3 primary factors in Millennials and burnout

April 15, 2015

Have you noticed that a common claim among the millennial generation is that many of them are "burned out"? Blog posts are popping up everywhere voicing concerns over burnout and giving people various ways to avoid this feared state. While being burned out is certainly not something we should desire for ourselves or others, I'm confused by this generation’s serious focus on this subject.

I never, ever heard my dad or grandfather claim they were “burned out” by their jobs, responsibilities or commitments, which were numerous. I'm not even certain they would know what burnout means. They had families to support, bills to pay, a job that required they show up on time and leave at a certain time, and came home to have dinner with their families by 6:00 p.m. They had two weeks of vacation, 30 minutes to eat the lunch they brought from home, and expectations that were required to be met for their employment. They had the weekends off and spent them parenting during quality time with their family.

I am not trying to make this a generational comparison, but maybe I need to. We need to figure out exactly what is going on in our culture with a generation that has done less but claimed burnout more than any previous generation. What is going on?

Three primary factors in burnout

I think there are several realities, but overall, I think it stems from three primary factors:

1. Extended adolescence

Many millennials have never had to work a day in their life unless they wanted a little extra money to take backpacking in Europe. Getting extra money usually meant babysitting a little more or working for their dad’s friend without having to actually apply for the job.

These days, people go to graduate school for no real reason or plan—outside of the expectations of parents or the desire to stay a student rather than entering the real world. Mom and dad have usually paid for everything major, so a job is not even urgent in the eyes of many millennials. And even though they are making $30,000 a year, they are able to continue living a life at the standard of their parents’ income.

It is hard to take on adult responsibility when you have never had to possess it in any other area of life. When one has been treated as the center of the universe as a child and teen, the real world becomes a major adjustment, and the demands of a basic work schedule will seem extreme—and lead to rapid “burnout.”

The millennial generation is soft because many of them have been babied. Many Christian blog posts are focused on “slowing down” and are written and marketed to a generation that is not going as fast as they claim. They are at coffee shops and staring at their phones while having time to train for marathons. None of these are bad things, but they certainly don’t make the case for having no extra time.

2. The fear of missing out

The weather is nice outside, and your friends are spending a long weekend in New York City, shopping and Instagramming every moment, and you are frustrated that you have to work! Sure, it’s disappointing, but there are times when you have to work and not play. The millennial often convinces himself or herself that it is the employer’s or the job’s fault that he/she is missing out, when the reality is that a job is something he/she needs to provide the income for personal and family responsibilities. Millennials have vacation time available to do some playing too, but like 99% of working Americans, it is accumulated and earned. One won’t be able to travel whenever he/she wants, and that can be a hard realization.

The ever-present social media world reminds us there is always something more fun and glamorous to be doing, but those things are rarely doable unless we have income, which comes from jobs that expects us to work. Another fear prevalent among millennials is that they are not fulfilling their passions in their jobs. While it’s probably true, only a small percentage of people get to enjoy that privilege. And even fewer people get paid to do their hobbies—something millennials often expect.  

3. Misdiagnosis

I first became aware of these issues when our children's minister lost some volunteers because they claimed they were “burned out.” I was confused by these claims because the volunteers’ commitment consisted of one hour each Sunday. One hour! I hardly believe they were having issues with burnout. The diagnosis was most likely closer to simply not feeling like doing it anymore because they wanted to go to brunch with their friends. When responsibility is pressing, and the fear of missing out is at the forefront of your mind, WebMD might suggest burnout, but reality says the antidote is becoming an adult and claiming your responsibilities.

Overcoming “burnout”

So, how do we help millennials tone down the burnout talk? We must help them understand that they must live for two things: the glory and mission of God.

1. The glory of God

The glory of God is the reason those who have believed the gospel—by putting their faith in Jesus Christ—now exist. This understanding leads to a proper theology of vocation. Work existed in the pre-fallen state of man (prior to Genesis 3). Adam was given responsibility over the work of the land by God himself. It was following the entrance of sin into the world and the life of Adam that the toil and hardship of work became a reality.

While we live as redeemed people among the curse of work that still exists, our calling is to the renewal of vocation in which we seek the glory of God in our efforts. After all, the Christian should view our work as "something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that [we] will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord” (Col. 3:23-24). We serve the Lord Christ. Ultimately, the point of our work is not our passion, ambition, dreams or even income, but the glory of God.

2. The mission of God

The mission of God is also essential to understanding how the Christian is to relate to work. As believers who are called to let our light shine before others, distinction in the workplace will help point our unbelieving co-workers to a distinct God. No one has the opportunity to be around unbelievers like someone in the workplace. While many millennial Christians are quick to jump to a social cause or overseas mission trip in order to join the mission of God, we forget that this same mission exists right in front of us, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

You might not have the ideal job, but for the Christian, it is never "just a job." The glory and mission of God are on display for all to see as we work. In the power of the Spirit, hard and honest work done with a correct understanding of why we do what we do won't lead to burnout but to carrying out our responsibilities as ambassadors of Christ for the glory of God.

Dean Inserra

Dean Inserra is the founding and lead pastor of CITYCHURCH in Tallahassee, where he leads the vision and preaching. Dean graduated from Liberty University and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a MA in Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is pursuing a D.Min from Southern … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24