LIFECYCLE & Should aging churches be euthanized? #No (what I learned by consulting them)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 12/7/17.

Recently a student commented, “Last week (national name) was advocating that we put a ‘Sun Set Clause’ in all our churches. He said less than 1% of churches in the country are older than 100 years old. There are no churches that trace their heritage as a congregation to the first century church. He says that churches have a life cycle and instead of fighting it we should work with it. He said the most fruit years of most churches ministry is in the first 30 years. He is advocating that all decisions made in the church be based on the idea that we have 30 years of ministry left. He believes that if we did this we would place more emphasis on people and less on buildings. Instead of building monuments that will last for ever we would make disciples and release them to be missionaries. I would be interested in your prospective on this?”

I responded:

Thanks for the question. My view on this comes out of interviews I have conducted over the past 25+ years with hundreds of older members of churches in my consulting practice. I discovered that as people age they need the church more, rather than less. However as they age they have less ability to volunteer as well as less ability to support the church. Therefore, Like Social Security I believe we should provide a spiritual security in our congregations. So rather than closing a congregation down you can revitalize a congregation into a new lifecycle.

I discovered that as people age they need the church more, rather than less. However as they age they have less ability to volunteer as well as less ability to support the church.

Also as older congregants age I believe they have more insecurity in their lives. They have financial insecurity as they live on a fixed income. And they have relational insecurity as their friends move away and/or die. In addition they have health insecurity. Therefore it is been my experience that they look to the church to provide needed security and a worship culture they can relate to. Without an influx of younger generations the church becomes organizationally insecure it only adds to their insecurity.

Here is where I’ve written more about this and answered more questions: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/multiplication-instead-of-planting-an-independent-new-church-what-about-planting-a-new-venue-instead-pros-cons-considered/

Finally, as I said above I came to this viewpoint after interviewing hundreds of aging members. Over and over again these dear hard-working saints worry that their church will not survive. Usually they’ve seen exit behavior occur as the result of change implemented too quickly or without consensus (see Bruno Dyke and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly 44 [Ithaca, NY: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, 1999], 792-822.).

Thus, older congregants fear (rightly so) being left behind and marginalized. And many of these dear saints ran the church and supported it through the years as young families.

But I want to agree with (national name) that we put too much emphasis on facilities. In fact, I wrote a chapter in the book Growth by accident, death by planning: How not to kill a growing congregation (Abingdon Press, 2004) that “Missteps with facilities” was one of the quickest ways to kill a growing congregation. You can find more info on that here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/facilities-the-7-donts-7-dos-of-building-growthbyaccidentbook/

I believe people like (national name) are not as familiar with the needs of aging congregants because they don’t consult aging churches. Most of them have been involved in church plants. In fact that’s how I started out: overseeing a network of church plants and then planting a church myself. And in hindsight I found I had a jaded view. I tended to not understand the needs of aging congregants and rather dismissed them.

And in hindsight I found I had a jaded view. I tended to not understand the needs of aging congregants and rather dismissed them.

After having consulted for so many years and conducted numerous focus groups with aging congregants I have found them to be dear, committed saints who now suffer insecurity in their lives” an insecurity the next-generation can address … if the next gen doesn’t abandon and instead respects the senior saints’ culture.

The result has been that some churches, like Trinity Wesleyan Church in Indianapolis has reached out to senior centers. They just don’t go into senior centers and put on a Sunday service. But they actually organize the seniors to lead the services. It gives aging Christians an opportunity to still be involved in worship and leadership. (As a preacher, worship leader and pastor I hope one day that opportunity will be afforded me 🙂

GENERATIONS & McIntosh on theories re. power & characteristics

(From a presentation at the annual meeting of The Great Commission Research Network at Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017).

Generations can be thought with key words (in italics below)

The senior generation is informing. They are (attempting) to pass their knowledge along to further generations.

The mature generation is prevailing.  This means they are in charge and their behaviors, ideas and products are prevailing in most areas of the culture.

The adult generation is promoting.  They are promoting themselves and their products in order to move up (i.e. be promoted) in influence.

The young generation is learning.  They are watching and accessing knowledge modalities (YouTube, Internet, etc.) to learn more (but may not actually embrace this knowledge).

