Mishandled – An Introduction II “Generational Differences”

Based on how complex my introduction from last week was, I figured there were just a few more things I needed to address to fully explore the reasons and foundations for why this series is so important. Though i am not an expert in generational studies, I would at least like to start an open discussion on the topic.

Generational studies are a very loose work. Based on where you get your information, you will find out how people differentiate between generations. There are four basic generational groups that seem predominate amongst all the studies done: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Milennials, and Digital Natives. One thing that is easily noted is that the span of a generation is getting shorter and shorter. Mark this up to postmodernism, subset by the information age, subset by the digital age and you’ll see how quickly life experiences differ from generation to generation. The truth is, there are natural groups that form around things they are most comfortable with. Kids in high school today have never known a day without a cell phone. Each technological advance ushers in a new generation: records, eight tracks, tapes, CDs, MP3s, iPods, etc.

The problems occurring between generations are based on preferences, routines, and prejudices (Check out my previous article on prejudice). What we are familiar with is what we’re comfortable with. Whether you want to admit it or not, your culture plays a major part on how you see the world and how you relate to other generations.

When I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed to listen to the contemporary Christian radio station, but I was allowed to listen to the oldies. That’s because my dad was familiar with The Beatles (who were once chided by the generation previous him) but he didn’t understand or connect with the style and marketing of Christian bands like Newsboys or DC Talk. I once heard an older man rant about a contemporary arrangement of All Hail the Power of Jesus Name saying, “I believe we’ll sing that song in heaven some day, but not that arrangement.” He then proceeded to pronounce heresy on the pastor of that church. (Music is definitely an issue I’ll be dealing with in the future of this series.)

What is oddly succinct about this current generation is that they are categorized as not having any routine. George Barna noted this in a study on teenage distinctions.

“In years gone by, we spoke of the daily routine – the predictable activities and adventures that could be charted well in advance with a high degree of certainty. For today’s young people, routine is the enemy: They love the hectic, unpredictable, ever-changing, fast pace of their existence. When things seem to get slow or predictable, they deem life too boring and meaningless. To most young people, a life that lacks surprises and discontinuity seems to be no life at all.”

This creates a unique problem because the way we used to deal with the cultural differences in the past is no longer acceptable, though I’m not so sure that the way it used to be handled was the best either. What should take place is an earnest contending for the culture that we have the chance to live through, not a perpetuation of the generation that we came from. Timothy Keller wisely notes the problem that every generation has.

“To over-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of their culture, but to under-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of the culture you come from.”

I’ve sat in the back of some church services and watched the people. For many, there is an obvious sense of being in-content. They’d rather go grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, or visiting the dentist. They are often seen multitasking in church by doing homework, translating the Greek, writing out shopping lists, or texting their friends (passing notes is an archaic form of communication). The point is, they are trying to make their time productive. The older generation looks at this with disdain. They would never bring homework to church, or use a digital devise in the pew. (Can I just put in here that not everyone using a digital device is texting their friends or playing a game. I use mine for taking notes; most of the time.) I even heard one older deacon of a church complain that he didn’t think it was respectful that the young adults were brining in their coffee mugs to the Sunday morning service. “They should go to bed earlier and wake up early enough to have their coffee before they get to church, like I do.” He said. The older generation thinks the younger generation has a lot to learn (hence the three teaching services on Sunday) and the younger generation thinks the older people need to be more productive and actually do something with their knowledge (hence why they are unsatisfied with evening services).

How do we connect these two diversely different groups? I’m not sure. Part of the problem is that the division has been allowed to widen over a long period of time. I’m afraid the only solution to this separation is for another generation, unaffected by our personal prejudices, to correct our mistakes. We must teach the Scriptures and be careful not to mishandle God’s word by passing down our generational values over the principles of scripture.

“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.”- I Corinthians 4:6


Tell Us Your Stories: This article was a huge encouragement to me as I would like to encourage the older generation on how they can disciple and minister to the younger adults.

