With a special Reference to Priestly/Religious Formation in India
Fr. Wilson, OFM (Cap)
“Children are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Ps 127: 3
The 20′h century had four generations, namely, Veteran Generation, (also called Mature or Silent Generation — born between 1925 and 1945), Baby Boomers Generation (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X-ers (born between 1965 and 1979) and Millennial Generation (also called Generation Y-ers, Trophy Kids, Generation Next, Net Generation, Echo Boomers or iGeneration — born between 1980 and 2000).
We are marching along the new historical epoch, the New Millennium. All the formees who are currently going through priestly/ religious formation are Millennial Generation Children. Millennials are the new generation of people born after 1980. This generation is redefining our society in this century and will bring about religious,social, political and cultural changes in the future. This is a revolution in waiting. How the Millennial priests and religious will reshape our Indian churching and the society will depend largely on how well they are understood and redirected.
One of the most critical points to understand in regard to those belonging to Millennial Generation is that they are quite different from the people of previous generations. The candidates that are currently seeking admission in seminaries and religious formation houses come with myriad assets and liabilities. They have grown up with movies, personal computers, Internet, cell-phones, cable TV, music, videos, iPods, video games, pets and bikes. This has created actual physical changes in the way their brains work. Some studies have focused on Millennials in several different countries and come up with striking parallels. It is pretty amazing to see that the MillennialGeneration at various continents seem to exhibit similar kind of behavioural patterns. The influence of the media and the unique media culture could be responsible for this.
Now we come to realize that formation is a rich and complex process. Yet the nature of this generation remains greatly misunderstood. Being the children of the media revolution, these youngsters have developed their unique perceptions, behavioural patterns and problems. because of this, the formators now find themselves struggling to understand and guide them. as priests and religious responding to the time, the formators like to engage themselves in offering formation appropriate to the needs of the people of Milliennial Generation. This article will cover multiple topics necessary for an integrated formation programme.
As we discuss the culture of this generation, we have to be aware that every individual is different. Thus, if we assert that Millennial Generation people are avid learners, it does not mean that every millennial is an avid learner. We all know individuals who are Millennial Generationers and who are not at all interested in pursuing additional learning opportunities. Likewise, if we say that Millennials are more likely to be knowledgeable than gen X-ers, it does not mean that all Millennials are more educated or that all gen X-ers are illiterate. It simply means that certain behaviours are more typical of each group than of others.
Dealing with this unique generation can be difficult – given their habits, behavioural patterns, interests and deep grounding in technology as a way of life. Fortunately, there is a handful of tips that might help formators understand and manage the Millennials. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). This article is designed for the facilitators of priestly/religious initial formation. This is not a comprehensive manual on wholistic formation but deals with only those areas that are specific to the Millennials.
Highly Intelligent: Compared to the previous generations, Millennials have higher level I.Q (Intelligence Quotient). They are more informed, more knowledgeable and have greater access to knowledge.
Sheltered: The Millennials were more protected as children than the previous generations. Their parents pampered them and spared them from unpleasant experiences. As formees, they may expect the formators to affirm, protect, respect and nurture them.
Lower E.Q. (Emotional Quotient): E.Q. relates to qualities like understanding one’s own feelings, empathy for the feelings of others and the regulation of emotion in a way that enhances life and ministry. Emotional Maturity is shaped by parental bonding and guidance. Parental bonding combined with optimal difficulties enhances the emotional maturity of a person. MiHennials today are significantly less empathic than previous generations. Working parents, over pampering, declining responsibilities for children have been detrimental to emotional maturity of the Millennials.
The Media as Virtual Parents:An Indian youth spends around three hours a day interacting with the media like TV, movies, cell-phones, iPods, Internet, video games and so forth. Even though the parents bring up these children, they are under the sway of the media. The avid social networking is but one manifestation of the tremendous influence of technology on the Millennials. Always connected to cell phones, iPods, laptops or video game players, this generation has mastered multitasking skills better than any other. At the same time it has impaired young people’s writing/ reading abilities and interpersonal communication skills. However, the digital generation’s tendency to do multiple things at the same time may be resulting in shorter attention spans.
