I've spent the last eight years of my career working in age-specific ministries in the church: in middle and high school youth ministry, in camp ministry, and college and young adult ministry. And what I know more than anything else as a ministry professional is this: we don't talk about how hard it is to make community among people of different ages.
It is so hard to make community among people of different generations and it can be really hard to talk about. I've watched cold wars develop between teenage boys and their grandparents over how many bagel bites you're allowed to eat at coffee hour and how quickly. I've seen seminary professors shoot daggers over their shoulders at toddlers who would deign to make a noise during a chapel service. I've seen high school seniors smirk at ninth graders for being cringy who would then smirk at sixth graders for being cringier. I've seen grown adults who run board rooms with ease flee at the invitation to speak to one child.
We don't talk about how hard it is, and I can imagine that it is only because we assume everybody should already be good at it, maybe because of the assumption that we learned how to deal with different ages from our families. It is an understandable assumption, but not everybody comes from big families or multi-generational families or even functional families. And plenty of families have trouble bridging divides across generations.
In truth, a generational divide is a cultural divide. Different generations -- even from the same community, or the same family -- can have vast differences in language and vocabulary, in values and ethics. There can be significant differences in what is deemed acceptable behavior or dress, acceptable language, even in what is stigmatized. These differences follow us to church and can multiply in complexity as we try to figure out how to be a big church family.
My ministry is to figure out how to look out for the 18-45ish category of humans that come through our midst. It is big complex work, but rather than solve it outright, I hope to at the very least start a conversation. And to that end, I would invite you to join me on Sunday, Nov 26th at 10am (between the services) for a conversation about generational differences in the church, and how to manage our affection and longing for more millenials (and gen z) in our midst. Can't wait to see you there! And if you'd like to start the convo early, please reach out to me at email@example.com.