From Generation to Generation

How many generations are present in your congregation?  Look through the list and see which groups are represented where you attend.

  • The Builders Generation: Born 1945 and before
  • The Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964
  • Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976
  • The Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995
  • Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: Born 1996 to about 2015
  • Generation Alpha, or the Glass Generation: Born 2016 to present

Our approach to inter-generational ministry is essential.  However, it is important to note that it is difficult to pin people with specific characteristics by age group.  Geography and culture can have a significant impact on individuals.  So, while it is essential to be aware of the following observations, some people will display characteristics from other generations.  These individuals may do so for some reasons beyond the scope of this post.  Still, I am hoping to give you a starting point for conversations, interests, and further ministry to those in these groups.  It is also important to note that the number of Christians represented in each generation drops an estimated 50% from the previous generation.

The Builders Generation: Born 1945 and before

Currently, this is the generation that has seen it all.  My two living grandmothers are a part of this generation.  When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to listen to the stories from this generation.  And, they loved to tell them.  They grew up in what seemed like a much different reality than ours.  Some in this generation were born before the Great Depression and World War II.  Now, what they have left is their legacy, with much of it left in the stories they pass on as individuals.  As a group, they helped to usher in the technology and industry that is so common now.  Christianity to them is a rational worldview that does not need to be questioned.

Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964

This is my parent’s generation.  Shaped by World War II but most were not born yet.  It is in this group (and the following generation) that technology would become more streamlined.  They maintained much of the Builder’s generation values in the beginning but eventually began to challenge them and proved to be a transitional group.  This group was hit with the philosophy of existentialism or the “you can be whatever you put your mind to” approach.  There was a great deal of optimism in this worldview.  This was only further by a difference in approach to finances.  The Builder’s saved and paid in cash.  This generation began to learn about loans and credit.   Pragmatism (practical approaches) further marks this generation and the next.  Again, Christianity is still a rational worldview that requires very little empirical evidence.

Generation X: Born 1965 to 1982

This is still a practical generation but learned to be a skeptic of everything.  This generation deals the most with being disconnected from others.  They are the first generation to really see the influence of nationwide broadcasts and computers in the home.  However, when it comes to the previous history, they really want a fresh start.  Generation X has seen political corruption come to the forefront and were introduced a greater awareness of global affairs.  Due to the growing skepticism, Christianity is seen as therapy.  Come to God in times of need and when you are worried.  This group also witnessed the rise of the megachurch, a result of the pragmatic ministry of previous generations.

Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1983 to 1995

This is my generation and the group that seems to be targeted the most for its failures.  However, the previous generation began to see greater occurrences of broken families and the subsequent generations have felt that brokenness in society ever since.  We are millennials because we were at least young adults at the turn of the century.  In fact, the most significant event of our Generation’s identity is 9/11 because of our ability to understand its consequences.  Our generation has seen the exponential growth of technology.  I can remember our first home PC when I was around five and our first mobile phone at the age of 10 that was carried in its own satchel.  Our generation approaches Christianity through as a community to belong to and is not as concerned about buildings as previous generations.  Instead, we want authentic engagement with spiritual disciplines and social justice.  The mission of an organization or Church is vital to us.

Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: Born 1996 to about 2015

My oldest daughter and my son were born at the tail end of this generation.  The iPhone, the war on terror, economic disparity, changing politics, are all significant influencers on this generation that makes up the youngest of adults and those that are now entering pre-school.  Communication happens mostly behind a screen.  Apart from the feeling of disconnection experienced by Gen X and some Millennials, Generation Z is always connected because of technology and social media.  In fact, videos on social media are the way to connect (as long as it’s under five to ten minutes). Gossip always seemed to travel fast, but now it is instantaneous.  Just think of how newsgroups are utilizing live feeds on social media over breaking news on TV.  Even for myself, I don’t watch the news on TV.  I just look at Facebook. They live against the positivism of Sesame Street from their childhood.   However, mental health in this generation is severely affected, and studies are now showing a connection between this reality and screen time. Right now, Generation Z is also the least religious of any living generation.

Generation Alpha, or the Glass Generation: 2016 to present

This final generation is the least researched generation.  Mostly, because the oldest is just around two years old.  My youngest daughter is in this group.  They are called the glass generation not because they will be so brittle and require care like a piece of glass, but instead, their pacifiers have always been smartphones.  The use and aim of technology will continue to be driven by this group and the previous.  For parents, this is a real concern.  For Christians, there needs to be a real focus on children’s ministry, even the nursery.  It is not just an option anymore.  Building up the faith of our children starts at birth.

References

A neat group that focuses research on generations, primarily millennial and younger: http://genhq.com/

The Younger Evangelicals by R. E. Webber is another excellent read for generational.