Speaking hashtags: #CGRN

CHANGE & Harnessing the Differences Between Generations & Their Approaches to Change

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., an address delivered to the Great Commission Research Network (GCRN), Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

“How Changing Generations … Change: Harnessing the Differences Between Generations and Their Approaches to Change.”

Abstract

This article will compare and contrast two leadership change strategies as observed in older generations (influenced by modernity) and younger generations (influenced by postmodernity). It will be suggested that modernist leadership strategies may focus more on command-and-control and vision. It will be further suggested that postmodern leaders may employ a more collaborative and mission-centric approach to change leadership. This latter approach will be shown to have been described in postmodern circles by organic metaphors and four conditions as set forth by organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch. Subsequently, it will be suggested that the style of leadership embraced should depend upon the cultural context of the generational actors and the environment.

This study must begin with a few delimitations and explanations regarding terminology that will be employed. I present these as juxtaposition propositions.

Boomers vs. Everyone Else (Gen. X, Y & Z)

There are varying ways to designate generational cultures. The most widely accepted labels have been put forth by Philip Bump in his article “Here is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts.”[1] Synthesizing work conducted by the US Census Bureau, the Harvard Center and Strauss and Howe, Bump suggests these designations:

  • Greatest Generation, born before 1945
  • Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
  • Generation X, born 1965-1984
  • (overlapping: Generation Y, born 1975-2004)
  • Millennials, born 1982-2004
  • TBD, 2003-today[2]

Philip Bump, The Atlantic, titled “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts” (3/25/14)

To complicate matters, I have suggested the older generations are more influenced by modernity while the younger generations by postmodernity.[3] Though it is hard to designate an arbitrary point at which the majority of a generation crosses the modernal divide, this article will assume these influences. I have made at length a case for this elsewhere.[4]

Modernity vs. Postmodernity

To contrast modernity and postmodernity is beyond the scope and scale of this article. However, the genesis of these two views coupled with a meta-perspective on culture can frame our discussion.

Modernity roughly coincides with the emergence of education as the interpreter of knowledge. Emerging with the Reformation and gaining momentum in the Enlightenment, modernity viewed the mentor-mentee form of education as the arbitrator of civilization. Modernity hoped that through education the world would become a better place. Therefore, while sitting at the feet of experts, neophytes could build a better life for themselves and others.

Somewhere around the beginning of the 20th Century, disenchantment with the modern experiment arose. Modernity hoped that its emphasis upon education and knowledge would usher in a new world of peace. Instead, it had created new powers who tapped their educational resources to create weapons of mass destruction. The carnage of World War I was a verification that modernity had failed, as witnessed through the most educated countries on the earth becoming the most likely to devise new ways to kill people en masse.

The reaction first took hold in the art world, which employed an oxymoron (postmodernity) to describe a world in which humans move beyond the modern experiment (i.e. into post-modernity).[5] While modernity saw education from experts as the redeemer of culture, postmodernity began to prefer experience as its arbitrator of civilization. Modernity dictums such as “Get an education to get ahead” were replaced with postmodern maxims of “Try it, you may like it.” Thus arose in postmodernity an emphasis upon experience as a better teacher than experts.

To highlight this, the terms modern and postmodern will be used to highlight the difference in leadership approaches between younger and older leaders. The reader is cautioned to not apply these descriptors too narrowly or too generally. Rather, the judicious academic should allow these categories to inform his or her analysis of leadership while also taking into account the context and the players.

Organic vs. Organization

Over time, the term organic church has been more palatable in Christian circles than the term postmodern church. For instance, my publisher rejected my use of the term postmodern in the chapter titles of a 2011 book, because of the perceived anti-religious bent of postmodernity. Thus, I chose the term organic because it is helpful when describing the New Testament concept of a church as an organism with its interconnected, inter-reliant parts as seen in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1, and Colossians 1.

Theologian Emil Bruner also emphasized that though the church is a spiritual organism (requiring pastoring and spiritual growth) it is also an organization (necessitating management and administration ).[6] Therefore, the term organic organization will be employed in this article to emphasize both elements.

