Generational Intelligence for Growing Churches
I'm a Gen X-er. Born between 1964 and 1980, my generation is sometimes referred to as the “neglected middle child,” falling between the older Baby Boomers and the burgeoning Millennials. Within the church world, I often find myself sitting between church leadership generations, and here's what I've come to understand.
The Boomers came along and said, "You know what? The church of my mom and dad is not something my friends would come to." So they reinvented the whole weekend and Sunday experience and brought excellence to it.
Then, the Gen X-ers, my generation, came along, and we rebelled against the Boomers’ approach. We said, "You know what? You guys are too corporate. You're making it too much about show." And then we reinvented the church experience and became the communal generation. We said, "You need authentic community. It'd be what God intended the church to be."
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But then guess what? The Millennials came along, and they looked at us, the Gen X-ers, and said, "You know what? You guys have become a huddle. You've become apathetic. You're not out and about in your neighborhood. And Boomers, if you just would take the money you spend on facilities and put it into digging wells in Africa or helping the poor in our communities, we would go so much further with the Gospel."
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As a consultant for Intentional Churches, one of our values is not to teach from the negative, but instead to capitalize on the best of each generation’s strengths. To fulfill the Great Commission, it takes all three generations’ approaches: missional serving; rich community; and great weekend worship/corporate experiences that help the church be what it needs to be.
From the Boomers, we still need excellence in our weekend worship experience. After all, people don't like to go to things that are not done with excellence. Think about the last time you went to a sporting event, and it was terrible getting in and out of the parking lot. It affects your overall experience, doesn’t it?
We also can learn a lot about the relentless pursuit of rich community from Gen X-ers. Community is hard to cultivate, and it takes lots of ideas and initiatives to build a real community. I’ve often said, "You have to throw everything in the kitchen sink at it [community] to get there."
Millennials have taught us about being active with our friends and neighbors. Part of building community is working shoulder-to-shoulder with other church members in service of people outside of the church, both locally and globally. Millennials challenge us to be more self-less—to do good.
But it's not just about doing good. And it's not just about growing disciples. It's both/and.
As my friend and Intentional Churches co-founder, Bart Rendel, says, “The Gospel was built for acquisition.” The Lord added to their number daily, and so we, too, must always have an outsider focus.
To add to our number daily, we need to help people acclimate to the church and help them activate in different areas of service. We must have continuously improving on-ramps to help direct people from every generation to the ministry opportunities that will allow them to use their gifts and talents.
As you think about the church you lead, what are you doing to leverage the skills and strengths of each generation in pursuit of the Great Commission? How can you take the best of all generations and apply them?
Doug Parks will be the featured speaker at Aspen Group’s Pastors Lunch on Thursday, May 12, 2016, at Maggiano’s in Naperville, Illinois. This event is designed to equip and encourage pastors and senior church leaders on “Strategic Church Growth: 7 Keys to Fueling Momentum.” Register for this free event here.