More Visual and Less Auditory: Unlike the previousgenerations, the Millennials are so much exposed to the media that this has changed their learning modality from auditory to visual. This makes them less attentive to advice, feedback and suggestions in formation. This does not mean that they are highly resistant to advice. This only shows that they are less tuned to auditory cues. Since they are visual, a good example from the formator is a great motivating factor. They need strong role models whom they can trust. They do
listen to the advice when the formator walks the talk and is a good role model.
Warped Attitude Towards Vows, Celibacy and Sex: The bombardment with commercials that use sex, individualism and consumerism has warped their understanding of vows, celibacy and‘sex. Some Millennials engage in such unhealthy activities as binge drinking, abuse of both illegal and sexual promiscuity. In formation, even though they might understand these evangelical counsels intellectually, they do have strong subliminal understanding of this due to the media brainwashing.
Edu-tainment: This generation likes learning to be entertaining and fun and become quickly bored in a learning environment that is not highly active and interactive. they grow up with innumerable TV channels. they are exposed to music, art, games and other creative activities. it is a generation of learning through watching and interacting. so written information doesn’t works well with this group.
Egalitarian: They often prefer to work in teams or groups. They definitely do not prefer hierarchy. Sometimes the lack of authoritarianhierarchy in their groups creates ambiguity when it comes to having a point of contact for information. They might resent any kind of authority figure in formation.
Open and Eager: Millennialsare very open and eager. They are responsive and quite smart.
Confident: They are motivated, goal-oriented and confident in themselves and the future. They expect theformators to help launch them to greatness. They may brag about their generation’s power and potential. They have high levels of optimism. They are assertive and believe they are right.
Team-Oriented: In certain aspects they are group oriented. Yet there are areas where they are individualistic in nature. They may sacrifice their own identity to be part of the team. They prefer egalitarian leadership, not hierarchies. They are forming a tight-knit generation. Their group-orientation sometimes leads to group loyalty. This is a great. challenge to the formators these days.
Pressured to Succeed: Millennials are living in a society where there is increasing competitive spirit. Present parents have constant war with their children, trying to push them to study harder, get higher marks on tests and concentrate on their studies more. Therefore, the youngsters feel pressured to succeed. They have been pushed hard to achieve, to avoid risks and to take advantage of opportunities. Made to focus on performance and success, they may miss the bigger picture of what priesthood or religious life is all about. For many of them, focus is more on the world of achievement rather than personal development, spiritual growth, humanities and arts.
Privacy: Traditionally, Indian families were highly enmeshed (close knit). This pattern is giving way to disengagement where privacy is the key among the family members. having a girl or a boy friend is still not the family norm. yet the media impels the youth to have such friends. youngsters cope with this disparity by maintaining a private life. many of them continue this pattern and private life even in the formation house.
Stressed: The Millennials do suffer from serious psychological problems and psychosomatic illnesses. High level competition and pressure to succeed and work demands are some of the reasons for this.
Socially Conscious: There has been a resurgence of interest in politics and social issues. This is a generation of activists. Young people believe that they can make a difference. They love to get involved in social activities and fight for justice. They show special interest in awareness programmes.
Hero Worship: Indian youngsters seem to have greater admiration for their heroes, sports stars and pop culture celebrities. The fan clubs have become their place of worship. This energy, if properly channelized, can be directed towards creating life ideals that can propel them toward their goals.
Multi-taskers: This generation can easily manage to listen to music, work on the computer and watch television and do studies at the same time. They need a lot of stimulation in their learning environments. They think multi-tasking saves time and is a smart thing to do, but aren’t usually aware of the poorer quality of results.
Poor Conflict Resolution Skill: Coming from smaller nuclear families they may have poor conflict resolution skills.
Forming the Millennial Generation
Being a formator these days is like walking on a tightrope, as you balance love and concern on one side and discipline on the other. Your success or failure at achieving the balance determines your formation style. A good formator is the one, who is responsive to her/his formees’ needs, but at the same time, becomes a role model to them. Since I could not find any book of the formation of the Millennial Generation, the following segment is based on my personal experience and reflections as a formator and animator.
