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Catalyst | Tim Elmore | Overcoming Artificial Maturity

I’m at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta this week.

It’s a major conference that draws upwards of 13,000 Christian leaders from around the globe and boasts some of the best thinkers, authors, pastors and leaders in America (and beyond) for speakers and lab leaders.

In an attempt to be a good steward of this experience, I’m going to pass along some “nuggets” from each of the sessions I attend.

So here goes…


The morning started with Dr. Tim Elmore talking to us about Generation iY and the “artificial maturity” that so many of them exhibit.

Youth today are growing up too fast and too slow.


Too fast in terms of what they’re exposed to and too slow in terms of their willingness to step into responsibility.

Adolescence is expanding on both sides of the traditional time frame.

And more and more of Gen iY are putting forth a veneer that they have it all together.

Yet a recent poll showed that 94% of them used the word “overwhelming” to describe college.


So what do we know about Gen iY?

Generation iY is the second half of Generation Y kids.

Here are a few major distinctions that speak to a major shift that has occurred within this generation:

Early Gen Y: born in the 1980s, are highly compassionate, activists, see technology as a tool, are civic-minded, ambitious about the future… and all of this served to accelerate their growth and maturation.

Gen iY: born in the 1990s, have low levels of empathy, are more slack-tavists than activists, see technology as an appendage, are self-absorbed, ambiguous about the future… and all of this is serving to postpone their growth and maturation.

Yes, there are exceptions to this.

But if you’ve been working with students for more than a few years than you’ve likely seen this shift happen right before your eyes.

We must become intentional about this maturation thing!

We can’t do ministry like we did 15, or even 10, years ago.

Our leadership must become a balancing act between:

1. Being Responsive: displaying acceptance, support and belief,

2. Being Demanding: establishing standards holding students accountable to those standards, and

3. Being Measured: providing appropriate levels of 1) autonomy, 2) responsibility and 3) information as appropriate.

This is just a snapshot of our time with Tim.

He’s done the research and is the kind of guy that we could learn quite a bit from.

Our students need us to be informed, intentional leaders — now more than ever.

There’s a lot riding on this.

What do you think?


  • Anonymous

    A good expression of the challenge we face working with college students.  I recommend Christian Smith’s latest book, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood (Oxford 2011).  The problems we’re seeing with Gen iY kids is much more deeply embedded in adult society.  I’ve been following Smith, Kenda Dean and others on this point and I am convinced they are on to something really crucial.  

    Some of the hidden assumptions of academe contribute to this problem, not to mention the incredibly paltry education most students get in K-12 public education (I’ll leave privates alone, for now).  

    This scenario also reminds us of how important the mission is to which we have been called.

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  • I wasn’t familiar with the phrase, “artificial maturity,” but it seems spot-on. Definitely going to weave that into my vocabulary!