Thinking Critically About “The Mindset List: 2016”

Every year Beloit University releases “The Mindset List,” which is intended to give a quick snapshot of the typical incoming Freshman.  This is meant to give the professors an idea about who their students are in order that they might be better equipped to effectively communicate with their students.  The parallel between Beloit’s intention to equip its professors and why this is a useful tool for us in ministry is so clear I don’t really feel the need to point it out any more than I just have…

Every year I see different blogs pointing to this list because it’s interesting, provokative, and very very helpful for us in the Church.  However, this year I took a few minutes out of curiosity to look at what “The Mindset List” said about me when I was an incoming Freshman – here’s what it said about me (and others who graduated college in 2002 – assuming you took four years to graduate):

  • They have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan era, and did not know he had ever been shot.
  • There has only been one Pope. They can only remember one other president.
  • They were 11 when the Soviet Union broke apart, and do not remember the Cold War.
  • They have never feared a nuclear war. “The Day After” is a pill to them—not a movie.
  • They are too young to remember the Space Shuttle Challenger blowing up.
  • They never had a polio shot, and likely, do not know what it is.
  • Atari pre-dates them, as do vinyl albums.
  • The expression “you sound like a broken record” means nothing to them.
  • They have never owned a record player.
  • They have likely never played Pac Man, and have never heard of “Pong.”
  • Star Wars looks very fake to them, and the special effects are pathetic.
  • They may never have heard of an 8-track, and chances are they’ve never heard or seen one.
  • The compact disc was introduced when they were one year old.
  • They have always had an answering machine.
  • Most have never seen a TV set with only 13 channels, nor have they seen a black & white TV.
  • They have never seen Larry Bird play, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a football player.
  • They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.
  • The Vietnam War is as ancient history to them as WWI and WWII or even the Civil War.
  • They don’t know who Mork was, or where he was from.
  • They never heard the terms “Where’s the Beef?”, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” or “De plane, de plane!”

Let me tell you, every single one of the above wouldn’t be true for me when I was entering college, and I don’t think I’m too unique.  While I could understand why someone (probably someone multiple decades older than me!) could imagine these things were true of me, they just weren’t.

This brings me to my point today – Read through Beloit’s Mindset List: 2016 in order to get a general snapshot of who the incoming college students are… but please remember that this is only a very general snapshot and is NOT going to be an authoritative description of every student.  If the list that was supposed to “describe” me is any indication, we should assume that half the mindsets listed are accurate, and half aren’t.

However, even the parts of the Mindset List about which students could say “That’s not true!” do give insight into the students’ lives and background.  It’s important for us to remember that culture changes, and that means each generation has a different set of influences and experiences in their history that are worth considering.

As you look through The Mindset List: 2016 may you better understand the generation it’s meant to describe in order that you could better communicate the outstanding love of God through Jesus Christ to them.

Here are some of the “mindsets” I find most interesting from this year’s list:

  • If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.
  • On TV and in films, the ditzy dumb blonde female generally has been replaced by a couple of Dumb and Dumber males.
  • Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.
  • Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.
  • A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.
  • They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.
  • Along with online viewbooks, parents have always been able to check the crime stats for the colleges their kids have selected.
  • They have come to political consciousness during a time of increasing doubts about America’s future.
  • Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.
  • Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.
  • Mr. Burns has replaced J.R.Ewing as the most shot-at man on American television.
  • Thousands have always been gathering for “million-man” demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
  • Television and film dramas have always risked being pulled because the story line was too close to the headlines from which they were ”ripped.”
  • They watch television everywhere but on a television.
  • Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.
  • The Sistine Chapel ceiling has always been brighter and cleaner.

Although these are the students who have now left my youth ministry, let me ask for your input: How should this snapshot influence how I communicate biblical truth to the emerging generations of students?

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