Some Principles about Forming the Millennials
Be Visual: This group is more visual and less auditory. Visual learners predominate the general population (55%). but among Millennial Generation visual learning is even more strongly preferred than in other age groups. they crave for role models. formation is extremely effective if you (formator) become a strong role (visual) model. “He said to them, ‘Coime and see’. they came and saw where he was staying and they remained with him that day.” (John 1: 39)
Understand Yourself: How important a role do you, as a formator, play in your formee’s life? When it comes to dealing with the world of emotions, your formees take their cues from you. How does your personality affect them? Do you bottle up your anger or do you hit out at the first available target? Do you treat upsets as, a time to draw closer to people? All these will influence the emotional dealing of the formees. It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles” (Mt 15:10-11)
Engage Them Intentionally: Learn all you can about their culture and make time to talk. Great conversations sometimes can be planned, but often the casual moments and chats yield the deepestlevel of heart-to-heart talks. Look for those moments. “Train children in the right way and when old, they will not stray:’ (Proverbs 22:6)
Listen: Avoid condemnation or correcting and listen to them. As a rule, allow them to do the talking first. Millennials are looking at the expression in your eyes and listening to the tone of your voice to see if your words and your heart match up. If you say you want to listen but your voice has the taint of condemnation, the door will be shut. Don’t jump in with your absolutely essential, incredibly wise advice, even if you’re right! Clarify what has been said: You may want to ask clarifying questions such as:”How did you feel when that happened?”or “What happened next?” or “How does this make you fell?” or “This is what I hear you saying. Is that right?” Pursue your formee gently. “We were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children:’ (1 Thes 2:7)
Understand and do not Identify: From the moment you wake up to the time you fall asleep, almost all your activities are related to your formees. Join the formees in various activities like prayer, meals, play, work and so on. Understand them in all that they do. Never identify with them. Identification leads to condoning the wrong deeds they do. “As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children” (1 Thes 2:11).
Correct Sparingly; Affirm Lavishly: Our formees are no different from us. We all need large helpings of love and affirmation all day every day. We live for it. We long for more. The only difference is that some formees are going through that phase of individuating, developing their own, separate identity apart from their parents. Some of them do this gracefully; most do it painfully: Even when they are obstinate, they need our kindness. A better approach is to ask them, “How can I help you? I really care about you.” That will do wonders for your formees and for your relationship. Every step of the way, affirm efforts as well as progress. “and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased:” (Lk 3:22)
Develop Opportunities for Experiential Learning: Small group discussions, projects, in-class presentations and debates, peer critiques, team projects, service learning, field experiences, developing simulations and case method approaches have been found to be successful for the MillennialGeneration formees. “How from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15)
Provide Lots of Feedback; Not Judgmental Criticism: Providing frequent feedback is essential for the formees. This allows them to know when they are headed in the right direction and when they are getting off-track. Frequent attention from the formators is welcome. However, avoid carpingby all means. “… do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4)
Use Technology: This is a generation that uses technology for everything. Incorporate audio visuals into their leaning. Using computers as an instructional technique can be very effective. Incorporate many of the strategies that Millennial Generationers have already developed for learning like multi-media, interactive learning experience and so forth. “Those who spare the rod (Shepherd’s Staff) hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them” (Prov. 13:24).
Make Learning Fun: Millennial Generation want to enjoy their learning. If it is not fun, it will be cast into the category of boring and may become less effective. They learn best when they are entertained. Their attention span declines after 15-20 minutes. (You have your formee’s brain for only 20 minutes at a time.) Break up the class time into 20-30 minute segments with some kind of activities (jokes, action songs, and little activities). ” A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22).
Be Relevant: Millennial Generation will demand relevance in what they are learning. This will also want to skip steps in learning if there are areas of the information that have already mastered and will avoid repetition and rote practice once they feel they have mastered the information. “And in the morning, ‘It will be-stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Mt 16:3)
Utilize Their Talents: This is a generation that likes to be useful and helpful. If you have formees who know more about a topic than you do, let them talk about what they know. If they finish an assignment early, let them help other formees. “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” (Mt 25:29).