I find it interesting that secular postmodern organizational theorists, such as the influential Mary Jo Hatch, have picked up upon the organic metaphor as a designation for healthy organizations.[7] Hatch suggests organic organizations embrace four conditions, which I will utilize in this discussion to frame how change mechanisms respond to them.

Condition 1: Organic, postmodern leadership understands it is dependent on its environment. While a modern leadership approach might try to colonize or impose upon another culture a leader’s preferential culture; according to Hatch an organic approach adapts its leadership practices to the indigenous cultures in which it hopes to bring about change.

Condition 2: Organic, postmodern leadership envisions a dissonant harmony that must be cultivated between the varied parts in the organization.[8] While a modernist strategy might overlook parts of the organization in order to emphasize those organizational aspects with growth potential, the postmodern sees an interconnectedness that requires addressing weaknesses in addition to building upon strengths. (Biblical examples for this view may be inferred from I Corinthians 12:12, 14, 20, 27; Romans 12: 4-5 and Ephesians 4:12 – 13).

Condition 3: Organic organizations adapt continually to their changing environments. The organization learns from its environment, weeds out aspects that can be unhealthy and learns which aspects can be embraced without compromising the mission or vision. To do so without compromising an underling mission, Kraft suggests this requires us to see Christ as “above but working through culture.”[9] Eddie Gibbs elaborates by suggesting that behaviors, ideas and products of a culture must be “sifted.”[10] Using a colander metaphor, Gibbs suggest this is an incarnational approach, “He (Christ) acts redemptively with regard to culture, which includes judgment on some elements, but also affirmation in other areas, and a transformation of the whole.”[11]

Condition 4: Organic uniqueness recognizes that certain species flourish in some environments and die in others. Hence, to Hatch what works in one organization cannot necessarily be franchised into another context. Therefore, Hatch and other postmodern theorists like Zalesnick reject the notions of “irrefutable” and “unassailable” leadership laws or rules that can be applied in a general manner.[12]

With the above understanding of generational depictions, the philosophical forces that inform them, the organization as organism, and the conditions of an organic organization, we can move on to compare two areas where modern and postmodern leadership may differ. This is not to say these are the only or even most powerful areas in which they differ. I have compared and contrasted eight areas in my Abingdon Press release: ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. More depth on this discussion can be found there. However, for the present article, I will delve into two aspects that were not discussed to this depth in the aforementioned book.

Command-and-control leadership vs. collaborative leadership.

Modern leadership has customarily been associated with command-and-control leadership as depicted in Adam Smith’s seminal book The Wealth of Nations.[13] In this model the role of the leader or manager is to command often unwilling workers to pursue a goal while controlling their actions to attain it. Upon Smith’s ideas Frederick Taylor built Theory X, famously asserting; “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job.”[14]

Postmodern leadership, not surprisingly, reacted against this emphasis on a leadership expert and instead embraced a consensus building and collaborative approach. Harrison Monarch describes the contrast this way:

The archaic command-and-control approach is shelved in favor of a culture in which managers admit they don’t have all the answers and will implement and support team decisions. This means mangers become the architects of that team dynamic rather than the all-seeing purveyors of answers. The result is a culture of trust and employee empowerment that is safe.”[15]

Support for this approach can be found in the research of Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke. Not only organizational theorists who study of the formation of breakaway organizations (e.g. how organizations lose their change proponents), they also participate on the boards of their churches. They have applied their understanding of breakaway organizations to what they’ve witnessed in churches.[16] Dyke and Starke found that pastors who dictate change (or even who align themselves with a subgroup of change components who do so) will usually be pushed out by the status quo unless the leader demonstrates collaborative leadership. They discovered that the successful leader will build consensus for a change, even among the naysayers, before the change is implemented. They also discovered that implementing change too fast and without vetting it with the status quo results in failed change. Thus, change often fails in churches because it was not implemented in a collaborative fashion. Disturbingly, they also discovered an end result is that pastors and those proposing change are forced out of the church because they didn’t attain a unifying outcome.[17]

John Kotter is a Harvard management professor who wrote the seminal article (and the resultant book) on change, titled Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.[18] He states that the “second step” for bringing about change is to create a “guiding coalition” to generate that change. He found that when one person or one side pushes for change, the other sides will push back with the resultant change creating division rather than progress. Kotter’s solution is to create (as the second step of the eight-step process) a “guiding coalition” of both change proponents and the status quo who will bring change in a collaborative manner.

