The church’s generational logjam

Pastor Keith Anderson says the church’s generational logjam is “making everyone cranky,” an observation which rings true to us here at the Cafe. In a blog posting about Congregational Connections: Uniting Six Generations in the Church by Carroll Sheppard and Nancy Burton Dilliplane, Anderson, who leads a Lutheran church in Pennsylvania writes:

We can no longer afford to lump olders together and youngers together. They [the six generations] are distinct groups with their own needs, styles, cultural references, and spiritualities. The book does a nice job describing those in a congregational context. The conflicts they create, which are described in the book, will sound familiar to many ministry leaders.

Importantly, they say, people no longer experience “middle age” but, in fact, middle ages. “Adults are now experiencing multiple “middle stages” rather than middle age. Boomers are coping with two middle stages, and many have changed careers in their forties or early fifties, having already spent 20 or 25 years in their first.”

This has all helped to create a generational log-jam. People are trying to cram into these traditional categories, and either find themselves squeezed out or jockeying for room, airspace, and leadership roles.

The leadership challenge here is clear: “Congregational leaders are faced with having to be all things to each of the six generational cohorts: Builders, Silents, Boomers, GenXers, Millennials and the young “GenZers.”

Visit his blog to see what he and the authors have to say about how this challenge should be faced.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. barbara snyder

    I don’t know. I don’t see the splits that way at all – at least, not on this website.

    Every single hot-button issue I can think of on this site crosses all generational boundaries (with the possible exception of the gay issue). CWOB, the Prayer Book, etc. – the splits of opinion were among the “age cohorts,” not between them. Isn’t this right? I mean, which issue splits reliably along generational lines? I can’t think of one – and I think this phenomenon is even more pronounced when it comes to worship issues, in fact.

    To give another example: the “New Liturgical Movement” in the Catholic Church is made up of the ancient Pope Benedict and some other greybeards, along with some Boomers – and a bunch of kids in their 20s and 30s.

    Also, I don’t think “needs, styles, cultural references, and spiritualities” are determined by age cohort (except possibly the third); aren’t these based more on personality type?

    I do think there IS something to the “micro-group” idea; small groups can be really helpful.

    And I think it’s a terrible idea to be thinking in terms of “tribes”….

  2. barbara snyder

    (I do hope people eventually get over the whole “I Tweet, therefore I am of a completely different species than you!” thing, BTW.

    Um, no….)

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