Generations snip

Jean, Bob and Pauline are wanting to start the PCC meeting on time (they’ve already printed and handed out the minutes) and you are aware that there are various agenda items they have lined up and want to deal with promptly and efficiently.

Sylvia and Ted sit quietly and respectfully, waiting for the Chair to open proceedings, and they speak only when asked a direct question. During the meeting there’s a lengthy discussion about some potential changes to the church fabric – it starts to get quite heated. Ted, when asked, comments that he has been faithfully coming for 72 years and it hasn’t needed changing before.

Helen, mum of some of the few teens in your church starts to get a bit emotional about the situation and want to keep on discussing how this is affecting her family and her friend’s family.

Dave remains at an ironic distance throughout the meeting and makes the odd sarcastic, humourous remark, whilst scrolling on his phone…

Student, Ellie, a recent new member makes a couple of attempts to volunteer for things or makes a positive suggestion, but she’s reminded by Pauline that she didn’t turn up last time she was supposed to do something, so Pauline or Jean had better do it instead (though they really don’t have time, what with everything else…)

Someone asks why there’s no parents of young children there…

No-one asks why there aren’t any teenagers there…

A caricature, but perhaps familiar?

“Everyone belongs to a generation. Some people embrace it like a warm, familiar blanket, while others prefer not to be lumped in with their age mates. Yet like it or not, when you were born dictates the culture you will experience. This includes the highs and lows of pop culture, as well as world events, social trends, economic realities, behavioural norms, and ways of seeing the world. The society that moulds you when you are young stays with you the rest of your life.”

    Jean Twengepsychology professor at San Diego State University

Generational typology takes this a step further and suggests that these influences express them selves in behaviours and attitudes that we are sometimes unaware of. The theory divides us up by birth year into some generalised groupings (theorists vary in where they make the cut-off points, and people whose birth years lie around these borders may feel that they relate to more than one grouping or none).

Generation Typology overview slide

I think its interesting stuff but how can it help us in our work across generations in our churches, and in our Mission to reach out into our communities?

Understanding more about how people tick, where they are coming from, ways they understand and see the world and the ways that they like to function can help us to avoid conflict, be more welcoming, open up dialogue between generations and perhaps be more of a loving Family of God.

So what are the groupings in Generational Theory? A whistle-stop tour…

Traditionals slide

Boomers slide

Gen x slide

Gen Y slide

Gen Z slide

So how can understanding these differences or even being aware of these differences help us in our churches. Communication, communication, communication, if we can talk to each other and understand each other, then that’s going to be good – but then I would say that, I’m a Gen xer!!