Allow For Creativity and Be Creative: This is a generation that thinks in many dimensions at once. Provide opportunities for them to be creative in how they approach and fulfil requirements. Music, art, fun and games are good teaching tools. Structure a learning environment that demands respect and positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement from teachers and peers improves learning and increases motivation. “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!” (Ps 150:4)
Recognize the Need for Social Interaction: This is a key for Millennial Generation learners, so learning strategies that incorporate social interaction work well. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Mt 18:20).
Have personal check in Sessions: Engage your formee in conversation often, and that allows you to learn something about what’s important to him and what is going on in his life. “Discipline your children, and they will give you rest; they will give delight to your heart:’ (Proverbs 29:17).
Shepherd them into fulness: In spiritual guidance, talk to your formees not just about their spirituality, but also about everything that is going on in their lives. Formees are sometimes apprehensive when it comes to discussing some concerns with their formators, but this generally happens because formators come across as too curious or too judgmental. Instead, discuss their day as a friend would — without offering unsolicited advice all the time. Advice is not always welcome and if your formees find you giving them advice every time they come to you, they will soon stop confiding in you. often formees require nothing more than a listening ear and if you can provide an ear to your formees, your rapport will be that much stronger. “Fathers, make known to children your faithfulness.” (Isaiah 38: 19).
Relationship-building: Separate disciplinary discussions from relationship-building discussions. “Those who spare the rod (Shepherd’s Staff’) hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13:24).
Self-expression: Allow and encourage discussion of your formees’ feelings about rules and standards and allow for disagreement. You have the final word, but understanding your formees’ point of view and giving them the chance to verbalize it will increase their thinking capacities as well as encourage the successful handling of negative emotions. Set up clear consequences (punishments) for breaking of rules, however, make sure that the consequences begin lightly and increase only as same behaviours are repeated. “Discipline your children while there is hope; do not set your heart on their destruction.” (Proverbs 19:18).
There is a strong correlation between various formation styles and the formee’s performance in various domains such as academic performance, problem behaviour and social skills. Remember that several factors affect how a formee will grow up.
Autocratic Formator: In this approach the formator exerts high levels of power over the formees. The formation team and formees are given few opportunities for making suggestions, even if these would be for the good of formation. Many people resent being treated like this. Because of this, the autocratic formator often causes a high level animosity and precipitates subversive forces in formation.
Authoritarian Formator: Formator in this category plays the part of the dictator. Orders and rules are meant to be followed without any explanation. Punishment is meant to act as a deterrent for deviant behaviour. This formator is highly intrusive and keep an eye on each aspect of their formees‘ lives. Formees with authoritarian formator perform reasonably well and stay out of problem behaviour. However, they are more likely to have lower self-esteem, poor social skills and higher levels of depression. Over time, the subversive elements might crop up.
Nurturing Formator: A lot of nurturing is essential in the initial formation. But pampering can harm the formation. Formator in this category love to indulge the formees. At the same time, they do not demand responsible behaviour. They avoid any sort of confrontation with their formees. Formees with nurturing formator tend to have high self-esteem and good social skills but are more prone to problem behaviour and poor performance in formation. Accepting responsibility is difficult for many of them.
Laissez faire Formator: Formator in this category is uninvolved in the Formees’ lives, which may stem from a belief that Formees should be allowed to do what they want with minimum formation interference. This formator does not have quality time for the Formees, which in rare instances, can border on sheer neglect. Formees with laissez faire formator grow very little and perform poorly at formation.
Motivating Formator: Formator in this category motivates others without being authoritarian or too dictatorial. Motivator sets clear standards for the behaviour to be expected from the Formees. Rules are explained and discussed with Formees. This formator uses firm discipline but avoids harsh punishment. Formees are taught to be assertive and socially responsible. Formees with motivating formator are less likely to indulge in subversive activities. On an average, they are highly motivated and perform well in every area. Their social skills are high and they have high self-esteem.
Transformational Formator: A person with this style is a true formator who inspires the team with a shared vision fo the future. Transformational Formator is higly visible and spends a lot of time Communicating. this formator does not necessarily lead form the front. Responsibilites are delegated among the team members. The Transformational Formator ensures that routine work is done reliably and at the same time look after initiatives that add new value.
