a fascinating read and Coontz notes some useful information, Susan Walsh understands the deeper problem:
Coontz defines the problem in terms of what women want, when she should be focusing on the failure of American institutions to produce a generation of thriving males. She wants women to marry down rather than to bring men up.
Exactly.

As far as the marriage rate is concerned, I stand apart from both Coontz and Walsh in that I think cohabitation is far superior to marriage. Cohabitation would produce a flexible environment that matches the hook up culture and the vague "dating" environment; in that regard, marriage fails.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Will Generation Y Be More Fitness-Conscious?"

Each Friday, The Echo Boom Bomb will feature a common question among Echo Boomers and/or their parents concerning economics or finance for the Millennial generation. These questions are often asked by Echo Boomers and/or their parents that I survey or can be directed to my email at echoboombomb [at] gmail [dot] com. If you email a question, please be sure to keep it concise and direct.

Question: Do you see Echo Boomers as being more physically fit than their parents?

Quick Answer(s):
  • No.
  • However, generation size will matter for the fitness industry.
  • Own Observation: the physically fit are "upping" their fitness level.

No (see Media Lies and Millennial Doting).

Now, let's say that you are in the fitness industry and you want to know if you're in a good industry to succeed (answer: yes). Because Generation Y is massive, even if an equal amount of Echo Boomer had interest in fitness on par with Generation X (hypothetically, let's say 20%), you would have triple the amount of customers in Generation Y. In other words, fitness has an advantage with Generation Y due to volume. However, obesity is rising in the United States, which indicates that an interest in fitness is not growing.

Logical Fallacy Warning:

What I've observed about fitness over the past five years is that the physically fit are beginning to increase their level of fitness. Similar to wealth, those who are fit continue to benefit from being fit (creating an interesting tautology), while those who are obese continue to increase their obesity. From a business perspective, this means that marketing heavy fitness programs to people at the gym will be more effective than marketing those programs to the obese.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interview: Dr. Thomas White on Male Leadership in Protestant Churches

The responses to the interview questions may not represent the views of The Echo Boom Bomb's author. These interviews are provided to inform readers of information from experts and provide these experts with a medium where they can answer questions without any content changes. You can also read other interviews at this link.

Protestant media has asserted that young men are not as prevalent in church as young women (for instance, this article by Christianity Today). Outside of Protestant churches, social experts like Kay Hymowitz, who wrote Manning Up, call attention to young men performing worse than young women. Several individuals mentioned Dr. Thomas White as a Protestant source and expert on young men and the church. Who is Dr. Thomas White?

Thomas White is married to Joy, the father of Rachel and Samuel, and a third generation country preacher. He currently serves as the Vice President for Student Services and Communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology. His last two book projects were Upon This Rock: The Baptist Understanding of the Church and Franchising McChurch: Feeding Americas Obsession with Easy Christianity. In addition to studying the Scriptures, he enjoys lifting weights, running, sports, karate, hunting, and fishing.

1. I've read and heard several critiques that Protestant churches have a lack of male leadership (or men seeking leadership positions) and that there's also a growing absence of men, especially young men, in church? What are the reasons behind this trend?

Let me begin by saying that I am privileged to serve at Southwestern Seminary, and I teach many excellent young men on a daily basis. So while the critique has some measure of truth, I do see hope for the future with approximately 3,500 young men and women preparing for service in the Lord’s work.

As to the question, most churches do have more women than men. I will suggest that it is for two reasons.

First, men by nature do not like to submit to leadership, humble themselves before anyone, or admit that they are wrong. These generalized characteristics of men make them less likely to naturally flow toward church and religion. Many men feel that church forces them to give up their “man card.” And, I am confident that Satan wants it this way. If he can do anything to prevent the men of a country from being what they should, then he can destroy the family, the church, and the nation. This problem goes all the way back to the Garden where Adam listened to Eve rather leading and followed her way rather than God’s.

Second, we don’t challenge our men enough. Men by nature want a challenge, and they want to conquer. When they come to church and find out that they can listen to a sermon, sing songs, or work in the nursery changing diapers…well, let’s just say that’s not the challenge they desire. Furthermore, when we sing about the lily of the valley and Jesus being the lover of our soul, then men lose interest. Some of this begins in our children’s groups where the main activity is keeping the boys in line, encouraging them to clap or do silly gestures to the latest kids song.

2. How can Protestant churches address this trend?

The best response challenges men to answer God’s call. God called men to dominion over the earth, to fight a spiritual battle against the evil forces of this world, and go into the darkest places with the light of Jesus Christ. Paul uses analogies from warfare and athletics repeatedly. When men realize that the easy road has always been that of abdicating leadership as Adam did when standing by while Eve at the fruit, but that the challenging road comes with defending their family from evil forces by being true men of God, then I believe men will answer that call.

