The first Baby Boomers are starting to retire. This means America has begun a significant transition of power and responsibilities to the next generation. It will be a difficult time, as it is for each generation at the changing of the guard. In our heyday, we Boomers wanted to change the status quo. Under our watch society was indeed remodeled. We also carried our zeal into the workplace. There was just one significant problem: there were not enough jobs for the size of the Boomer population. So when necessary, Boomers moved their families to find work and pursue career advancement. Once gainfully employed, we poured ourselves into our careers to make ourselves valuable and ensure retention. We made sacrifices and accomplished many good things. Unfortunately, some of those sacrifices included marriages and relationships with our children.
Many Boomers in church ministry willingly participated in the all-out workaholic approach to vocation. And congregations expected no less. It was the continuing manifestation of our historical American love affair with over-the-top industriousness. Even today, our obsessively industrious nature distinguishes us from much of the world. I don’t know if the extreme to which we take it is Biblical; that’s for another discussion.
We Boomers moved out of our parents homes as soon as possible and rushed into life. I daresay we didn’t get much mentoring. We had to sink or swim. Needless to say, Boomers worked hard for their expertise (skills often acquired through painful mistakes). With these things in mind, I prognosticate that Boomers will, generally speaking, loath releasing the reins to the next generation partly because there’s so much connection between their identity and vocation. We had to work so hard to get and keep our jobs that letting them go might be more difficult than we think.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the next generation wants to do it their way . . . just like us back in the day. Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun. This problem of passing the torch has been around since humans first walked the green grass under the sun. The next generation is chafing at the bit to take the helm.
So I beg the next generation to please be patient with us. We will get there. Personally, I know it would be easier for me to pass the reins if young and old did not insist on retreating to enclaves. In other words, I long for spending time with the next generation and trying to learn their language and the things that energize their hearts. In return, the next generation would grow tremendously if they could find the patience to spend time with us. Maybe the new mission field is cross-generational.
As for church life, the young make a valid assertion that we gray beards don’t always run to embrace them and the way they do church. Our motives are usually pure: We love our young people and don’t want them hurt by the same mistakes we made. But our methods can stink: We can be unsupportive, critical, harsh in tone . . . and not even know it. A friend of mine suggested that we older ones should move toward our younger brethren. I agree for anecdotal reasons: My level of social discomfort is often low when among young adults but high when among folks much older than me. In other words, it’s easier for me to move toward younger people than expect them to come to me. On the flip side, some of my most precious and beneficial encounters have been when I powered through my discomfort and spent time with older believers.
In Luke 15 the Lost Son took a long road to move back toward his father. The father patiently waited a long time for his son’s return. Both father and son were willing to move toward each other after a season of heartache and trouble. If we want a meaningful transition from this generation to the next, we must move toward each other despite our misgivings. And we Boomers must start to honor and lift up the next generation as we prepare to hand them the keys. Besides, the next generation has some really cool ideas about how to do church and missions.
Posted on May 24, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged Honoring the next generation, Letting go of old ways, Moving toward, Next church generation, Passing the baton, Passing the reins, Releasing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.