Jesus’ formation style was a healthy combination of many of these styles and yet he was predominantly a Transformational Formator. A part of successful formation is adapting your style to address the qualities and needs of the formees – a component of the highly-effective transformational formation. Millennials respond pretty positively to Transformational Formation. Thus, a formation, where the formator combines these styles in a healthy way and yet is governed by the Transformational style might be the healthiest formation approach.
Attend to the Emotional Struggles of the Formees
How Do You React to Your Formees’ Anxiety, Anger, Moodiness and Sexuality?
Although intelligence is important to success in life, emotional maturity is key to relating well to others and achieving the formation goals. Training the formees in handling emotions in a healthy way is a key to good formation. Let’s examine the various approaches to handling emotions.
The Dismissing Formator: “Just get over it”. When a formee experiences a negative emotion, the solution for an emotion-dismissing formator seems simple: the formee should simply decide to have a more positive emotion. They will do anything to move the formee out of the negative emotional state. Such a formator is not insensitive to the formee’s emotions. For this formator, dismissing the emotion, minimizing it by saying “It’s not that bad” or distracting the formee with something new, may seem like the best option. In trying to help the formee, in dismissing the formee’s emotional experiences, these efforts may also dismiss or diminish the formee.
Anger, frustration, anxiety, whining are all healthy and natural, not problems to be fixed or avoided. More important, they are opportunities to build trust and share experiences with formees. Sharing the experience helps the formee to label the feeling, it helps solve the problem that is creating the feeling. With formator valuing, sharing and treating the anxiety as important, the formee learns to deal with it and set limits.
The Disapproving Formator: “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Consider this: your formee is going through emotional problems. You hope it will pass by very soon. Now your formee gets punished for having those emotions. For a disapproving formator, negative emotions are unacceptable. Instead of trying to understand their formees’ emotions, they discipline or punish them. Emotions help us react to situations and help shape our choices. Emotions cannot be just turned off. In fact, trying to make formees turn them off emotions can have harmful consequences. One big consequence is that formees will learn not to come to you when they are feeling negative emotions. Instead, formees will have these feelings alone and feel wrong or unacceptable for feeling the way they do.
The Empathizing Formator: Coach and guide. For some, this style comes naturally. For others, it means a few changes, starting with a personal attitude about emotions and how to deal with them. The difficult part in empathising is that it involves teaching formees what emotions are and how emotions work, often in the midst of an emotionally charged event. When emotions are running high, a formator needs to be able to help the formee deal with it before they become bigger problems.
Emotions Work with the Formees
ü Value your formee’s feelings, because formees need to learn how to handle their emotions as well. Be aware of the formee’s emotions. It becomes easier with practice.
ü Recognize emotional times as “magic moments” and as opportunities for learning and growing.
ü Listen empathetically and validate the formee’s feelings without condoning their actions.
ü Avoid agreeing with the “enemy” when a formee feels mistreated.
ü Help the formee verbally label or name the emotions.
ü Set limits while helping the formee problem-solve.
When properly guided, the Millennial Formees will develop the following characteristics of healthy priests and religious.
- 1.Prayer and Spirituality
- 3.A natural tendency to connect with God and others
- 4.An ability to face and transform suffering into blessing
- 5.An ability to integrate various aspects of life
- 6.A desire and capacity to reach out to others in service
- 7.The ability to be inspired by a vision
- 8.An ability to read the signs of the times
- 1.Allen & Unwin, The World According to Y: Inside the New Adult Generation, Rebecca Huntley, 2006.
- 2.David Allan Verhaagen, Parenting the Millennial Generation: Guiding Our Children Born Between 1982, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005.
- 3.Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, 2000.
- 4.Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Go to College: Strategies for a New Generation on Campus, 2003.
- 5.Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials and the Pop Culture: Strategies for a New Generation of Consumers, 2006.
- 6.Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Go to College: 2nd Edition, 2007.
- 7.Ron Alsop, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace, John Wiley and Sons, 2008.