One thing that most excites me about the Spire Platform is it provides an opportunity for the younger and older leaders in our movement to connect and share 24/7, real time! No more waiting for an annual conference. The older can dip into the fresh ideas of the younger right now. The younger can soak in the wisdom of the older right now. And we can all be better together because of it.
This is so needed. I know firsthand. I’m Tyler. I’m a Millennial. I lead a church.
So, I have come to discover few things cause more squabbles, resentment, sanctimoniousness, and division in the American Church than the gap between generations, particularly Millennials vs. Boomers. Many churches focus on reaching Millennials at the expense of Boomers who built it. Many others allow Boomers to institutionalize tired methods at the expense of an increasingly apathetic generation of Millennials.
I recently experienced an extremely healthy senior leadership transition at the church I now lead with its Founding Pastor, Bob Cherry. He’s a Boomer. Through that process we discovered there is a way to bridge this gap, to harness its negative potential for momentum in the life of a church. But it all boils down to understanding and resisting the tension that naturally divides us. Surprisingly, what pulls us apart is a shared set of assumptions all generations believe together. No matter your age, we tend to believe three things:
1. Every generation recognizes it is different than others.
2. Every generation believes their brand of different is right.
3. Every generation believes every other generation’s brand of different is wrong.
Here is the problem, there is only one true statement above, and it is not #3 or #2. It is #1. Every generation is undeniably different, but we would be ignoring history and our call to humility if we would not admit every generation gets some things profoundly right and others profoundly wrong. Getting things wrong doesn’t make us bad, it makes us human.
Let me explain differently. Every generation falls prey to two generational myths as we grow older. When we are younger, we believe “The Myth of Progress.”
“We are finally taking the world somewhere! If we could just get these dinosaurs out the way we could finally move beyond our parents and grandparents! Because you guys had yearbooks, we have Facebook. You had encyclopedias, we got Google. You had snail-mail, we have e-mail. You did a lot of bad and wrong! We are here to make that bad good and that wrong right because we are the #Millennials, #LivingtheDream, #YOLO, #Everything.”
Now I love Millennials. I am one. But Millennials, if you think our generation is the climactic point of human history, you have bought the myth. And I can’t wait to see how you respond when you hear what your kids and grandkids say about you!
On the flipside, as we grow older we move out of “The Myth of Progress” and into “The Myth of the Good-Old-Days.”
“The Good-Old-Days when life was simple and people believed in God and hard work. Sure, you have Google, but we have patience. You have Facebook, but we have face-to-face conversations. You have iPhones, skinny jeans, and two college degrees, but we still pay your bills!”
You ever noticed how every older generation tends to shame the young? We deserve it sometimes, but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes our brand of different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. And sometimes different isn’t just different, it’s better. Let me cite some examples of how the older shame Millennials today:
“They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb the corporate step ladder. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial.” Said Time Magazine about Millennials Generation X in 1990! …Now wait! I thought Millennials were the only worst generation ever! Let’s try this again.
“The NOW Generation has become the ME Generation.” Said the New York Times about Millennials Boomers in 1976. …Now hold on! I thought Millennials were the ones taking this country to hell in a handbasket. Let’s give this one more go!
“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today.” Said Hesiod in the 8th century BC.
Hmmm… Interesting. It’s almost as if the older generation has been shaming their young since the beginning of time! What’s my point? Every generation is different, but every generation thinks their different is right and every other generation’s different is wrong. And that is wrong.
If you are reading this and you are stuck in “The Myth of the Good-Old-Days,” I want to remind you it’s a myth. You made mistakes. There is a part of your past that needs repenting of. There are corrections being made today by our youth that deserve applause. The mission of the Church never changes but the methods must, and the young can be a catalyst in that. If you’re reading today and you are stuck in “The Myth of Progress,” hear me – New does not necessarily mean good! In fact, Jesus’ teachings are 2,000 years old but last time I checked they are still the best thing on the market.
Speaking of Jesus, you know who God calls us to be? Not Millennials, Boomers, or GenXers. He certainly does not call us to be divided. He calls us to be a family. You know how a healthy family treats one another? The young respect the old. They listen as if the older actually have wisdom to offer. And the old believe in the young. They encourage, equip, and empower them. They sacrifice everything for them because they recognize the young carry their legacy.
Let’s be a family, the family of God. What unites us spiritually is bigger than what divides us generationally. Let’s bridge the generational gap! That starts with the humility to admit, “We got some things right! …But so do they.” And the humility to admit, “They got some things wrong! …But so do we.”
ABout the Writer
Tyler McKenzie is the Lead pastor of Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.