Jessica Stollings, author, speaker, and founder of ReGenerations, discussed the power of "generational intelligence" at Aspen Group's Pastors Lunches this year.
With all of today’s generations coming together under one roof at church for a common purpose, the church is in a unique position to leverage the strengths of each generation for the common good of the congregation and the Kingdom. But in order for the church to do this, it must first understand the differences between each generation.
For instance, in most churches you'll find people who represent Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and iGen. These generations span more than a century of American history and hold a unique set of expectations concerning communication etiquette, workplace and church behavior and attire, and authority.
Each generation sees the world a bit differently because of their varied upbringings, says Stollings. For example, Traditionalists, who grew up during WWII and saw the change in primary media from radio to Internet, see life in a dramatically different way than Millennials, who grew up with information constantly available at their fingertips. Likewise, Baby Boomers who grew up during the civil rights movement and the Cold War see things differently than Generation Xers, who grew up during the 1980s and witnessed the Berlin Wall crumble and the Tiananmen Square protests.
According to a Forbes article that Stollings cites, generational conflict is one of the primary disruptors in the workplace. Similarly, generational differences can lead to conflict in the church too. The church can create widespread generational understanding by establishing intentional multi-generational ministry programs and creating new ways for generations to interact with each other in church. Mentorship, mixed-age small groups, intentional conversations, learning activities, and reverse mentoring are all ways the church can bridge generations and foster understanding.
While the possibilities to bridge generation gaps are endless, Stollings cautions that bridging the chasms between generations takes much work and planning. But the benefits are worth the effort!
Be sure to register for our next major event—the 2015 Alignment Conference—taking place Thursday, October 22, in Indianapolis.