Are you preaching exclusively for baby boomers?
Here are six questions to ask yourself each Sunday that will positively engage all generations.
1. When I mention adolescents, what image do I portray of them?
It is often assumed that most teenagers are loud, rowdy, and rebellious. G. Stanley Hall, who coined the phrase “adolescent,” called these years a time of “Storm and Stress.” However, many psychologists now say these assumptions are false. There is a desperate need within our churches to change the negative image of adolescents within the meta-narrative of human development. By changing our attitudes and expectations concerning adolescents, and refusing to make jokes about them, we can change the negative image often automatically assigned to teenagers.
2. When I mention emerging adults, what image do I portray of them?
Millennials (who are currently in the developmental life phase of EA’s) are frequently stereotyped by mainstream media and the church. When speaking, do not unfairly characterize them by using words or ideas such as techy, addicted to their phones, immature, stubborn, or rebellious. Age-based humor towards any generation isolates them from the rest of the body of Christ.
3. If I don’t mention either adolescents or emerging adults in my preaching, why not?
Due to age segregation within our communities, most adolescents and emerging adults do not feel addressed during regular messages targeting “adults”. Many of our children and youth refer to the worship service as “Big Church;” more than a trite expression, this phrase reveals an underlying issue within our communities that the services focus on “Big” people. This impression tends to stay with young people as they transition to emerging adulthood. Many pastors pull applications and stories only from their own lives, which may be irrelevant to adolescents and emerging adults. As you speak, use examples and illustrations that clearly relate to their stage of life.
4. What tone do I use when speaking about the world?
Regardless of your eschatological views, emerging adults do not need to hear endless examples that prove the spiritual demise of our society. Rather than seeing the world as “other” (intrinsically different; with whom we are “at war”), younger adults often view culture as something to be renewed from within. Younger generations sometimes feel as if the church blames them for the declining spiritual temperature of our world. When preaching, maintain your focus on the Kingdom of God, and present a positive view rather than a tone of “gloom and doom.”
5. Am I celebrating the unity and diversity of the Body of Christ?
Avoid isolating age groups either through a “youth service” or a “youth section” of the auditorium. When speaking about the mission of the church, acknowledge the need for people of all generations to be part of the story. Share a vision for the church that utilizes the church’s unity and diversity. Provide pictures and examples of healthy intergenerational connections. Diversity is not a sin to be overcome, but a value to be embraced.
6. What bridges can I build between generations during my messages?
Bridges are constructed between generations when we all understand, translate, and focus on our common ground as Christians. Rather than express our inability to understand those from another generation, we should express our desire to build connections with each other.
It is crucial for pastors to reach beyond their own age group and develop the ability to speak and inspire all generations. We must work at developing this skill by seeking to understand the perspectives of others, learning to speak in ways that do not isolate any believers within the body, and by focusing on the common bonds that we all share.
Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources, a non-profit that seeks to equip parents and churches to minister to emerging adults. David and Rachel have been blessed with three energetic boys – Josiah, Andrew, and Tobias.
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