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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Seven Changes in Our World and What We Must Do About Them

You and I have both said it before: “Our world sure is changing fast.”  Although it sounds cliché, it doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Societal and cultural change is happening faster than people can adjust to it.

I believe people have basic needs, regardless of what generation they are from. I also believe, however, that we must find healthy ways to meet those needs, or we can be victims in our society. Case in point: we’ve all seen people trapped in addictive behavior like alcohol or drugs just to deal with loneliness or depression.  So—let me suggest some changes I see in our culture that should trigger us to reflect on how we are currently satisfying our basic needs.

1. The Internet has be come the new TV.

When I was growing up, my family stopped what we were doing every Sunday night to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney.” We popped popcorn and sat around the “tube” together as a group. It’s one of my fondest memories. Today, more kids spend time on the Internet than they do television. Often, it’s alone instead of with family. In a recent survey, kids placed “time with family” high on a list of desires, but they don’t know how to do it. How are you utilizing technology to get more time together in your home?

2. Starbucks has replaced the front porch.

My friend Len Sweet suggested this a few years ago. Decades ago, folks would sit out on their front porch in the evening, lemonade in hand, talking to friends who may be outside. Today, fewer houses even have a front porch to sit on, but we still have the need to connect emotionally with others. So, Starbucks came along twenty years ago and meets that need. Humans long for a sense of community. We now pay loads of money for a paper cup of coffee—to have a front porch conversation. How and where are you meeting this need in your life?

3. Facebook is the new “neighborhood”

This year, Facebook surpassed 550 million users. That’s one in twelve people in the world. Nearly 81% of people surveyed use it daily. Facebook has made connecting with friends easy—but it’s also made us lazy, relationally. It takes so little work to say something. (Perhaps no emotion.) Unlike my neighborhood growing up, few people talk regularly to those who live near them; sometimes we don’t really even know our neighbors. Instead, we post comments on a “wall” electronically. How do you cultivate relationships with your “neighbors”?

4. Portable devices are replacing the PC.

Get ready. This shift is happening right before our eyes. More people are using their cell phone or other portable devices (iPads, Kindle, etc.) to get their information than their personal computer or laptop. They want news, information and updates to be portable and in their hands 24/7. We want information within seconds, not minutes. Businesses, churches and organizations that want to stay in touch with their people had better learn from this shift and adjust. How are you positioning your message in short bits for portable devices? Further, how are you cultivating the virtue of patience in this instant world?

5. Texting has replaced phone calls.

I don’t need to tell you this. Fewer and fewer students make phone calls today, unless their parents require them to do so. Instead, the average teen sends over 3,000 texts each month. (Do the math—that’s about 100 texts a day). It’s quick. It’s easy. It requires little to no emotional expense. Unfortunately, it’s caused a tangible drop in our people skills. Once again, we get lazy. Kids react, confront, gossip and break up with girlfriends on a screen because they don’t have the backbone to do it in person. How are you developing people skills in yourself and your students?

6. Twitter is the new “word of mouth.”

I find myself wondering these days: what did we do before Twitter? The answer is—we did without all the information we consume today. What we had was “word of mouth.” Folks got on the phone or met around the water cooler and shared their latest thoughts, feelings and updates organically. It was an actual conversation and an authentic relationship. We still need those, but technology allows us more of them than ever—making us a superficial. How are you cultivating authentic relationships in your life?

7. Google has replaced mentors.

When I was growing up, I met with mentors when I had questions. I remember asking older leaders if they’d be willing to meet with me and share their wisdom. Today, mentors take too long to schedule and require both time and relationship skills. We have a Google reflex—and want answers right now. Wait is a four-letter word. Plus, different generations intimidate each other. We prefer to use technology, which requires less effort. How can you foster inter-generational relationships for the purpose of developing young leaders?

Have you stopped to assess your personal needs? How about the kids around you who may not even be aware of their human needs? Are those needs being met in a healthy, genuine way? Or, are we satisfying real needs in artificial ways that will one day lead to unhealthy or addictive behavior? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these topics!



  1. Travis Dommert on June 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Thank you, Tim.  Thought provoking.  There are some terrific benefits to these changes, but clearly some huge pitfalls.  

    I think I’m going to suggest Sunday movie night with my kids now and seriously give some thought to adding a front porch.  I just heard that a friend of ours down the street is building a front patio, yes PATIO…complete with furniture and grill to start making a habit of getting “out front” and interacting with neighbors more.  A tad unorthodox, but I love it!

    I really think if we live intently, we can embrace the pace of tech without missing our core needs.  Here’s to living with intention and teaching our kids and next gen colleagues to do the same!