Best practices for the church: A leader must resist command-and-control tendencies and instead embrace approaches oriented toward collaboration. Best practices include Dyke and Starke’s suggestions that church leaders go to the status quo and listen to their concerns before launching into a change.[19] While field-testing this, I have found that simply giving status quo members a hearing goes a long way to helping them feel their voice and concerns are heard. Dyck and Starke also found that when an inevitable alarm event occurs through which some change begins to polarize the congregation, the collaborative pastor will bring the people together to grasp the common vision and cooperate on a solution.[20] Kotter even pushes the establishment of a guiding coalition to the top (second) of his eight tactical steps.

Motivating by vision vs. motivating by mission

There is some confusion among practitioners regarding the difference between vision and mission. Kent Hunter and I, in an earlier book, sought to compare and contrast various ecclesial definitions of vision and mission and suggest an abridgment.[21]

George Barna[22]  

Elmer L. Towns[23]

 

Whitesel / Hunter[24]
Mission:  

A philosophic statement that under-girds the heart of your ministry.

Your ministry emphasis and your church gifting. “What do we do” (and why do we do it, 2017)
Vision: A clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God, and based on an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances. Same as Barna. “Where do we believe God is calling our church to go in the future?”

 

My experience has been that older generations, influenced by modernity, typically emphasize the vision. By this, I mean they have a clear mental picture of the future and try to muster all of their forces to attain it. This can, and often does, result in a parade of different programs being promoted to the congregation which often – by their sheer frequency – overwhelms and wears out the congregants. Burnout is often the result.

I have noticed that younger generations are more likely to emphasize the mission that undergirds these various visions. This is perhaps because they have witnessed this in their parents’ congregations. According to Barna, a mission is “a philosophic statement that undergirds the heart of your ministry.”[25] This leads postmodern-influenced leaders to emphasize less the different programs that are being implemented and instead to motivate by stressing the mission behind them.

An interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today yields a useful example.[26] In the article, Nadella criticizes founding CEO Bill Gates for mixing up the difference between a mission and a vision. Nadella states, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal… When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.”

“…we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today

Nadella was right because “putting a PC in every home” is not a mission – it is a vision. It is something that can be reached, can be pictured in your mind and is temporally bound. You can see a vision in your mind. You can envision every house having a PC computer. That is why every house today doesn’t have an IBM PC. Instead, many have Apple Macs.

A mission, however, drives the company and its values, therefore shaping its decisions. It is much bigger and grander than a vision.

When Steve Jobs was luring Bill Scully from PepsiCo to become CEO of Apple, Jobs shared a mission, not a vision, saying: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”[27]

A mission is just like that. It is exciting, world-changing … but somewhat imprecise so it could manifest in many different outcomes (i.e. visions). It is also not temporally bound, like “putting a PC in every home.” A mission drives your values and decisions through many different projects.

Apple’s mission reminds me of the trend I see in my youthful seminary students to emphasize mission over vision. They correctly understand that mission can be realized in many different visions. Apple’s mission would be realized in varied visions including: the vision to revolutionize the way music is purchased via iTunes, the vision to miniaturize the computer into a handheld device, etc. The result is that Apple devotees have a passion that IBM followers don’t. Apple has an ongoing mission that continues to be realized in various visions. As a result, the clarity of Apple’s mission, best exemplified in Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, unleashes a passion in its followers.[28]

Best practices for the church: When leading younger leaders, it may be helpful to emphasize the mission while letting many subcategories of vision come and go as opportunity rises and wanes. The younger generations appear to want to be reminded of the mission but allowed to create multiple visions of how it may be carried out. They don’t want to stick to one idea or tactic, but rather one mission. Therefore, the mission becomes more important than a time and measurement constrained vision which often influenced their parents’ church.

