One of the biggest challenges that exists in both the church internally and in the church's outreach or mission is that for the first time in modern history, six generations are now alive at the same time in the church.
This includes Seniors/GI Generation (1900-1924), Silent Generation (1925-1945), Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1982ish), Millennials (1983-2000ish), Digitals (2001-).
The Seniors/GI and Silent generations grew up in an overwhelmingly churched culture/mindset, a culture that began to break down for the Boomers in their teen and young adulthood years and which has fallen off the map for younger generations.
Here are some of the major characteristics of the Senior/GI Generation, dubbed by Tom Brokaw as The Greatest Generation due to their incredible hard work, sacrifice and accomplishments--from defeating evil in World War II, to fighting and winning the Cold War, to inventing the Atomic Bomb, to landing a man on the moon and other great scientific breakthroughs and achievements. (Source Material - Generations by Strauss and Howe.)
Seniors/GI Generation (1900-1924)
- 63 million (9% immigrant)
- Children - Silent and Boomer Generations
- Grandchildren - Typically Gen X
This generation of incredible leaders, with their faith and optimism and scientific approach, achieved so much, creating the many gains that we today now take for granted. As with culture, many churches stayed with these leaders from this generation for a long, long time, being somewhat skeptical of passing the mantel on to other generations.
Some of the culture clashes for today's generations include:
On the latter issue, Reggie McNeal in his The Present-Future DVD set talks about how this generation values being together so much because that is how they won World War II--by everyone doing this together. So, for instance, having multiple services is hard for them, as well as small groups. "Going to church" was a duty, a service, so not meeting at those regular Sunday evening or Wednesday evening times is disturbing to that sense of duty. That is why this group must be given "permisssion" to not go or explained to why something like small groups could be helpful to the church.
Also, this group--made up of GIs or "Governement Issue" folk--equates unity with uniformity. So if people are doing different things at the same time, even if there is no dispute or disharmony, that to this group equals not being unified.
There is, of course, value in doing things together. In Nehemiah 2-4, Israel re-built the wall of Jerusalem by all working together and each family building beside their home. Our splintered, fractured lives could use more of this rolling up our sleeves and working together. Unity in Scripture, however, does not come from uniformity--we are people with many different backgrounds, views, races, socio-economic levels, gifts, etc.--but from Christ and the Spirit, who give us unity (Eph. 4:1f). Our role is to seek to reflect the unity that we have been given, despite our differences.
What do you think of this generation? What are its strengths and challenges?