Saturday, April 28, 2007

Missional - Missional Ministry must be generational

I believe on of the biggest challenges to missional ministry is the need for the ministry to be cross generational. A great value is lost when we focus on only one segment of the population:

The follow generations are the ones sitting in our churches today:

Traditional workers (born before 1946): They value loyalty and discipline, and they respect authority and hierarchy.

Baby Boomers (1946-1960): They have great expectations of success. Currently, this group occupies positions of higher corporate responsibility, and has the largest proportion of workaholics in history. This is also the generation that gave birth to the “Yuppie” phenomenon.

Generation X (1961-1979): This generation has the best academic training and international experience in history. They have begun to make a break with traditional patterns of behavior, demanding a more informal environment and abandoning hierarchical authority in favor of a more horizontal and flexible structure. They have pioneered policies that involve flexibility and conciliation. This generation is rich in entrepreneurs because personal initiative predominates within a context of skepticism toward large enterprises.

Generation Y (starting from 1980): Generation Y is the first in history to have lived their entire lives with information technology. It is not easy for them to understand the world without it. Like members of Generation X, their childhood was comfortable and prosperous. They are more individualistic than earlier generations and demand autonomy in their opinions and behavior. They emphasize personal activities above social and labor considerations.

As you can see there are vast differences between these groups. Add to that the environment i.e. urban, suburban, and rural and you can the mix of generational factors the church faces today.

If we are to have truly missional ministry in a community, when will be able to involve all generations. Each will be counted on to bring their strengths to the mission and contribute as God as gifted.

To many times today ministry is aged focused. We need more cross generational opportunities. Whets wrong with all worshipping together, learning together or serving together? We need the ability to pass on wisdom down and up the generational chain. Traditionals and Boomers need x,yer's knowledge of technology and our changing world. X and Yer's need their commitment to getting the job done, experience and determination.

True communitas can only come across the generations when we are all committed to a common mission with common purpose. Leaving groups behind does not create communitas it creates division.

How can we strive for our missional communities to be cross generational?

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Makeesha said...

I have a hard time seeing this happen in our environment - - aside from service and mentors, there isn't much "mixing" of the generations and I'm not sure how (or if I want to) change that.

Webb Kline said...

Hey Jerry, bro, you're the one trying to get yourself into a position where you have to deal with it. Looks like its up to you to come back someday and teach us how, eh? ;)

Myself, I don't have any problem reaching across generational lines and reaching those young punks. They're too big for their britches and I can still tell 'em a thing or two. :D

Makeesha said...

oh pshaw webb - - you only wish ;)

outside of traditional institutional Christianity with programs and ministries up the wazoo, I've never seen really well integrated organic cross cultural communities...just like I haven't seen ethnically diverse communities outside of those environments. But we're praying that we can do it. I'd love to hear how others have done it.

Andy in Germany said...

Hmm... Tough one. In our context (rural Germany) it's even more extreme because the pre 1946ers have experienced so much more. It's also a far more traditional environment and church. From experience though the younger ones seem more willing to reach out to the older people. Many of the old folk try and stop anything changing then just sulk and stay away if things aren't to their liking. There’s not even very much mentoring- we are vary much “Professional Church” and that’s the youth pastor’s job. Older generations have always been told that pastor does stuff, they fill the pews on Sunday.

We also have another change: 1989. My Generation can remember people making a difference and the Wall coming down, whereas people born after that remember the continued economic struggle to bring 1/3 of our country from a mess to the same level as the rest and are more pessimistic about change.

I think another issue we have is that some (not all) of the older folk aren't Christians. They think they are, but never got to the relationship stage, just the tradition. So we have a lack of spiritual older people with experience who want to reach out to the young people: many just see the young people as a problem. Otherwise I'd suggest encouraging the older members to adopt younger ones in prayer and maybe discipleship. We made the mistake of trying to be cross-generational by asking to join an older small group. We were turned down flat for being "Too young"

Maybe one answer lies in getting the believers together across the generations first and then encouraging each group to reach out to their own generation. The believers could meet together once a week perhaps with the focus on encouraging each other and praying for each other in the specific situations each generational group is facing in their outreach. But that would require some major hurdles to be crossed. Thank goodness we aren’t ultimately responsible and the Holy Spirit can work beyond our means…

Makeesha said...

I have nothing more to say about the OP but Andy, I wanted to thank you for sharing your experience. It's always so good for me as an American to hear other people's experiences from outside the US - - it's a lot of "oh yeah, I can totally see how that would be the case, I never thought of that before" :) so thanks.

tbg58 said...

Multigenerational ministry has always been necessary, but two factors make it moreso for today's church: we're living longer, and the pace of cultural change continues to accelerate.
I've seen no better treatment of intergenerationality than a talk three years ago by Ed Marcelle, pastor of Terra Nova in Troy, New York -- may I commend this audio cut to you:
(you'll need to make the above lines into one line for the link to work)

In it, Ed talks about inter-generational dynamics and the fact that in every group of people (church or other) there is an emerging generation (the younger leaders), an established generation (those who hold most influence), and a generation of emeriti, who have made their splash and aren't competing for the limelight any more, but who bring valuable wisdom to the table.
Each of these generations has unique strengths and unique vulnerabilities: The emerging generation is in touch with new ideas and vision but sometimes lacks the wisdom to understand long-term consequences. The established generation is at the top of its ability and influence, it has resources and the ability to get things done, but may expend too much energy on maintaining control. The older generation have wisdom and "big-picture" vision, but is increasingly out of touch with new ideas.
These are some of the ideas Marcelle fleshes out -- very worthwhile stuff.
Enjoy reading your blog! keep up the good work.

Makeesha said...

hey rob, you're the one who took the nakedchurch wordpress blog name that we wanted ;)

our Revolution site is , you can see why we wanted nakedchurch.