Though they may not realize it, Hatch’s four conditions of organic organizations are reflected in the postmodern emphasis upon an unchanging mission in lieu of the temporal- and quantitative-bound nature of vision. For example, “Condition 1: An organic dependency on its environment” is reflected in the postmodern emphasis that church should not be a closed, self-contained system; but rather an organic congregation tied to those it serves inside and outside the organization. Hatch’s “Condition 2: An organic harmony among the parts” is reflected in the postmodern propensity toward dissonant harmony among multiple constituencies. “Condition 3: Organic adaption to the surroundings,” is exhibited as these organic experiments adapt to the culture of their surroundings by changing visions as the environment changes. And finally, “Condition 4: Organic uniqueness from other organizations” is mirrored in their intentions to not franchise what works in other churches but to create indigenous and elastic visions that serve an immutable mission.

The tip of an iceberg

These approaches to change are just the tip of an iceberg of divergences between the leadership modality of the modernist and postmodernist. I’ve compared and contrasted more areas in my Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. The reader may be interested in how I delve into the striking difference regarding how younger generations offset the disadvantages of homogeneity. For a thorough investigation of the distinctions between modern and postmodern leadership, I would encourage the reader to consult this volume.

[1] The Atlantic magazine, March 25, 2014.

[2] Generation Z has been suggested as the descriptor for this generation by the New York Times, see Sabrina Tavernise, “A Younger Generation is Being Born in Which Minorities are the Majority,” New York Times, May 17, 2012.

[3] Bob Whitesel, “Toward a Holistic in Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four-forces Model of Change as Reflected in Church Growth Movement Literature,” The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, Fall 2008.

[4] Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 53-56.

[5] Eddie Gibbs in Church Next (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 23) explains that though Frederico de Onis created the term “postmodern” in the 1930s it was not until the 1960s that it gained popularity due to its use by art critics.

[6] Emil Bruner, trans. Harold Knight, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), pp. 15-18.

[7] Mary Joe Hatch, Organizational Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 53-54.

[8] While Hatch utilizes the term requisite harmony, I have substituted the helpful term dissonant harmony as employed by Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2003).

[9] Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), pp. 113.

[10] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., p. 120.

[11] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 92.

[12] See for the example the hedgehog versus Fox’s comparison in Abraham Zalesnik’s book, hedgehogs and foxes: character, leadership, and commanding organizations parentheses New York: Palm grave McMillan, 2008). Zalesnik use this is a metaphor of hedgehogs who live by unwavering rules with the more long-lived foxes who adapt to their environment..

[13] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1976), books 1 and 4.

[14] Quoted by Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 368-369

[15] Harrison Monarth, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), p. 55.

[16] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822.

[17] For more on this seek Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change, And What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and the chapter titled “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 151-169.

[18] Harvard Business Review (Boston: Harvard Business Press, January 2007).

[19] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, ibid., 44:812-813.

[20] ibid., 44:813-819.

[21] Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), p. 107.

[22]George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992), pp. 28, 38–39.

[23] Elmer L. Towns, Vision Day: Capturing the Power of Vision, (Lynchburg, Virginia; Church Growth Institute, 1994), pp. 24-25.

[24] Whitesel and Hunter, op. cit., p. 107.

[25] Barna, op. cit., p. 28.

[26] Marco della Cava, “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is Counting on Culture Shock to Drive Growth,” USA Today, Feb. 20, 2017.

[27]John Sculley and John A. Byrne, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future (New York: HarperCollins, 1987), p. 90.

[28] The 1984 Apple commercial is available on YouTube and is best described by MacWorld writer Adelia Cellini in the following: “Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledgehammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?” “The Story Behind Apple’s “1984” TV commercial: Big Brother at 20,” MacWorld, 21 (1), p. 18.

Download the article here… ARTICLE Whitesel 2017 Changing Generations Change GCRJ GCRN 17.10.17

Bio

Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D. holds two doctorates from Fuller Seminary and is the founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. A speaker/consultant on church health, organic outreach and multiethnic ministry, he is the award-winning author of 13 books published by national publishers. National magazines have stated: “Bob Whitesel is the change agent” (Ministry Today) and “Bob Whitesel is the key spokesperson on change in the church today” (Outreach Magazine). The faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary awarded him The Donald McGavran Award for outstanding scholarship in church growth and The Great Commission Research Network awarded him The Donald A. McGavran Award for outstanding leadership in church growth.

