My wife and I are right on the border between Boomers and Gen X. But to be fair, she looks like a Millennial. Me on the other hand, well … moving on. We probably associate more with qualities of the Xers – Starbucks, tech savvy, scrap ligand lines for cell phones, a bit more individualistic, dual income homes, and skeptical of our government. We were more influenced by Watergate than the Cold War. But we do have some Boomer qualities – pragmatic, some traditionalism, and focus more on work ethic than desiring time off and personal free time as an asset to treasure.
The issue here is not the identification of the generation in which I connect with, but that I often see myself as part of a sandwich generation. Gen X has often been overshadowed by the Boomers and the Millennials. They have been overlooked. Maybe it is size, purchasing power, place in US history, or whatever, I just kind of feel like Gen X, and much of my life, can be described as just “between.”
Even in Southern Baptist circles, my ministry began as the SBC was coming out of the resurgence – led by strong leaders like Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, and others (this article is not about one’s feelings about the movement or the leaders, just about the timing of the movement). The next thing we see is a strong push to get the next generation involved in Baptist life … and by that, I mean it is more about under 40 … specifically, reach the Millennials. Now I am all for that … we need to encourage and motivate and empower rising church members and ministers. But I was at the tail I end of the resurgence and the beginning of the Gen Y appeal. Where did my generation go?
For three years, I searched for the next open door God would have – and I am confident I have walked through it here in Evergreen. But it was discouraging when multiple times I was ignored, told to not even apply, or straight up to my face “you’re too old.” Really. It wasn’t every where, but it was at too many places. I was told by one place, we want someone with your experience and wisdom, but around 25 to 30. Ahh the irony.
Again, not a gripe session here … but a call to awareness about where people are in life. People often feel they are overlooked, missing opportunities, or don’t seem to fit. I sadly hear it from the pews from all the time. Youth saying they’re adults but still treated as kids. Young adults having graduated out of the ministry emphasis churches put on kids and teens but not taken as adults in leadership positions either. Middle-age adults split between caring for kids and their own aging parents. Seniors feeling they are passed over but not ready to go “home” yet either. In some respect, we are all an “in-betweener.”
What can we do? How do we respond to each person to show worth, value, and importance? Here are some of thoughts gleaned form experience and study. They are not a scientific list, just a personal perusal of my pondering …
– Acknowledge their worth and their importance to Kingdom Life … every believer has a place in the body of Christ, to think otherwise is arrogant and unbiblical.
– Don’t label or judge by what society says. Like me, yes a Boomer by stats, but Gen X by style.
– Be intentional about planning for everyone’s involvement. It doesn’t have to be every event is churchwide, but no dynamic should be left out, even if a small percentage of people.
– Be intentional about planning intergenerational activities. Have Big Brother Big Sister type events, have mentoring programs, have youth serve at a churchwide event, and grandparents adopt college students away from home for meals and outings.
– Be flexible in realizing not everyone is engaged in the same way.
– Be action minded. By this, I mean plan to get people involved in doing things together.
– Key in on relationships. Just like it is personal invitations that bring most people to church, it is also personal connections that get people involved.
– Be prepared to get a little messy. By this, I mean people are hurting, have baggage, and frustrations. When getting anyone connected, give them freedom to share and be willing to be with them while they process everything.
– Focus on friendships. Not friendliness, but friendships. This is more than just connecting, it is connecting at a deeper level. It takes the previous two points and wraps them in to one thing–being a friend, a companion, a true brotherhood/sisterhood.
– Keep equity and accountability a priority. People desire peer relationships, with fellow family members. And, they want to be held accountable. Just keep grace in mind too.
– Remember, it is not about you … it is about all of us in the Kingdom of God.
With that, what will you do this weekend to reach out someone who might be an “in-betweener”?
See ya Monday