Quick Hits: Millennials Views on Work and Marriage

A new Pew Research study has recently released some data about work and marriage which details the established trend of dual-income homes in younger families.

Here’s a quick quote from the study:

Adults younger than 30 are most likely to favor a dual-income marriage model (72%), over the breadwinner husband-homemaker wife model (22%). This is even more true for young women, who are more likely than young men to prefer dual-income marriage (78% vs. 67%). Young adults are also more positive about the impact on families of increasing numbers of women entering the workforce.

As the millennial generation (those born from 1980-1996) continue to enter adulthood and start families, the model that they are embracing is one of two incomes by default. There are likely a number of factors which are contributing to this: the reality that they saw it in their own homes growing up, the burden of student loan debt that necessitates two incomes, lower incomes as a result of their stage of life, along with other factors.

One of the greatest challenges for the millennial generation (and younger Gen-Xers) is that they are leaving college with the highest student debt burdens in history.

With many millennials delaying (first) marriage into their late twenties and early thirties, it should be no surprise that when they do get married both spouses have an established work history and are likely in a particular vocational line. 

So what does this mean for young adult and young family ministries?

One of the first things is that it allows us to speak honestly about the need for career focus to not just one member of a household, but both.

When we are developing and plotting out studies, series, and sermons about work, we should remember that both men and women should be in frame of reference. It is a startling reality, but with women graduating with college at a higher rate than men, our entire “traditional” ministry model is about to be thrown out the window.

Also, that while it is great to have an active MOPs ministry and other specific women’s ministries, one reality is that a growing percentage of women will not be able to attend these groups because they are working.

Another challenge is that we have to realize that traditional, that is older, notions of the stay-at-home-mom will be entirely foreign or, in reality, unrealistic for many of the families in our pews and chairs on Sundays. This isn’t to say that our theology suddenly changes or there is a massive shift towards the egalitarian position, but we should remember that nowhere in Scripture does it only command women to stay at home. The increasing broadening of women’s roles in a, hopefully, free society is an opportunity to expand compassionate and understanding ministry that doesn’t create ill-conceived miscategorization. In other words: we need to continue to rethink the traditional ministries of “mens” and “womens” and how we deploy those ministries across our weeks. Maybe it isn’t best to think of women during the week and men on the weekends anymore.

Finally, it should be noted that this continues to put emphasis on how important it is for our families to have focused time together. With our people leading increasingly fragmented and dispersed lives, where church is no longer at the epicenter of their social networks, we need to mobilize out of our fixed structures to do ministry and life where they live, work, and play.

We need to be wise stewards of their time and provide equipping ministries that seek to connect with and value all families. Since non-traditional is the new normal, ministry models of the last two centuries are increasingly finding irrelevance in this century.

So how are you finding your way in a changing ministry culture? What has been working and what are you rethinking? Is there a changing paradigm for men’s and women’s ministry?