Theological Reflection Seminar #TheoReflect #GCRN

GENERATIONS & The complete guide to Generation Z

by Ryan Jenkins, Inc. Magazine, 7/25/17.

No matter your age, technology is fundamentally re-shaping your behavior and expectations in a way you never thought possible. If technology has changed the way you live and work, imagine how it shaped an entire generation that has used technology as early as one year old.

Total game changer.

The next generation gives us data points into what’s next. Understanding who is Generation Z provides the necessary data to influence how a company must recruit, retain, and lead its employees in the future. (Read this to find out the eight ways Generation Z differs from Millennials.)

Rather than focusing on historical events, the below timeline covers how pivotal innovations and culture shifts have transformed Generation Z’s view of life and work. Generation Z begins in 1998 and the below provides the necessary context around how the oldest Generation Zers have grown up by charting the fictitious life journey of one individual. Let’s call this individual Jennifer Zahn or Jen Z for short–ah, get it?

Who Is Generation Z: A Timeline That Reveals How the 21st Century Shaped Them

1998: Jen Z is born.

Jen Z is raised by tech-savvy Generation X parents and many of her younger Generation Z peers are being raised by the tech-dependent Millennials. In fact, 38 percent of children today who are under two years old have used a mobile device for playing games, watching videos, or other media-related purposes. There was a relatively large technology gap between Millennials and their Baby Boomer parents, but Generation X has shrunk that gap with their Generation Z kids which has only accelerated the tech adoption of Generation Z.

Generation X’s independence, survival mentality, and skepticism towards leaders and institutions that they witness rise and fall during their youth will translate into parenting Generation Z with a focus on do-it-yourself mentality, hard work, and being realistic (especially since 62 percent of Generation Z doesn’t remember a time before the Great Recession).

  • Generation Z Mindset: Generation Z will approach work with a DIY, work hard, and pragmatic mindset.
  • Innovation Influencer: Parents

2006: Jen Z collaborates globally.

At age 8, Jen Z is an avid gamer which shapes her approach to collaboration. With 66 percent of Generation Z listing gaming as their main hobby, the International Olympic Committee is considering adding pro-gaming as an official sport, and Amazons $970 million acquisition of the live streaming video platform where viewers watch playthroughs of video games and other gaming-related events, Twitch, confirm the growth and importance of gaming among Generation Z…

Jen Z doesn’t think twice about turning on her Xbox, putting on a headset, and gaming alongside people around the world in real time as they strive for an epic Halo win. Because gaming isn’t hierarchical, Jen Z grasps the power and ease of virtual collaboration and reaching across borders to create powerful and diverse networks of global talent.

  • Generation Z Mindset: Generation Z gravitates towards gamified processes or procedures and are native to global communication and collaboration across virtual platforms.
  • Innovation Influencer: Xbox

2007: Jen Z becomes untethered.

At age 9, Jen Z is given her first cell phone for the primary purpose of safety and logistics. However, she is soon exposed to the new smartphone that mom and dad own. Today, the average age for a child getting their first smartphone is 10.3 years-old. Smartphones mobilized Generation Z to text, socialize, and game on the go.

Also at this time, YouTube is growing in popularity and thanks to the easy to use Flip Video camera, Jen Z is empowered to create and share videos. Three-quarters of Generation Z watch YouTube at least weekly. YouTube becomes a go-to resource for entertainment, information, and how-tos.

  • Generation Z Mindset: Generation Z is a video and mobile-centric generation where their mobile devices serve as the remote control of their lives.
  • Innovation Influencer: Smartphone and YouTube

2008: Jen Z extends her digital communication.

At age 10, Jen Z doesn’t meet the age requirements of Facebook but that doesn’t stop her from lying about her age in order to create an account and begin communicating with friends. While Millennials helped push social media into the mainstream, Generation Z can’t remember a world where social media didn’t exist. Today, 39 percent of kids get a social media account at 11.4 years-old.

