Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What is the greater fear?

Written by: on May 16, 2019

The provocative title is based on some significant assumptions. First that people reading the title will have any idea what the word coddling means and then that Americans actually have minds that can be pampered into delusion.

After more than fifteen years working in higher education there is little doubt in my mind that there has been a significant shift in the actions and attitudes students in the past five years as the iGens have filled campuses. However, perception is not necessarily reality and “college students are an easy punching bag and target for generalizations.”[1]While Lukianoff and Haidt offer some very strong arguments for the shift that is taking place yet some have argued that the main motivation for their treatise is that “they perceive their home [security or academic position] is being threatened.”[2]

Much of the shift that has taken place has as much to do with economics and altered perceptions of the purpose of a college education than it does solely with thoughts of safetyism and the 3 bad ideas. Many students arrive largely unconcerned about how they will develop greater critical thinking skills by being immersed in a thorough liberal education. Rather, they frequently arrive with preconceived notions about what career has the greatest potential to earn them a large income and complain that general education requirements are only money gathering ploys foisted on them by institutions that prevent them from taking the courses they need for their major. Maybe some of this attitude does come from the changes in US education as standardized testing and ‘No Child Left Behind’ requirements have been tied to federal educational funding. They learn what they have to learn to make it through the system and when they arrive at college they anticipate the same.

In order to help students develop strong critical thinking skills it is necessary at times to challenge their assumptions and encourage them to consider topics from multiple perspectives. This does not happen without the development of a level of trust between instructors and students that provides them some freedom to explore, debate, questions and challenge thinking. However, this has become more difficult to develop in an economically driven and polarized society.[3]

While many have concerns regarding the viability of true democracy when emerging generations lack the critical thinking skills to accept differences of opinion, there are also significant questions for the future of the church. There is little room in the minds of many emerging adults for exclusivism that Jesus claims when he states “I am the way…..”. The idea that those who lack a relationship with Jesus will be condemned to some form of eternal punishment is not tolerable and appears to promote bigotry. Therefore, the church would be wise to take a book like this and make a concerted effort to understand the next generation so that it may proclaim the Gospel in a manner that connects to their understanding.

Change is upon us, but this is not a threat to the faith, nor is it anything that the church has not endured in its past. Young people still have important life questions they just approach them differently. They still desire adults to walk with them they simply also believe that they have something meaningful to offer to the conversation. Yes, it does appear that much of what Haidt and Lukianoff suggest may be occurring is a result of changes in parenting, education, politics, economic insecurities etc. We therefore should not be surprised at the outcome. They are reflecting what they have been taught. Yet, generational tension has been survived before and will be again. No doubt there will be more books that question the upcoming generation and more than likely they will write their own about their children and grandchildren.

The church in particular needs to be at the forefront of understanding. Of welcoming this generation with open arms and helping them to discern God’s desire for them. This will not happen if trust is not established, if current adults do not swallow some pride and work on accommodating those that are coming, if the church fails to model the lifestyle of a true disciple of Jesus. If individuals in the church can pull that off there is an entire generation that desires to be included.


[1]Jesse Singal, “How ‘Coddled’ Are American College Students, Anyway?,” The Intelligencer, September 26, 2018.

[2]John Warner, “A Million Thoughts on ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’,” Inside Higher Ed, September 18, 2018.

[3]Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure(New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2018).


About the Author

Dan Kreiss

Former director of the Youth Ministry program at King University in Bristol, TN and Dean of the School of Missions. I have worked in youth ministry my entire life most of that time in New Zealand before becoming faculty at King. I love helping people recognize themselves as children of God and helping them engage with the world in all its diversity. I am particularly passionate about encouraging the church to reflect the diversity found in their surrounding community in regard to age, gender, ethnicity, education, economic status, etc. I am a husband, father of 4, graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, an avid cyclist and fly-fisherman still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

6 responses to “What is the greater fear?”

  1. Greg says:

    Your first paragraph had me laughing.

    I think if churches read our last 2 books it would help them adapt to read a new generation. Unfortunately those that need to read these books are not always open to the new concepts found within them. Good Challenge Dan. Developing this level of trust will be difficult and indeed require a shift in priorities.

  2. Hi Dan,

    You stated, “In order to help students develop strong critical thinking skills it is necessary at times to challenge their assumptions and encourage them to consider topics from multiple perspectives. This does not happen without the development of a level of trust between instructors and students that provides them some freedom to explore, debate, questions and challenge thinking.”

    I argued for much the same in my post this week too. I think the problem is especially difficult in larger institutions. In our little university where we all do life together and know one another so well, that trust is able to be built. It is still challenging working with Gen Z but those personal relationships where we eat meals together and walk together on the trails are beginning to break down the barriers and create relationships of trust. I agree that next generation youth are crying out for mentoring and sages in their lives. But it takes awhile to build the trust for this to actually happen.

  3. Great post, Dan!

    I was interested to read your take on this text, especially since the two of us are tackling the topic of Millennials in our dissertations.
    You mention, “perception is not necessarily reality and “college students are an easy punching bag and target for generalizations.” Yes. I completely agree. Lukianoff and Haidt assert that we struggle with three untruths, including the idea of an “us versus them” mentality. However, much of the book created a schism and projection of otherness.

    For instance, Fast Company published an article on the varied definitions of diversity and inclusion based on generations. Overall, Millennials were the highest when it came to cognitive diversity.

    The perspective of Millennials:

    Millennials view diversity as the blending of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives within a team, which is known as cognitive diversity. They also use the word to describe the combination of these unique traits to overcome challenges and achieve business goals. Millennials view cognitive diversity as a necessary element for innovation, and are 71% more likely to focus on teamwork (https://www.fastcompany.com/3046358/millennials-have-a-different-definition-of-diversity-and-inclusion).

    The perspective of Boomers and Generation X:

    These generations view diversity as a representation of fairness and protection to all, regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Inclusion for boomers and gen-Xers is the business environment that integrates individuals of all of the above demographics into one workplace. It’s a moral and legal imperative, in other words: the right thing to do to achieve compliance and equality, regardless of whether it benefits the business (Ibid.)

    In closing, the journalist revealed that “86% of millennials feel that differences of opinion allow teams to excel” (Ibid.)

    What has been your experience in generational differences regarding diversity and inclusion? Have you seen a differing perspective?

  4. Jay Forseth says:


    I was interested and so impressed with your perspective on the changing student experience you have witnessed. Thank you for writing on this!

    I suppose I should have seen it coming, with the way my kids had life differently than we did.

    Then again, I think every generation believes the one after has been coddled…

  5. Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Dan! I was wondering how you would receive this book based our shared higher ed experience. I have much to say and only captured a bit in my blog. I feel that you can connect to my main theme of – students are different than they used to be. How and why that is isn’t just as simple as coddling – but I can’t pinpoint all of it. I just know higher ed is more challenging in so many ways…
    Thank you for your excellent perspective and important reminders about generalizations!

  6. Kyle Chalko says:

    Dan great tie to our responsibility for ministry. These are issues we need to deal with somehow in the local church as well as the unviersal church.

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