While not neglecting women, pastors and churches need to focus efforts on the men—the spiritual leaders of the home. Once we have the men we need, then the homes, the churches, and even our nation will grow healthier.

Men also need to have (and be taught) a generational vision of legacy and success. Where success is not characterized by wearing pajamas all day and living at the Playboy mansion, but by looking around as you are about to die realizing that all of your children and grandchildren are believers in Christ and that your temporary separation awaits an eternal restoration because you have found victory in Jesus.

Men need to see money not as a way to retire or buy bigger toys, but as a resource that can pay for getting the Gospel to those who will never hear. We should plan to use money to sponsor a grandchild’s church plant or send our kids on mission trips to third world countries. This type God-sized vision will inspire and challenge men. And beyond what we can do, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to bring revival to our country and specifically to our men.

3. Young men don't seem to be doing as well in education and business as young women. If a young man asked you for advice in these two big areas, what three suggestions would you give him?

First, let the Bible saturate your life. Here, you see my bias. I am not as much concerned about the moralistic end of better education and business success as creating godly men. With that said, godly men will do better in education and business.

I suggest that young men continually read through the book of Proverbs. While much can be said to help a young man succeed, if real success is godliness, then it comes through knowing more about God and glorifying Him. Reading, internalizing, and memorizing Scripture will lead to that end. Along the same lines, young men need to find older, godly men to learn from. Whether that is a dad, a pastor, a coach or whoever, they should seek to surround themselves with godly, successful, mentors.

Second, get out of the fantasy world and step into reality. Too many young men spend endless hours conquering a video game or lusting over pornographic images of “photoshopped” women in a virtual world that exist only on a screen. They need to get out in the real world. They can play sports, hike, fish, or hunt. If the outside is not for them, then join a group and build a house for the homeless, serve at a soup kitchen, or volunteer at a nursing home. These experiences and accomplishments will prepare for success for more than conquering the latest edition of Call of Duty.

Third, stop waiting on a wife to grow up. No woman wants a man who lives at home, has no job, and has no plan. Intelligent, attractive women want a spouse not a leech or an invalid. If a young man wants to succeed, then he needs to begin making plans to succeed. That means moving out from his mom’s house, getting an education so that he can get a real job, and preparing himself spiritually to lead a family. It does not mean accumulating massive amounts of debt on a new car, credit card purchases, or the latest gadgets; rather, saving money to pay cash for a used car, a down payment on a house, or an engagement ring when God does bring the right girl along. It also does not mean finding your identify in the newest girl or changing who you appear to be in order to attract a girl. Young men need to get comfortable with how God created them and who God wants them to be, and the find a girl on the same path with similar goals. And I always tell them that a spouse can cut you in half or double you. As Proverbs says it is better to live on the corner of a house than with a contentious woman. On the other hand, a godly wife is better than fine jewels.

No one plans to work in a dead end, boring job, but it happens. No one wants their daughter to date a guy who takes advantage of them. So young men need to be the kind of man they want their daughter to marry. They need to treat women as sisters in Christ and not as objects for their entertainment.

To parents, I would say set biblical expectations. Parents should not let their young men waste youth on video games or constant partying. Parents should expect the development of a good work ethic, a disciplined life, and godly pursuits. I would suggest parents take a close look at the myth of adolescence. The Bible never indicates that life should have a period of time where young men can “sow their wild oats” but rather this time should develop godly character. The Bible also never indicates that we should send teenage boys and girls off alone in a car with raging hormones and no accountability. Dating does more harm than good. I would encourage a good look at courtship or intentional dating that involves the family.

A Gospel centered family built on the foundation of God’s Word will go a long way to rearing healthy, successful, young men.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Will Echo Boomers Vote For A Third Party Candidate?

Quick Summary:
  • It depends on the third party candidate.
  • Generally, Americans will favor an existing candidate.

If Romney wins the Republican nomination, then Obama should win the 2012 election, helped mostly by the Millennial generation. However, an article mentions that Echo Boomers could vote for a third party candidate instead of the dichotomous choice - Republican or Democrat:

The political environment has never been more favorable for an independent presidential candidacy in recent history – and if one is to succeed, Millennial voters may be a large part of the reason why.
The article mentions three reasons why a third party candidate might receive a better chance than in the past, but misses on the most important point - who is this third party candidate?

Generally speaking, Americans favor an existing candidate over a new political candidate (in the past thirty years, only Bill Clinton overcame this trend). If a third party candidate doesn't receive attention in the debates and throughout the national media, the candidate will face the same problems that others have in the past - a lack of attention. Echo Boomers may or may not choose a third party candidate relative to how much media attention the candidate receives (keep in mind, internet media has changed things).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Who Is Generation Z?

Quick Summary:
  • Generation Z follows Generation Y.
  • Generation Z is born from 1996 to 2011
  • Generation Z is smaller than Generation Y.
  • Generation Z only knows of a world with the internet.
  • Generation Z (in the United States) faces a dismal economic picture.

