Originally posted on 19 February 2005
Based on a chapter in my 2004 book, ‘Mind the Gap’, here are some insights into the generation gap in church.
The era in which you were born shaped your value system more than you probably realise. Your value system is that part of you which helps you decide what is right or wrong, good or bad, normal or weird. Your value system is largely cemented in place by the time you turn ten years old, and the events and forces that shape you in those first ten years are critical in shaping your value system.
Over the past century, global events have become more and more influential on people across the planet. With increased communication, telephones, television and now the Internet, its possible for single events to influence billions of people at the same time. ‘Where were you when” type questions become increasingly familiar. Where were you when the planes crashed into the twin towers on 9/11? When Mandela was released in 1990? When the Berlin wall came down in 1989? When Neil Armstrong stood on the moon, or when JFK was shot?
Global events like these can shape the value systems of all the young people of a particular era. That means that people about your age may have a similar worldview to you. And you probably differ dramatically in outlook to those people older and younger than yourself.
Generations @ Church
There are few areas in our lives where the generation gap is greater than it is in the church. The church throughout the world is in crisis as an increasingly greying clergy is not attracting youthful priests and pastors. Youngsters don’t relate to people a generation or two older than them as role models, and the older generations boycott ‘youth services’. And so we see a vicious cycle of falling figures, both in church attendance and people prepared to don clerical robes.