Why Millennials, X-ers, Boomers and Busters Need Each Other

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For all of the generational tribalism going around these days, the truth remains: the church should be multigenerational.

There is so much conversation lately about Millennials and the church. Seems every blogger has addressed this subject from one angle or another.

After reading the blogs and counterblogs, it seems to me that the crux of the matter involves two things:

a) a vast exaggeration of what generations think of each other, as if everyone born in a certain time period automatically approaches their faith the same way

b) the inability or unwillingness of various people groups, generations, to listen to each other well.

The former has been addressed at length already. But I’m not sure the latter problem—listening—is discussed enough.

As a thirty-something, I’m right at the edge of Generation X and looking behind me at Millennials. I consider myself a Millennial in many respects, though I disagree with some of the characterization of this generation, and even the overuse of the term.

What worries me the most about this conversation, as a pastor, is the sense of tribalism, this idea of “my generation is going to stick together and fight for our rights in church life” that goes against the ethos of body life in Christ.

The church should be multigenerational.

Young listening to old, old listening to young, all followers of Christ working out their salvation in fear and trembling.

So, at the risk of adding another tired voice to the pile of opinions on this subject, I offer five ways that generations (Millenials, Gen X-ers, Boomers, Busters and any other group not given a clever name) can listen and grow in Christ together:

1. Younger Leaders Should Find Several Older Leaders as Mentors.

For youngish leaders like me, we should recognize our wisdom deficit. We have much to learn from wise, older leaders who have gone before us.

I’m grateful to have in my life several older pastors who pour into me wisdom and knowledge and, at times, rebuke. I love to drink from the rich fountain of their experiences.

Not only do I come away with workable ideas for my own leadership, I recognize the value of the way a previous generation dealt with issues. I learn the stories.

The best way to set up a relationship like this is to simply ask. You’d be surprised how many seasoned pastors or lay leaders would love to sit down for coffee and chat. You don’t need a curriculum or a structure, just a couple hours of uninterrupted time together.

The way I do it is simple. If there is someone I’d love to learn from, I call or email and say something like, “Hey, I’d love to go out for coffee or lunch or something and pick your brain on some things.” Easy. You don’t even have to say the word, “mentor.”

I have found that the most valuable wisdom I’ve gleaned is through casual conversations, by me asking probing questions about a person’s life and ministry. What’s surprising is that you will find older and younger generations have a lot more in common than you think.

Daniel Darling Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). For five years, Dan served as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, and his latest, Activist Faith. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area.

More from Daniel Darling or visit Daniel at http://www.danieldarling.com

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  • williamshaw545

    Spot on. May everyone take notice. The lobbing generational hand grenades back and forth over no man’s land from slit trench to slit trench needs to stop. Could the root of this be an American culture that breeds hyper individualism, a common malaise that covers every generation?