Teens Learning to be ‘Fake’ Christians: I thought this article was interesting as it chronicles where our teens are ending up in their faith, and some suggestions on how we can pass down passion to them without teaching them how to ‘act’ Christian.

Oh how the times have changed: Here is a link tracking the digital age. Just look at how much has changed in the past 10 years.

Darrin Patrick: Below is a video ad for a new book by Re:Lit called Church Planter. What Darrin says in the video is right on topic for what is closing the doors to so many churches in America. The main problem is that values are not being passed down from generation to generation.

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4 Responses to Mishandled – An Introduction II “Generational Differences”

  1. bkleonard says:

    It’s odd that you would say this current generation is characterized as having no routine since that would probably constitute as a routine. If not, how else could they categorize it when they do these studies?

    Aside from semantics, I think generations build off and react to each other. We take what we gleam profitable from our parents and grandparents’ generations and mix it with what we see as improvements.

    Yet while we see technology and the world around us improving, the inalienable truths of the Bible do not change. For example, human nature will always be inclined to sin. We are born sinners, given to it and delighting in it. Even with all this advancement, humans still use technology to satisfy their own sinful desires. Technology didn’t free us from the human condition.

    For an exaggerated example, I’ll use the eco-terrorist who held people hostage at the Discovery Channel because he thought the channel’s programming encouraged people to have more kids. In his mind, his saw this an attack on the greater good of humanity. It’s a far jump from that conclusion to seeing how he could think his actions were justified, but in simple terms the greater good’s worth killing to protect, isn’t it?

    But his line of thought is what made him crazy. And it’s because he overlooked other truths that he came to that conclusion. Humanity’s value as a whole is directly tied to the value of indivudual life. An individual life has priceless worth, and humanity’s value comes from what it provides the individual. Without individuals, humanity doesn’t exist. And without community, what happiness would an individual place on his lonely life? (All the peace and quiet one could stand I imagine.)

    Considering this allows us some insight into connecting generational groups. It’s these most basic unchanging elements of humanity that give us all common ground. The way younger generations participate in community, faith and family is different from our parents and our younger siblings, but those elements are still present. And we all need them to lead healthy, whole adult lives.

    • Adam Miller says:

      Thanks B-Rand. There are a lot of points we could connect on. Typically churches share a certain theology, they share a common community, and they share worship. However, how theology is taught, how the community is reached, and what style of worship they use is culturally or traditionally executed. The things fought over are not the core values, but it’s where they choose to disagree and separate.

      I’m going to add a few links to the post. I’d be interested in seeing what you think.

  2. Amber Monroe says:

    “I’m afraid the only solution to this separation is for another generation, unaffected by our personal prejudices, to correct our mistakes.”

    That’s pretty big….and ultimately ineffective. All successful persuasion begins with the other person’s mindset (their prejudices, preconceptions, daily experiences, etc.) as the starting point and moves on from there. You can’t take a person from point 1 to point 2 when they’re at point Q. It takes a lot of effort to navigate a point of view that is completely different from your own, and few are up for the exertion, but it is necessary for effective ministry! (I say this with some reserve because of course we are wholly reliant upon the Spirit for any success whatsoever…I have to figure out how to better articulate these ideas). I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this is involved in teaching within the context of a church, primarily in areas like Sunday school (for adults or children) and youth group…especially youth group and especially as it relates to teaching someone to be passionate about the LORD as opposed to following a set of rules…

    I read the article by Dean (I’ve actually read a couple of her books. I took several youth ministry courses while I was at Messiah…). One thing that struck me was that few teens are really excited about Christianity because they don’t see the immediate payoff. It seems the principle of sowing and reaping is completely lacking in the rising generation (I have enough trouble with it in my own life), but also that they don’t see the genuine payoff in the lives of the adults monitoring the rules with which they are expected to comply.

  3. Pingback: Generational Differences | Worthy of the Gospel

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