The oldest millenials turned 40 the last few years. For as long as I can remember, 35-45 has been the sweet spot for churches looking for new staff, especially a senior pastor.
Our friends on the EST podcast focus specifically on helping this new generation of leaders serve established churches. A couple of weeks ago I was on with Sam talking about bridging the technology gap with older members. Here's that podcast.
I knew then I wanted to think more about and blog on this topic. As I've been doing that, it seems to me that the place to start is with two important attitudes that members on both sides of the generational gap need to have in order to bridge it.
Be Willing To Learn
The most basic quality of a disciple is that of a learner. This character quality is the cornerstone to building a multiplying ministry. It must be taught and modeled.
Younger church members need to be taught the value of generational diversity. For them, technology is second nature. They grew up with it. It has informed how they learn about and view the world and it's very "me" centered.
They need to learn from older generations the deeper work of life and relationships outside the context of themselves and technology. This will give them a much broader view of the world and help them better navigate their future.
Older church members need to be taught the attitude of a perpetual learner. Psalm 71:17-18 says,
The only end date on learning in this life is the last one. If older church members want to declare God's power to the next generation, they have to be learners first. The best way they can help younger generations learn is by modeling learning. And, in our culture this includes technology.
Be Kind and Respectful
If younger generations are digital natives, then older generations are digital immigrants. Leviticus 19:33-34 says this about how to treat immigrants ...
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
The language, tools, culture, and habits of the technology culture are native to younger generations. This isn't necessarily the case for older generations.
If you've ever been to a different culture, you know the awkwardness of communication. Technology can be like that for older church members.
As you ask older generations to use technology, love them as yourself. Do to them as you would want someone to do to you (see Matthew 7:12). Be kind and respectful.
I saw a statistic the other day from Barna Research that 1 in 4 ministers are planning to retire by 2030. That's just 7 years from now. As a result, established congregations with older members are going to be searching to hire staff who for the first time may very well be digital natives.
This means that your new pastor and staff are going to assume the use of technology in your church. It's happening everywhere. Hebrews 13:7 is one passage that guides all of us, of all ages, on how to relate to our leaders.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
As you ask these younger leaders to shepherd you, older generations, be kind and respectful to them. Let them lead out of their life. Make their work a joy and not a burden. This includes their asking you to adopt technology.
Rivers are geographical obstacles that sometimes define different groups of people. Technology can do the same thing. But, don't let it. Instead, teach all the generations in your church to be willing to learn and to be kind and respectful of each other.