Across the United States churches are navigating their way through generational fragmentation. As the Traditional Generation (1945 or before) and the Baby Boomer Generation (1946-1964) remain viable, active, and in control of American faith communities, traditional approaches to ministry are failing to connect with Generation X (1965-1976), Millennials (1977-1995), and the emerging Centennial Generation (1996-present) (“Generational Breakdown,” 2016; Glassford & Barger-Elliot, 2011). As churches attempt to reach the vast array of generations while also retaining the veteran saints who provide the overall stability for many faith communities, generational fragmentation is undermining the purpose of the church. The Apostle Paul provides the church with a clear mission to prepare disciples of Jesus Christ for works of service in order to attain unity in faith and a knowledge of the Son of God by becoming mature, attaining to a complete reflection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:12-13). However, a fragmented church is unable to fully accomplish this task.
Generational fragmentation manifests itself in the church on two levels: fragmentation of the body of Christ in age-based specialized ministries that physically separate generations from one another, and fragmentation along lines of spiritual maturity (White, 1988). These two levels of fragmentation are related to one another because they cause seasoned members of the faith community to be separate from younger ones, which prevents proper teaching and development from the deep well these seasoned individuals could be providing (Glassford & Barger-Elliot, 2011).
Since the best ideas come out of irritation and a hunger for success (Michalko, 2010), ministry leaders need to bring this problem to light for the generations of their ministries to see. By making the generations aware of this fragmentation it may inspire idea fluency and flexibility (Michalko, 2010).
How can ministry leaders partner with congregants to overcome generational fragmentation?
Generational Breakdown: Info About All of the Generations. (2016). Retrieved from http://genhq.com/faq-info-about-generations/
Glassford, D., & Barger-Elliot, L. (2011). Toward Intergenerational Ministry in a Post-Christian Era. Christian Education Journal, 8(2), 364–378.
Michalko, M. (2006). Thinkertoys: a handbook of creative-thinking techniques (2nd ed). Berkeley, Calif: Ten Speed Press.
Osmer, R. R. (2005). The teaching ministry of congregations (1st ed). Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.
White, J. W. (1988). Intergenerational religious education: models, theory, and prescription for interage life and learning in the faith community. Birmingham, Ala: Religious Education Press.