I just finished reading “Generational IQ” by Haydn Shaw. I don’t think there’s a person that shouldn’t read this. Unbelievably insightful, and my hope, like the author’s, is that five different generations will seek to understand each other, and we’ll become a better world because of it. Here’a a synopsis of the book taken right from its insight. Enjoy!
I’ve been providing generational intelligence reports to individuals, businesses, the government, churches, and other organizations for twenty years, helping them make sense of the generations: Traditionalists (born before 1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946- 1964), Generation X’ers (born 1965-1980), and Millennials (born 1981-2001).
Today, for the first time in history, we have five generations in our families, churches, and communities. Five. That’s a huge change, and it causes quite a shake-up because every generation is pushing to be heard and understood, to find their own way, to recover what they feel the previous generation fumbled away, and to work out their parents’ unfinished business.
As I’ve researched the generations, I’ve been surprised by something I hadn’t expected: generations relate differently to God and often fight about those differences based on their unique generational characteristics. Those who care deeply about their own and others’ spiritual lives search for the factor that will bring real spiritual growth, but they often overlook how the era they grew up in can propel them forward or hold them back spiritually. The truth is that when we come to Jesus, we bring our generation with us. Once we see the generational differences behind many of the conflicts in our homes and churches, it’s impossible to miss them the next time. Suddenly, they seem obvious, and they no longer have to hold us back.
Traditionalists are the first generation to face the challenges of constructing another life after retirement. They have the health, the money, and the freedom to live another twenty or thirty active years after they finish their first adulthood, their working years. Another twenty or thirty years means Traditionalists get almost another adult lifetime compared to earlier generations.
So in this second adulthood, between the time people can financially retire and their health requires them to stop their activities, people get to construct their second adult identity, focused more on their own values and interests than on earning a living and doing their duty. Though the idea of a retirement filled with freedom, travel, and family sounds wonderful, second adulthood has so changed the game that Traditionalists struggle to figure it out.
Boomers were drawn to the idea that Jesus called his disciples “friends” (John 15:15). Instead of going outside to learn right doctrine from experts or authorities, as their parents and grandparents had done, Boomers applied the larger societal shift from sacrifice to self to their faith and went inside themselves to experience God. They helped shift the emphasis from doctrine and commandments to the God who loves us deeply and profoundly and wants to be involved in even the minor details of our lives.
This is a huge strength – the realization that God has been brought near through Christ. But the generation raised with “great expectations” and told they were special also had a tendency to want to make worship “all about me.” If society valued self-expression, self-exploration, and personal satisfaction, there was little to keep Boomers from becoming self-centered. Boomers were not just individualistic; they became hyper-individualistic. This hyper-individualism has led to two temptations that Boomers (and the rest of us) face: a focus on self and church hopping.
X’ers have grown up in a world where the philosophical questions of the Baby Boomers have been replaced with the practical question, “Does it work for you?” X’ers are more concerned that Christianity “works,” that it makes a difference, than that it can answer all the intellectual questions raised about it. Therefore, many X’ers believe that the command of Christ to bring justice to those who are poor or disadvantaged and to serve the community is also the best way to create opportunities to interest people in the gospel.
Millennials have a morality, and their moral beliefs are important to them, but it’s not classic morality in the sense that some things are right and some things are wrong because of universal principles, natural law, or God’s will. It shouldn’t surprise us that after the philosophy of “true for you but not for me” took over during Generation X’s childhood, individuals determine what is right or wrong for themselves as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. The highest goal in life, the noblest morality, is no longer to live a life of honor to some ideal standards. It’s to be yourself, to feel good about your choices, and to do what works for you and to not judge.
Why won’t younger people come to my church?” is the question I get asked 70 percent of the time. “Because you are asking the wrong question,” I respond. “That question traps you in a dead end that keeps the younger generations away.” Why is this a dead-end question? Because the question is about you and not about them.
In contrast, imagine how much more creative the conversations could be if you asked the best question: “What will we need to do differently to reach the younger generations?”This question is the secret to better conversations because it gets the focus off you and onto the people you are called to reach. It pushes you to quit going in circles and complaining about what is wrong with them and to start talking about your options. It is the best question I know to help you determine what God has called your church to do.
To fulfill God’s purposes in our generations, we will need to figure out how to speak the languages of the different generations. The real God is amazing, so we need to be able to explain him to the next generations. I know five generations freaks people out. The two new life stages worry us, we wonder whether the church will survive, and we don’t know what to say or the right questions to ask. This is new, and it seems like previous generations had it easier when the United States was a “Christian nation.”
I don’t care what generation you are – Jesus’ great commission is for all generations. We have never had five generations, and we have never lived this long. We can accomplish so much more for the glory of God and his Kingdom than ever before.
If you’re interested in purchasing this book? Here you go: http://amzn.to/2hkgobY