We’re facing a clash of generations in America.
The Baby Boomers – the generation of “The Sixies”, Woodstock, and The Beatles singing, “You say you want a revolution…” – are kicking and screaming into retirement; while the Millennials – the first generation of “digital natives” (see http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/04/business/digital-native-prensky/) and the most-observed generation in history – are facing their 30’s.
Boomers don’t want to give up control – and Millennials are in effect saying, who needs you? And are creating new ways of doing things. This phenomenon is true with everything from pocket-sized computers (thinly disguised as cell phones) to the Church. This trend is maybe mostly true in the Church. Millennials are walking away from traditional churches en masse – and a new generation of pastors would rather plant new churches than take on an established, traditional church.
Yes, most Millennials want and are seeking out growing relationships with older, significant adults as mentors. (See https://hbr.org/2010/05/mentoring-millennials.) But, from my perspective, the generations are looking at the basic aspects of ministry very, very differently. It is my conclusion that the different generations need each other, probably more than ever before. But, it often look like the two generations are speaking different languages when it comes to ministry.
- Boomers think mentoring is an “information dump” (like orientation sessions) – Millennials want relationships with significant, older people.
- Boomers think discipleship is a series of scheduled meetings – Millennials want to do life together.
- Boomers think evangelism is most often a systematic presentation – Millennials seek to build relationship within communities.
- Boomers think structured church programs should fill up their weekend schedules – Millennials are more attracted to relational conversations around a cup of coffee.
- Boomers think Millennials should “pay their dues” before assuming positions of leadership – Millennials believe they have much to offer and want a voice in influencing the direction of the organization.
- Boomers want fellowship with others from their own generation – Millennials crave growing relationships with members of other generations.
The generations need each other in the church. What can we do to build growing and intentional, inter-generational connections in the Church?