had an interesting experience last night. we were at our house church, meeting for 6th or 7th time, i’d guess. really, i’m only just barely getting to know the other people.
around dinner, we were having an important and healthy discussion about our current commitment levels. i think we’re all trying to discern what level of intimacy this group will offer, what kind of safe space, what tone of community. and we’ve been sort of feeling this along, collectively, as we get to know each other and “practice” together. i can totally sense, especially after last night, a level of affection developing for one another that feels like an onramp to real honesty and vulnerability.
but in the midst of this discussion, one of the guys — the only person under 40 in the group — mentioned some specifics about what he desired the group to become — really more about the tone of the group. a couple others asked for clarification as to what he meant by his word choices, and he clarified some more. i’m really growing to care for this guy, and love his voice in the mix of this little church.
but as i was reflecting on the interchange later last evening, it struck me that i was filtering his comments though generational assumptions.
i haven’t really thought much about generational generalizations for a long time. there was a time when i was WAY into this kind of stuff. i read tons of books about gen-xers and boomers, their predicessors, and, eventually, the gen-y or millenials that followed. of course, like many, my earliest reason for reading all the gen-x stuff was because that was when we thought the changes happening in the church were really only a reflection of the need to connect with the different values of a different generation. reading about gen-x was my onramp into the emerging church conversation, as it was for most people entering that conversation in the mid- to late-90s. of course, most of realized, along the way, that the generational thing was being seriously overblown, and that the shifts we were pinning on gen-xers were really broader cultural shifts that weren’t specifically tied to a generation.
somewhere in the midst of the disenchantment with generational studies, i lost interest in the whole thing. i think i got tired of the labels. and, as encouraging as it was for me as a youth worker to hear about, and talk about, how the millenials are a more optimistic generation, and how they are pragmatic, and how they are interested in significance, and desire to experience synergy with others toward a common good… well, those generalizations don’t actually seem to make much of a difference when you’re sitting with a group of 7th grade boys.
but as i heard my new friend sharing his hopes for our fledgling little church last night, i was totally screening his words through my old gen-x readings. i was thinking, “oh, he wants it to be therapeutic because people ‘his age’ have so many issues with their parents,” and “oh, he wants this to be a place where we all share our pain because gen-xers have deep pain and anger.” and as i was reflecting on all that later, i realized what hogwash it was. i mean, the real hogwash of it was that i would filter his words like that at all, rather than simply receiving them.
it feels to me, as i reflect on this, that studying and stereotyping and archetyping about generations was a fad that we church leaders, especially, were “into” in the 90s. maybe it was useful? maybe it helped us in some ways?