Tuesday Re-mix -
So much of the conflict I see in churches today falls into a general category I call “Generational Issues”. I don’t hold myself out as an expert in the social changes ushered in by each of the last few generations, but I think any of you would agree that the various generations represented in the American church today are radically different from one to the next in terms of how they communicate, how they form and maintain relationships, and how they worship. Obviously, there are no clear, bright lines of division. Moreover, there are plenty of obvious exceptions to the prevailing preferences of generations (i.e., not all senior citizens prefer traditional church music to contemporary, etc.). But the youngest adult generations in the church are approaching God and the church so very differently than their grandparents did that it is bound to raise some difficult issues for us all to work through.
But the problem is never as simple as sitting down and figuring out who is right and who is wrong. Oh how much easier my job would be if it were that simple! No, the bigger challenge by far is getting each side of a generational issue to even care much about the other side. The problem in many (most?) of our churches, it seems to me, is the lack of relationship between and among the generations.
I see it often. A church begins to have serious worship style conflict, so they call someone (me) in to help them work through it. When I ask one side to articulate the fears and motives of the other side, they cannot even come close. They cannot do that, because they are not even trying to understand the fears and motives of the other side. All they can see is the conduct, and they interpret that as “they just don’t care about us”. But if I were to ask them if they are a friendly church, they would all agree, “Oh yes! It’s nothing like that! Of course we are friendly. We don’t have any problems like that around here!”
You can see that, where there are no genuine relationships between generations in a church, as soon as an issue comes along that has generational overtones (like worship music), the lines will draw quickly and clearly. It is not because the relationships are broken. It is because the relationships were not there in the first place!
So, the challenge is this: how do we in the church create friendships across generational lines? How can we be more intentional about service projects and ministry opportunities that have multiple generations working side by side? How can we strategically structure opportunities for mentoring relationships between our older folks and our younger folks? How can we create an environment where generations are taking the time to learn one another’s “languages” and games and stories and struggles?
These are serious questions. I would love to hear from you on this subject! Would you use the comment feature below and tell me some creative ways your church has found to forge better relationships between generations? Please!