Dean Guy 1

Generation Games

When I was 17, I walked into my local church wearing a flat cap, which was fashionable in the 1980’s, when a woman reeled round in distress and told me to immediately take it off as it was wrong for a man to wear a hat in church. Now that I am in my 50’s I often joke that if I was King, I would decree that every male child born would have a magnet inserted centrally into their foreheads. And at the same time insist that every baseball cap ever made would have a corresponding magnet inserted centrally into the front, so that no teenage male could ever wear their caps off centre again.

Both these hat related stories highlight the different values that reside in people of differing generations, and how we all carry our generational values around with us.
 
Unity and acceptance are vital, in the Church and in wider society, so with cultural identities like: race, gender, education, class and the generations we need to ensure they are not allowed to cause division and tension. If we recognise and honour the differences, unity will prevail.  In this blog I hope to expose some of these value differences across our generations, and I hope that when you see me in church with my flat cap on you will accept me.

Generational Definitions and Characteristics

Veterans

1920 -1945

Sometimes called the Silent Generation. This generation have been affected by two world wars, strict education and a class system

Baby Boomers

1946 - 1965

Born after WW2, bought up and influenced by the 1960’s. Work-Centric, Competitive and Self-reliant

Generation X

1966 - 1980

More Women joining the work force. Careers were more fluid, move employment more freely. Less dutiful. Technology Adept. Casual rejection of authority

Millenials or Gen Y

1981 - 2000

‘24/7 World’ Very Tech Savvy, Living through Global Terrorism and Worldwide Financial Crisis. Weak Ethical Base. Climate Change

Generation Z or 'i' Generation

2001 - NOW

Global, Social, Visual and Technological Generation. Growing up in a global recession and terrorism and use of Green Energy – Online lives - the oldest will only be 16 years old


Who is it that have set the agenda for these generations to look so different: who are the generation Hero’s?

Influences on the Generations

Veterans

Authority figures, Decent People, Military Figures, Respected Leaders – Winston Churchill, Vera Lynn, The Royalty / Teachers / Police / Doctors

Baby Boomers

Idealistic, Commanding Thinkers. The big Dream or Idea – Martin Luther Jones, Mandela. The 1960’s offered a life free from the constraints, rules and duty of the previous generation – Free love, Beatles, Hendrix etc

Generation X

High Aspirations, Self-Made Business Gurus – Gates/Branson/Job. Technology emergence. Friends (TV Series)

Millenials of Gen Y

Social Media – Mark Zuckerburg / Apple. Negative response to growing up with over-worked parents

Generation Z or 'i' Generation

Celebrity / Malala Yousafzai / Access all Areas / Technology and Social Media. Online lives. Brand Influencers

 

 

From the Veterans Generation through to the Generation Z is a space of 96 years (in 2017). And in that period there are a number core values that have significantly changed.
 

Authority and Moral Compass -  For the Veteran, authority is a very high value, it under girded the whole of society with an influential monarchy, strong class system, strict education and big leaders commanding respect and setting the moral framework, making ‘correct’ behaviour a crucial value.

Compare that against how authority is viewed today -  ‘Authority, what authority?’ is the cry. This change started in the 1960s when there was a massive kick back against the ‘old school’ of the previous decades. Moral bedrocks like marriage, ‘respectful’ behaviour and duty started to get eroded. Before, we were told what was right or wrong. Now we as individuals define what is right and wrong for ourselves.

Now culture is defined more than ever by generations who have limited or a fragile regard for ‘authority’.

 

Mobility - Ability to travel, a mobile work force, the lower cost of travel and a greater connection to all parts of the world has distributed families and generations all over the globe.

 

Money - Attitudes to money differ greatly. The Veterans who lived with the challenges of war are careful with money preferring to save than spend. The Veterans did not have credit so are often alien to debt. Now with available credit and emergence of ‘own your own home’ through the Thatcher period, and the ending of state funded further education means now the Millennials and Gen Z are potentially credit dependent and live with lifelong debt.

Technology - There has always been development of technology from the invention of the wheel, to the B&W Televisions and now to the Internet and the Smart Phone. But the speed of progress now is unparalleled and the technology being developed today is less for societies benefit (the TV for the family) but far more for the individual’s consumption.

 
One of the major differences between the generations are around the issues of Belief, Behaviour and the right to Belong. The table below indicates the cultural priorities of the Vets, Baby Boomers and Generation X.
 

 

Priority 1

Priority 2

Priority 3

Veterans

BEHAVIOUR

BELIEVE

BELONG

Baby Boomer

BELIEVE

BELONG

BEHAVIOUR

Generation X

BELONG

BELIEVE

BEHAVIOUR

 

So what! How does this affect us? How does that affect us in the Church?

  1. Internally - You can see, within three generations the importance of behaviour has been moved from the most important priority to the least. This will influence our views on punctuality, dress/attire, attendance and consistency across practices. And conversely belonging has a higher importance to Generation X, and subsequent generations. ‘Come and belong, then you may believe and that will affect your behaviour’.

  2. Externally – This will influence the way we communicate with our community. Knowing these values could help open conversations with those in differing generations. If I approach a man who appears to be in his 80s then my behaviour needs to be very different than if I approach a 20-year-old. I would need to be respectful, and more formal or considered. I will not be able assume that I’m his buddy!

  3. The Bible - We must realise that the overriding message of God in the bible is not so much about the rules of each generations as it is about generating relationship with all generations. For a vast majority of our society the values of the bible are still needed and followed. I’ve seen a 15-year-old help her struggling friend as well as an 80-year-old supporting a young family. I’ve seen the generosity of a veteran lavished on a couple in financial difficulty and a 25-year-old go the extra mile with a man without a home. The Word of God straddles across all generations. It is the answer no matter what generation we are in.
     

It is clear that each generation will have its own values, it’s good to recognise and respect that, but as Christians it more important to honour the Bible, God’s word to us, as this describes how we can live as one, in unity despite what generation we are rubbing up against. Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, strength all of your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.

Our generation must not define us or be used as an excuse for our behaviour towards others of a different age, but push us towards being one ‘man’ in Jesus. Also let it help us form our approach in sharing the good news of Jesus – Who is it, we are talking to?

Dean Guy, 24/01/2017