Millennials were digital pioneers, but Generation Z is the true digital natives. They have not had to adapt to technology because the only world they know is a hyper-connected one where 2 out of 7 people on the planet use Facebook.

  • Generation Z Mindset: Generation Z is quick to adopt new communication channels and prefers real-time, transparent, and collaborative digital communications.
  • Innovation Influencer: Facebook

2009: Jen Z benefits from content curation.

At age 11, Jen Z enters middle school with a smart device and the world’s information curated into blank search boxes. Jen Z and her peers have become adept researchers and very resourceful due to their early Internet access. In fact, 43% of Generation Zteens prefer a digital approach to learning and find it easiest to learn from the Internet.

Generation Z treats the Internet as their external brain and therefore approach problems in a whole new way, unlike any generation before them. They do not consider parents or teachers as the authority but rather the Internet as the authority.

  • Generation Z Mindset: Generation Z wants teachers and managers to not be the sole source of their learning but rather supplement their learning — coaching them through their questions, mistakes, and successes.
  • Innovation Influencer: Search Engines

2010: Jen Z lives an interconnected life…

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/ryan-jenkins/complete-guide-to-who-is-generation-z.html

SENIOR WORKERS & work activities will become increasingly “age agnostic” & age stereotypes will look increasingly outdated

“Our Assumptions About Old and Young Workers Are Wrong”

by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Harvard Business Review, 11/14/16.

… To understand how people are responding to this transformation in their working lives, we developed a survey completed by more than 10,000 people from across the world aged 24 to 80.

We found far fewer differences between the age groups than we might have imagined. In fact, many of the traits and desires commonly attributed to younger people are shared by the whole workforce. Why might this be the case?

…For our recent book The 100 Year Life we calculated how long people will work. Whilst we cannot be precise, it is clear that in order to finance retirement many people currently in their fifties will work into their seventies; whilst those in their twenties could well be working into their eighties. That means that inevitably people of very different ages are increasingly working together.

This long working life, coupled with profound technological changes, dismantles the traditional three-stage life of full-time education, full-time work, and full-time retirement. In its place is coming – for all employees regardless of their age – a multi-stage life that blends education, exploration, and learning, as well as corporate jobs, freelance gigs, and time spent out of the workforce. Inevitably the variety of these stages and their possible sequencing will result in both greater variety within age cohorts, whilst also providing opportunities for different ages to engage in similar activities. In other words, work activities will become increasingly “age agnostic” and these age stereotypes will look increasingly outdated.

…The people in our study overturned these stereotypes:

  • It is not just the young who are investing in new skills…Certainly a higher proportion of those aged 18-30 (91%) and 31-45 (72%) felt they were investing in new skills but after the age of 45 almost 60% of all ages said they were actively investing…
  • It is not just the young who are positive and excited by their workWhat was striking was that whatever their age, those feeling positive about their work was a constant at just over 50%. Just as striking is the proportion of people of all ages who don’t feel positive about their work…
  • Older people are working harder to keep fit. We know that vitality is central to a long productive life and it is easy to imagine that it’s only the young who really care about their fitness. Yet we discovered that it is the older who are working hardest to try to keep fit. About half of those under 45 actively try to keep fit, rising continuously across the ages with a peak of 71% for those aged over 70.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2016/11/our-assumptions-about-old-and-young-workers-are-wrong

GENERATION Z & What Churches Need to Know About Generation Z

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, 8/9/16.

While many churches remain concerned about attracting millennials, a new generation of adults is emerging with their own identity.

Generation Z, also known as iGen, are more than 25 percent of America’s population. The oldest members of this generation turn 18 this year. Just who are they and what does the church need to know about them?

New research reported by The Washington Post reveals a complicated picture of the generation born since 1998.

1. First true digital native generation

… Since they were born, Generation Z has grown up connected to the web and social media. They are the first generation to have their parents post baby pictures and dance recitals on Facebook. Today Gen Zers are documenting their lives on Instagram and Snapchat.

…But this increased exposure has brought unintended consequences. More than 4 in 10 members of Generation Z (42 percent) say social media impacts their self-esteem.

Churches should focus on helping tweens and teens find their identity and self-worth in Christ, not in the online opinion of others.

