Rodney’s Reflection: Generations

I was born in 1974, which means I am in the center of what sociologist call Generation X.  I grew up on Popeye, Tom and Jerry, The A Team, The Wonder Years, and TGIF. When I was in elementary school, my dad was pastor at a church with a strong Senior Adult ministry (60+ year olds). I was able to attend events with my parents and go on trips, this lead to adopted grandparents and cheerleaders in my life.

I have two children who are considered Generation Z and a Generation Alpha child living in my house. 

What generation are you?  

On any given Sunday at Aldersgate UMC we have 5 – 7 generations worshiping all together. I believe this is an asset. When I look out into the congregation each Sunday, I see the beautiful mosaic of the body of Christ. As the pastor of this diverse body, I feel the unique challenge of being responsible for the spiritual development and care of all the generations. Each generation thinks differently, processes differently, communicates differently, and are experiencing different stages of life.

Each generation often emphasizes a different aspect of the church bringing different gifts, talents, and life experiences. For example: 

    The Silent Generation’s key word about church is “Sanctuary”

    Boomers’ key word in church is “Vision”

    Generation X focus in the church is “Relationships”

    Millennial generation’s key word is “Authenticity” 

I am aware these are broad generalization and I know they are not universal. However, they are an illustration of how important it is to recognize our generational difference and find ways to  connect with each other. Multigenerational Ministry is challenging but important. Those same differences create a beautiful tapestry and unique giftedness that brings richness to the body of Christ.

Yes, we see ministry, preaching, and change differently. Silent and Boomer generations are more comfortable with denominational structures and mission organizations. Yet, most GenX-ers and Millennials want to know who they are supporting and have hands on ministry opportunities.  They like to have face-to-face interactions with mission partners. For younger generations, the rapid change and uncertainty of our world means they are more comfortable with change or at least the speed of change. Where Boomer and Silents may be more hesitate with change and uncomfortable with moving fast.

Here is what I know…  We need all generations. We are better together. We need children, youth, parents, grandparents, and adapted grandparents. Together we can provide a sense of purpose to both children and older adults. We can cultivate opportunities for all age groups to learn new skills. Multigenerational community alleviates the void of missing or distant grandparents/grandchildren. Reduce loneliness and isolation, and decrease the likelihood of depression. If we are willing to learn from each other. If we are willing to stay connected, spend time in conversation, lean into our unique gifts, talents, and assets each generation has to offer, we will be a more richly effective community.  

Will this be easy?  No.  

Will it happen without problems or misunderstandings?  No. 

However, it is important work. When the body of Christ is at its best, we will be multigenerational. We will be all generations aligned in God’s Love for each other and for our neighbor.  
Thank you for being a multigenerational church. Thank you for pursuing Christ’s love in your life and for sharing it with your neighbor.  As we continue our journey forward, fulfilling God’s mission, we need each other. I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday as we continue Loving Large.

Rodney Whitfield
Lead Pastor