Understanding the Under Thirty and Over Forty Group Within Your Church

Have you ever stopped to consider what makes the under thirty group in your church the way that they are? This is not an effort to blame any given institution yet the elementary school structure changed how teachers taught and rewarded for accomplishment. Teachers praised students not just when a task was completed, but along the way to the eventual goal. They stopped to celebrate along the way to success, creating motivation through little rewards rather than a big reward at the end. The teachers also promoted self-esteem by making sure every child knew he or she was cared for regardless of accomplishments. The recurring message delivered through this approach goes like this: “We love you; we know you can do it; and here is a little prize at the halfway mark to prove that to you.” More than just the educational process molds the under-30 group; they also grew up in the most prosperous and comfortable society the world has ever known. We gave them a lot and told them they could have anything they wanted in life. Now, the under-30’s are here to collect! They now want what they want when they want it and this affects the local church and we must be willing to work in this philosophical view. They won. The bottom line: We did this through our willingness to embrace everyone and to advance everyone together!

So what’s the good news about the under-30 group?

The majority of people within this age specific workforce are very capable and committed to each other. No generation has ever had the loyalty to each other that this group possesses. They work well in teams and achieve remarkable results in record time if managed effectively. It’s true that they want to do this wearing flip-flops, but the results we have seen from the well-managed are impressive.

Each generation, it seems, is uniquely suited for the evolving world it will inherit. If you watch the news, you hear the latest reports on almost any and every subject and it is this generation of the under-30 group which can make the most of a world like that. If it is a celebrity melt down, a plane crash or a death toll from a war the under-30s have no problem with it. They are over informed and underdressed and totally acclimated towards navigating the busy future with ease. The church today would do well to come to grips with the values and lifestyles of this generational group. Many will be leading in your church and if you are an older individual you must learn to embrace these volunteers because you need their vision, energy, and willingness to volunteer and set to the work of the ministry. In their terms and not yours. It is no longer your fathers Oldsmobile is it?

What’s up with the over-40s group?

Have you ever stopped to consider what makes the over forty group in your church the way that they are? The over-40s group appears to be kind of stressed out in many ways! The over-40 group was raised to believe that working hard is proof of commitment. This is the group, which gave us workaholics wanting to advance in life and achieve what their fathers had. The over-40s group valued being needed and wanted to display how vital they were to an organization. Their lives were out of balance because they lived to work while younger generations work to live. The over-40s group also believes that working late proves that you are working hard. They think that leaving before 5 p.m. means you are not management material, while the under-30s group believes that working until 8 p.m. every night just means you lack time management and life balance. The under-30group grew up in families where Mom or Dad (or both) always worked late and they want something different. Men of the over-40s group believe they are what they do for a living. They work almost all of the time and when they are not officially working they are thinking about work. Relationships are pushed down in the priority pole for males of this group because they live to work. This is a hard group to get involved in church because they are so busy doing work stuff they do not have sufficient time for the Lord’s stuff.

How can we get more involvement from the under-30 group?

Wishing people were like you is not a strategy. You have to motivate the under-30s group the way they grew up being motivated. They need to be praised along the way to the goal. For churches utilizing a largely under-30 work pool learn to celebrate the small victories on the road to success and quit telling these volunteers about long term plans for the church and for the ministries of the church. These individuals plan in five years is to have a new plan. This plan most likely will not involve you and the church unless a significant spiritual journey has been developed in their lives, which will untie them to the great causes of Christ Jesus. No offense, but your desire as a church to do something much later (2-3 years), over something sooner (next month), does not work for the under thirty group. You need to involve them by giving them short, tight deadlines and make sure your desired goals are not hindered by your church’s outdated technology tools. If their notebook at home is twice as fast as the one at church and you demand all work to be done on your tried and true “Tandy” they will believe you have given them a worthless job to accomplish and resent your giving them the task. The under-30s group wants to do it right and with excellence in the first few days not after 300 revisions. Be sure you have procedure that will allow that to happen. The under-30s group would ask you a question this way: “How can we get the over-40s to see we can do the job much more effectively if you would let us do it a little bit our way?”

Lessons to gather from the over-40s for the under-30s group.

· Let them know you understand their old way first. You must honor the past in order to move into the future.
· If you have an innovative new technique and you fail their little quiz on the old method then you are toast. Older church volunteers are often offended by the younger generations unwillingness to listen to what has worked previously.
· Seek the counsel of the older volunteers if for nothing more than being polite.
· What the over-40 group really wants from you is appreciation and admiration for their individual ministry journey in the past.

What do we need to do to work more effectively with each other as a church team?

First we need to get over ourselves! It is not about us; it is all about the Lord and His work. People who grow up at different generational points have a unique experience and outlook toward life. Though these differences seem a bit greater than some in the past, they are in effect natural. We have already established in the past 30 years that dealing with diversity and understanding each other’s generational or cultural differences is critical to communication and success. So, letting people be who they are and dealing with it is not new. It has always been easy to say, “We were all young once,” but the real truth is that we were not all young under the same circumstances and at the same time. One day the under-30 group will grow up and will face a new gathering of young people. They will be saying things, which will confuse us and cause us to wonder about their future. Much like we are doing today with those generations which follow us no matter in what generation we live.

Let’s think about that and begin doing something about it! If you would like to have conversations related to this blog post, why not drop me a line so we can begin your journey and conversation.

You can connect with Dr. Tom Cheyney and the RENOVATE Church Revitalization Virtual Coaching Network additionally via Facebook at RENOVATE Conference. Tom is the co-author of Spin-Off Churches (B&H Publishers), a conference speaker and a frequent writer on church planting, new church health, and church revitalization. Be looking for The Biblical Foundations for Church Revitalization by Tom Cheyney and Terry Rials later this year. If you or your church would like more information you may contact him at Tom@renovateconference.org, or tcheyney@goba.org.

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