2. Love to communicate, but not always with words

… Instead of reading texts or blogs, they would rather interact with video and other visual forms. And they would rather do it online than with a television. Among 13- to 24-year-olds, 96 percent watched online video content over the past week at an average of 11 hours a week. By contrast, 81 percent of the same group watched scheduled TV for an average of 8 hours weekly.

You can also see Generation Z’s preference for visual interaction with their top three social media platforms, according to the research in The Washington Post. More than half like Vine (54 percent) and Instagram (52 percent), while a third enjoy Twitter (34 percent). The first two are video and photo sharing sites and Twitter increasingly incorporates images and videos.

…Learn how to use video content, like the new Instagram Stories. Here are five ways churches can use that feature.

3. Most racially diverse generation

…Among Americans under 18, whites comprise just over half (52 percent), according to Census analysis by Brookings. As you examine younger segments of Generation Z, the diversity only grows. Looking at the Census data, Pew Research found whites are a minority among children under 5.

Fourteen states already have “majority minority” populations under 18. And in half the states, Generation Z is more than 40 percent minority.

The need for churches to become multicultural is only going to increase as Generation Z enters adulthood. Being surrounded by people from different ethnicities and cultures is becoming the norm for this generation.

[Read more about multicultural churches in Facts & Trendsissue “United by the Gospel.”]

4. Only beginning their cultural influence

… Early research indicates this new generation is less idealistic and more thrifty than millennials. As they take on more societal influence, their traits—for better or worse—will hold more sway over culture.

If trends continue, fewer members of Generation Z will see religion as important, according to Pew Research.

Evangelical churches will need to find ways to retain children who grow up attending their churches and reach the growing number of the emerging adults who come from unchurched families. After researching college students, a study found eight steps churches can take now to reach (and keep) young adults.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/08/09/what-churches-need-to-know-about-generation-z/#.V6oSnlT3aJI

GENERATIONS & Why Do Need to Label Generations? Some Thoughts from Missiology

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/17/15.

Once a student asked me if we should refer strictly to “different preferences” or “styles” of worship, rather than “generational preferences” for worship.  His rationale was that he enjoyed Gen. X worship, but he was a Boomer.  Designating it Gen. X-style worship made him feel it was too generationally specific.  Instead he said, “Why can’t we just say we offer differing styles?”

This is a good point.  But, it may be counterproductive for researchers and academics to avoid generational designations (though I would encourage you to publicly speak of styles – e.g. traditional, classic, modern, postmodern, emerging, organic, etc. when publicizing these various styles).  However, for our research discussions the generational designations are important for clarity, specificity and generative explanations.  Let me elaborate on this.

We Use Labels Carefully, To Describe Cultures

Generational predilections and their resultant designations provide a rubric for understanding cultures.  It is about cultures, but these cultures are largely generationally driven (due to common experiences – see Gary McIntosh’s exploration of this in “Four Generations” or Margaret Mead’s “Culture and Commitment”).  Thus generational descriptors are important sociological and anthropological designations that are not exclusive, but valuable for communication.  If we follow the logic of rejecting generational descriptors and instead referring to a strategy of “offering as many styles as possible,” we then loose the emphasis upon the genesis of those styles – shared temporal experiences (the Depression, Vietnam War, Gulf War, computers, Internet age, etc. etc.).

Thus, I want to advocate that as researchers and strategists we keep the generational designations when working with leaders, for it reminds us the genesis is cultural.  And, it also reminds us that though we may relate to these cultures (as I think I do with Millennials), we who are of a different age (I am a Boomer) are never truly part of it because we have not experienced the same temporal experiences.  Note how in my “Inside the Organic Church” book I was unintentionally but constantly reminded that I was an outsider by these Gen. X congregations.

Etic or Emic? Why It is Important to Understand the Difference.

There actually is a name for this tension in missiology.  If you are truly part of a culture you have an emic relationship with it.  And if you are an outsider to a culture (such as a missionary), you may study it, analyze it, adopt it and even enjoy it … but you are never truly native to it, and thus you have an etic relationship with it.  Thus, I have an etic relationship with Gen. X, even though I love their organic emphasis even more than my native Boomer church culture.