Generation labels less predictible among young




Back in the 1940s, an average adult American male would live a shorter life than today’s man, would likely live his life in the same town and possibly hold the same job from his 20s until retirement.

There were two kinds of music, as Gary Smith noted when he addressed a breakout session at last fall’s SBTC Pastors’ Conference, secular and sacred. Multiple generations listened to the same music, wore many of the same clothing styles and viewed the world similarly.

Change was slow.

In the 1950s and ’60s demographers talked of the “generation gap.” Today, there isn’t a generation gap; there are multiple gaps. It’s possible in some households to see a 14-year-old “Millennial” occupying the same address as his 90-year-old “Builder” great-grandma.

Great-grandma remembers Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. The 14-year-old, only age 5 at the time, barely remembers the Oklahoma City bombing.

Such is the world we live in.

Smith, pastor of Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, a church that has continued to transition its ministry to fit its surroundings, said understanding generational differences and embracing some forms of change is necessary if most congregations will survive a culture that thrives on change.

Smith cited Christian pollster George Barna, who predicts 100,000 churches will close their doors by 2020 because their model of church is based in programs developed by and for the builder and boomer generations.

The key to biblical change, he said, is to grow a church that is “anchored to the Bible but geared to the times.” Smith also warned, however, that pastors and churches that try to be something they are not usually fail.

“You’d better decide who you are, because God has uniquely made you.”

Ed Stetzer, church planting strategist for the North American Mission Board, who spoke to a group of young church leaders at the SBTC annual meeting last fall, cites four generations in his book “Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age.”

?Builders were born before 1946. The older Builders have been labeled “The Greatest Generation” for their resolve and victory through the Depression and World War II. There are more than 50 million Builders in the U.S. and 8 million in Canada.

?Boomers were born in the two decades following World War II (1946-64). The largest population segment, 70 million live in the U.S and 8 million in Canada.

?Busters, later typed as Generation X by some, were born between 1960-1976. Stetzer dates them 1965-76, but among some demographers there is some overlap with the Boomers.

?Millennials were born from 1977-94 and total 70 million in the U.S. and 6 million in Canada.

“I’m not a big fan of demographic segmentation, but there may be some value in looking at the Builder and Boomer generations. However, among emerging postmodern generations, these models tend to lose their usefulness,” Stetzer writes in the book.

Among Busters, Millennials and the younger emerging group, spotting specific generational traits seems less predictable.

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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