Last week the Pew Research Center released a significant study about aging in America. The media reports about the study caught my interest because of the blaring headlines about a widening generation gap.
Any Presbyterian should be interested in understanding the generation gap. Put generally we are an older, wealthy denomination that hasn’t been successful in bringing younger generations into our congregations. We have a widening generation gap. When I go to Presbyterian churches I often find older people who care deeply about their congregation, people who want to attract younger folks, but people who don’t know how to do it and aren’t willing to do the hard work to understand how to attract young people.
The results of the study would make for interesting reading for leaders interested in the future of the church and in particular the future of the PC(USA). The complete study can be found here: http://pewsocialtrends.org/assets/pdf/getting-old-in-america.pdf.
Let me offer this snippet from the study as an enticement to reflect deeply on the generation gap:
“The main generational differences, according to respondents to this latest survey, have to do with values and morality. When asked in an open-ended, follow-up question how younger people and older people differ most, nearly half of the respondents (47%) point to something having to do with values. Political views are cited much less frequently.
Within the broad category of values, the top volunteered responses are morality, ethics and beliefs (12%) and a sense of entitlement (12%).”
Hmm—sounds like the faith community has some work to do.
What I have found in my work is our older generations (let’s say 70’s through 90’s) have a difficult time understanding the world of the younger generations (16-35).
What disappoints me is our older generations haven't done more to understand the world of the younger generations. They don’t go out of their way to understand the admittedly dizzying world of Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, texting, living together before marriage, blended families, kids living in different households, credit card debt. That list could go on and on.
Understanding and accepting are far different qualities. Allow me to get on my soap box and issue a challenge to older generations—especially older Presbyterians. Work harder on understanding! You don’t have to accept the odd behaviors of the young, but unless you take the time to understand this group, our Presbyterian congregations will continue to look greyer every year.
Grey is not an attractive color.