“When you were born shapes your relationship with God.”
That’s why leadership expert Haydn Shaw says generational differences are the biggest issue facing churches today. Millennials and Baby Boomers don’t see eye to eye on how to lead change in a church. Gen X-ers and their Gen Y children don’t communicate the same way. The generations think differently about decision-making and workplace culture.
Younger generations say their older counterparts won’t let them lead, while experienced leaders say young people want to blow up everything, even the things that work.
On the surface, the differences may seem small and even unworthy of much attention. But not understanding them, Shaw warned at a recent summit of Midwest Baptist leaders, means leaders will react to small things, ignore the big things, and propose the wrong things.
Worse, ignoring generational chasms could make churches less effective at key functions like evangelism.
“That people live another 35 years is one of God’s most amazing blessings on our time,” Shaw said, “and millions will go to hell because of it.” Churches that don’t change to reach the generations, or to bring younger leaders to the table, risk never fulfilling their God-given purpose.
Thankfully, there are ways to bridge the gaps, Shaw said, advising both older and younger leaders to listen more to one another. “The Holy Spirit’s doing something in the next generation,” Shaw told older leaders. He advised younger leaders to be more patient with the “chewing process,” as their more experienced counterparts digest their ideas and decide how to move forward.
The “OK, Boomer” attitude is prevalent in our culture, pitting generations against one another. Shaw encouraged leaders that Jesus would say to the church today, “Not so with you.” He urged attenders at the 2020 Midwest Leadership Summit to move past characterizations of our generations, both older and younger.
Successful ministry relationships depend on working through our differences. Shaw’s 2013 book, “Sticking Points” (Tyndale Momentum, 2013), identifies 12 issues that can cause friction between generations.