Many of the regular readers know all about Generation Y, but may wonder about the following generation: Generation Z. The next fifteen year generation completed its final year of birth (2011), and will be coming of age over the next few decades. What we know about Generation Z at this time is that it's not as large as Generation Y, it only knows about a world with the internet, and it will face a dismal economic picture.

One potential inaccurate statistic that I'll state is that Generation Z is smaller than Generation Y. I state this without numbers because Generation Y is 80 to 86 million strong, whereas kids born from 1994 to 2004 (most of which are Generation Z, though it goes seven years after that date) are only 23 million strong. Numerically speaking, even if the remaining 7 years of Generation Z doubled the first 8 years, it still wouldn't be larger than Generation Y (23 + 46 = 69). On top of this, with the economy current performing poorly, many people (especially Echo Boomers!) have delayed family formation: in fact, that's one of the things I write about on this blog. This has sucked some size from Generation Z.

The Millennial generation may not realize this, but many of its members can still recall a world without the internet. They can recall doing research by going to the library and searching manually through a database (gosh, I can remember looking through the actual cards!). The world has completely changed now: with the rise of the internet, Wikipedia, Google and some specialized blogs have become the major source of information, along with electronic news. Generation Z only knows the internet, as the youngest Generation Zer (born in 1996) would have been born in a world already with the internet. And about the time these early Generation Zers became fully conscious, the internet was becoming widespread. The effects of this fact remain to be seen: I cannot theorize at this time what this will mean for Generation Z.

The United States as an economic superpower has declined rapidly over the last decade and this will have a major influence on both Generation Y and Z. Some young members of Generation Y might be able to recall a low national debt and a major surplus (2000), while this is completely foreign to Generation Z as they come of age. This change won't just affect the political spectrum and how Generation Z votes, but it will affect how Generation Z conducts business. The attitudes toward frugality may amp up in this generation if financial factors do not significantly change for the United States soon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Echo Boom Bomb In the Media

I wrote about intermittent fasting at the Smashion Babble. A growing fitness trend, yes, with more research on it needed. However, intermittent fasting is effective for a myriad of fitness concerns. You can also check other other articles in the media.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Interview: Mark Thoma of Economist's View

The responses to the interview questions may not represent the views of The Echo Boom Bomb's author. These interviews are provided to inform readers of information from experts and provide these experts with a medium where they can answer questions without any content changes. You can also read other interviews at this link.

The Millennial generation faces economic challenges that other American generations have not. I interviewed Mark Thoma about concerns pertinent to the Millennial generation. Who is Mark Thoma:

Mark A. Thoma is an associate professor of economics at the University of Oregon. He joined the UO faculty in 1987 and served as head of the economics department for five years. His research involves the effects that changes in monetary policy have on inflation, output, unemployment, interest rates and other macroeconomic variables, and he has conducted research in other areas, such as the relationship between the political party in power and macroeconomic outcomes. He received his doctorate from Washington State University. He writes one of the top economics' blogs, Economist's View.

1. The Millennial generation (1980 to 1995) faces some challenges that its parents didn't face. What thee major economic challenges do you see for the Millennial generation?

The availability of good middle class jobs, the availability of health care and retirement benefits as employers increasingly stop offering these benefits to workers, and how to reduce our long-term debt load.

2. What action - if any - from political leaders and/or the Federal Reserve should be taken in order to assist in alleviating those economic challenges that the Millennial generation will face?

The longer run issues are mostly up to Congress to resolve. The Fed's job is to offset short-run movements in the economy, and to make sure inflation, etc. is under control so that long-run growth is as high as possible.

My main worry is what will happen to workers who used to be able to find long-term stable employment with reasonably good benefits, but will have more trouble doing so in a global economy. Policymakers need to do everything they can to support middle-class employment, to make sure health care remains available as employer continue to reduce this benefit, and to devote more resources to education to make sure workers are as competitive as possible in the world economy.

3. There's been some talk about eliminating the mortgage interest deduction. While it's possible this may not occur, what would be the economic effects of this if it goes through?

When there are market failures, these types of policies can be used to overcome them. However, the mortgage interest rate deduction does not overcome any obvious market failure and hence it distorts the choice of housing relative to a world where such an exemption does not exist. Thus, eliminating the deduction would remove the distortion and produce a more efficient outcome. The deduction is also highly regressive, so removing it is also a progressive way to bring revenue to the government.

4. The United States faces a huge deficit, and some politicians are still talking about cutting taxes. Is cutting taxes a wise idea and if not, what would be some useful tax changes that would help with this major deficit?

Tax cuts do not increase revenue. It can happen in theory, but in practice this isn't observed. Rather than cutting taxes we need to raise them ad to do so in a way that reduces inequality, i.e. raise taxes for those who can afford to pay them.