    • Tim Elmore on June 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm

      Those sound like great ideas! I haven’t seen a front patio before but that sounds like quite a way to interact with neighbors.

  2. @kylereed on June 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Wow, that mentorship being replaced by google is huge and new thought for me.

    But you are so right.

    That is terrible to hear that it has gotten like that. Does that mean that we just have to accept it or can we fight to get back the traditional view (like you had) of mentoring back?

    • Tim Elmore on June 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      I don’t think it’s too late to change but it takes effort on both sides – for the mentor and the mentee – to prioritize the mentor relationship. Google will always be faster and easier but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

  3. Craig on June 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Amazing, right-on observations!

  4. Jackie on June 8, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Our family has often used the term “screen time” which goes along with limits.  Even books, balance in entertainment and learning. #7 is personally current.  My youngest of 4, 14 &15, can play Pinochle with seniors at a local senior center.  How can we link the young screen generation to the aging lonely population to benefit each? 

    • Tim Elmore on June 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      Great thoughts, Jackie. Finding common ground between seniors and youth can be a challenge. A simple game like Pinochle is a great idea. It all comes down to making it a priority and realizing how much it benefits both generations.

  5. Clay Morgan on June 9, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Another fantastic post Tim. You help me more than you know in my field and pursuits. I’ve been telling a lot of people your name lately. So Google is great, but you’re one of my mentors too!

    • Tim Elmore on June 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks Clay! So glad that this is helpful for you. Proud to be counted as a mentor!

  6. Piper Bayard on June 9, 2011 at 7:02 am

    You make some great points. I’m old enough to miss the front porch and the neighborhood, but I suppose people will always gravitate to some form of those things. Terrific blog.

    • Tim Elmore on June 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks. It’s true people will always have these needs. Good to think about if we are meeting them in real or artificial ways.

  7. Kiki on June 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Years ago you taught us the mentoring concept, and I have to say it’s been some of the best parenting advice we’ve ever received.  

    Both of our kids are on staff with a ministry that runs a rec program for at-risk kids.  They each started there about the age of 12, and have earned their place on staff.  The adult couples who run that organization have become their “other parents.” 

    As a result our kids are really grounded.  They have a strong Christian community to rely on.  They also have responsibility within that community, expectations to meet, and a leadership curriculum to follow.  Our daughter, Anna, now mentors younger girls on staff, and just told me she wants to start a Bible Study with some of the pre-teens in our church.  Both kids also meet  one-on-one with their Young Life leaders, who are in their early 20s.  

    When they want to try new things, they find someone who can teach them.  Our son Joshua just looked around the youth group and realized we’ll be facing some leadership voids in the next three years.  So he started learning videography from one of the college students, and bass guitar from one of the older high school students.  His whole goal is to prepare now so he can step up and fill those slots when the need arises.
    I have to say….their perspectives frequently amaze me.  Anna has participated in two mission trips to Central America, including one where she was the only high schooler.  She’s now exploring a call to work in a missions orphanage.  She also got a secular job when she turned 16 so that she would have the financial ability to be more involved in ministry.  At her own initiative, she’s helped with multiple projects in our city—–everything from picking up trash and renovating homes in the inner city to serving food at the homeless shelter.  She even went and cleaned bathrooms (yuck!) at a halfway house!

    Sometimes, though, it does set them apart from their peers in a negative way.  There are kids—even Christian ones—-who think Anna and Joshua are “wierd” or “too churchy”.  They get occasional harassment  because they befriend the kids who are “outsiders” in their school.  Joshua is gifted in relating to kids with special needs, and loves to help with Special Olympics.  At school, teachers have requested him in their classes to help with other students.

    My kids don’t promote themselves or seek out the limelight,  and are not always considered the “coolest” kids.  Even though they are kind and charming, they get ousted by the popular crowd.  That can be hurtful at times.  They also are not in the whole dating scene, choosing instead to hang out with groups of friends who share their values.  Sometimes that choice is also misunderstood.  It’s tough growing up as a Christian kid in today’s society!  Joshua especially had some challenges while being on the football team.  

    In the long run, though, they are better off for it.  They DO see the bigger picture, and understand that God has a very specific plan and purpose for their lives.  I keep telling them that their day has just not come yet…..but it will! 🙂

  8. Btcatlanta on June 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm


    I LOVE your articles and have posted many of them on my FB page…I just did a podcast last week and one of the questions was whether young people “need” their parents as much as they used to in the age of being able to get most of the information/answers they need by googling…this article is very timely!  Thank you for all that you do!

  9. Pastdanvo on June 18, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Wowzers, that’s a good reminder, gots to stay current..

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Seven Changes in Our World and What We Must Do About Them