Generational Gaps

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from Mission Summit Conversations (June 2013)

  • Insights
    • Societal pressure separates the generations, and the church must act in a counter-cultural way to foster intergenerational relationships.
    • We at times allow silos based on age or place in life in our congregations. When we don’t bridge these, we start talking in “should” and “they” instead of “we” and how we can work together.
    • God has always been at work through generations. We see it in the relationship between Timothy and his grandmother. Before that we saw it between Moses and Joshua; between Elijah and Elisha.
    • In our churches, it is often, though not always, that younger generations ask why, challenge norms, question traditions, begin new ministries, stop doing things that no longer work, and bring new songs to our churches. This new life is part of the organic nature of church. Growth that comes in the spring. At the same, older generations are just as vital. They bring wisdom and experience. They bring a history of life and church. They can ask hard questions and challenge the passion of new ideas.  It is in the combination of the two that God works. When these are not in connection, the church is out of balance.
  • Challenges
    • Building bridges to talk about commitment and what that looks like at different times in life.
    • There is a great deal of variety within each generation, but there are definite differences between generations as well.  Different generations have different gifts and resources to offer and should not be expected to offer the gifts of other generations.  Further, when there are only a few representatives of a generation, they should not be expected to represent their whole generation, or do the work of all their generation.
  • Experiments
    • How do buildings impact community?  How do different generations view the buildings?
    • Ask why we want to reach another generation?
    • Work to develop opportunities for these type of experiences in the congregation, gather data and seek “patterns” of God’s whispers.  These local church experience information points need to inform the conversations at association/area levels, regional levels, and denomination levels.

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from the Mission Table (November 2013)

  • Perspectives
    • Young people don’t relate to spirituality as much
    • Youth do not want to listen
    • They value experiential over substance (songs over theology)
  • Insights
    • The generational gap issue is bigger than ‘worship style’
    • Age is not absolute – spiritual maturity
    • We lend to the problem because we segregate youth from adults
    • The very young value relationships more than young adults and seniors
  • Challenges

The image of the church is stagnant

  • CAVE – Churches Against Virtually Everything is part of the problem
  • Experiments/Projects
    • Youth are outcome driven – we must ‘show love,’ and not just on Sundays
    • Must be willing to engage youth (combined services and programs vs. separate)
    • Stories must be shared to maintain history
    • Family-Oriented fellowship
    • Small groups and impromptu gatherings work well for younger individuals
    • Pair youth with adults/mentoring

Read the full notes:

Mission Summit Conversations:

Mission Table:

Views expressed are the sole opinion of conversation participants. They do not express the views of American Baptist Churches USA, or individual American Baptist churches. Conversation notes and summaries are shared to allow American Baptists and friends to easily review and use these Mission Summit Conversations and the Mission Table learnings as they wish.