My generation is becoming invisible. Our culture has begun looking past us… whispering, “isn’t it time for you to retire?” Weary of our shadow GenX embraces the passing of the boomers only to find that now it is the generation behind them, the millennials, that is new pig passing through the snake.
All innovation is looking backward to that younger generation. We continue to miss new opportunities because having too much experience is a negative.
In no context is this more evident than in the church. 15 years ago when I would visit a church for the first time pastors would leap pews to make their way to me before we exited the service. A family with 3 school aged children was gold. Finding that we were mature, stable, and experienced leaders meant we were answered prayer.
Visiting churches these days pastors are still leaping pews. But it is to get to the couple or family behind me. But of course I am invisible. There are exceptions. Not all church communities are so blind. But as rule we remain invisible.
We are exhorted to mentor that younger group and give what we have away. But the truth is there is a lot of us. It’s unrealistic to think that a full time mentoring posture is best use of everyone’s time. I haven’t noticed mentoring to be a full time job anyway.
Pastors in my generation are retiring from ministry in droves. It’s understandable as they been standing the gap for the past 40 years. Denominations are investing everything they have in the younger demographic… again those poor GenX ers still not in the sweetspot.
So what does the Western Church increasingly look like? Boomers are invisible and fading away . Many are just stopping the church thing altogether… not sure all the reasons why but I observe a growing disaffection. But they are not missed… who is left to miss them? Their contemporaries are retiring from ministry. (Many are becoming Pastor Coaches…. eventually that job market will be overwhelmed).
Boomers who remain in church often observe their church demographic aging. These churches were the happening thing 20, 30, even 40 years ago but now they are not and the population still remembers how it use to be. When I visit these churches I am usually the youngest….
Boomers who break away to join the next church with momentum, the church that is growing…. like the old days…. find themselves marginalized. My friend B. is one of those guys. He joined a great church, making a difference in his community. It’s a vibrant startup. But they have no substantive role or place for him. B. has planted churches. B. has pastored flocks. But he is not included or valued for the skill he still possesses. He does notice how glad the staff is when he comes early to set up chairs and when he stays late to tear things down.
Do not mistake my tone. I understand much of what I observe is a normal even expected consequence but it has created an unnecessary gap. Who will reach my generation for Christ? What church can I bring them too? Who will care? Remember there is still an awful lot of boomers in this world that remain to be reached for Jesus… I have not forgotten. And while my contemporaries are leaving full time ministry, my ministry focus is energizing as I embrace a second half unburden by a secular occupation.
As they say it’s Deja Vu all over again. When the boomer wave of the Jesus movement crashed into the church of that day only a few churches embraced us. You know that Hippie, Non-conformist thing pushed us to the margins. I was literally asked not to comeback in some cases. We did not fit. So we built our own churches with 2o somethings and pastors under 30.
We are not fitting again! But I wonder how many of us have the energy to shape our second half? The problem is we have already begun the last stage of life. And time is increasingly shortened in my generation’s ability to respond to Christ. I am attending more funerals every year.
My exhortation to my generation is to shift to a forward glance. Counter the trend of looking backward to those behind us and look forward to our generation and to what remains of our parents generation. We are the only ones that can.