The Cross Country season ended last Friday and this week finds me working from home so that my 2 year old daughter can work on her potty training.
While at home I am reading a book that compares and contrasts ways of doing youth ministry. I will write a fuller review of that book on Friday (hopefully). I am also pulling together our annual All Saint’s Day service and working on a sermon for the following Sunday on 1st Corinthians 9. All of these have me thinking cross-generationally. Cross Country led to many great insights about today’s youth that will certainly inform my reading of the youth ministry book. Our All Saints Day service has me thinking about the wonderful contributions of the elderly who have passed away recently. And 1st Corinthians Chapter 9 contains every evangelist’s and missionary’s favorite Bible verses that certainly relate to the age groups:
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.1
Over the last 2 and a half of years I have endeavored to become old to save the old and young to save the young and middle aged to save the middle aged. This has not been easy but it has been beneficial.
The reality is that in the last 80 or so years the world has changed substantially. For one example, the oldest members of my congregation remember buying their first refrigerators. Those slightly younger remember their first televisions. The middle aged remember that first microwave. I remember my first computer while the teens and kids remember their first tablets and smart phones.
Of course technology is only one way to illustrate the change. I could also talk about the changing family structures, the changing geopolitical borders and the changing of language itself.
In fact within a month of starting my pastorate I had a conversation with a Baby Boomer where he annoyed me by complaining about Bill Clinton who apparently made us more vulnerable to an attack by Russia. I spent a lot of time wondering why he cared so much and why I was so annoyed about it.
In the end I realized that Russia was not the bad guy when I was growing up, except in James Bond movies and even James Bond spent more time befriending them than killing them. However in the world of my older friend, the Russians were enemy number 1 and any show of weakness to them was enough to discount an entire 8 years of Clinton’s Presidency. (Well that and the extra marital affairs)
That realization, that my world was incredibly different than my older parishioners, has led down many rabbit trails of small discoveries. Another “aha” moment came when I realized none of my board members were getting my emails because they only check their emails once a month. On the other end of the age spectrum, I also noticed the young adults and teens were ignoring my emails because email is for Spam. Snapchat and Instagram are for meaningful connections and Facebook is as antiquated to them as VCR’s are to me.
All of these examples are illustrations of what sociologists call “the cohort theory.” That theory simply claims that it is easier to categorize and understand someone based off of the year they were born over against where they were born and who they were born too.
It should go without saying that “The Cohort Theory” has its limitations. For example, I have also discovered that a love of firearms extends across generational lines in my town but if you travel to the nearest city the hatred of such is multi-generational. More than that, marks of adult maturity (budgeting, work ethic, control of addictions, emotional health, etc) seem to be easier to categorize by family, not by age or region.
Still, in a world that has changed remarkably over 100 years, there is great value in understanding people based off of their generation. By comparing and contrasting the different age groups in my community I have found more practical applications than I anticipated.
So this post is the introduction to a week long series about learning to be old to save the old and young to save the young while also giving the middle aged their due. Along the way I will recount my discoveries in attaining a local phone number so the elderly will believe I belong here, learning what this Instagram thing is all about, trying to understand Baby-boomer cynicism without becoming cynical and putting together Powerpoints that entice the young without letting the old know how addicted to technology I am.
Spoiler Alert: I have learned the cartoon-y the Powerpoint the better. Also make fun of them some of the time but not ALL of the time.
See you all tomorrow where I will discuss becoming Silent to save the Silent Generation.