Preferences towards particular worship styles are often blamed for the rifts between generations in the church.  But style of music and architecture is merely a surface excuse for why the emerging generations are seeking different approaches towards Christian spirituality than expressed by their parents or grandparents.  In actuality, as surveys of recent years indicate, emerging generations are embracing a myriad of forms and styles of church expression, some of which would seem more traditional or liturgical than the Baby Boomer models with which many of their parents would feel comfortable.(1)   
        The real problem is…

… that many in the emerging generations of the church sense a failure of their congregations to catalyze and equip them to continue in the faith and ministry expression of that congregation.  In other words, in order for churches to pass on the baton of ministry leadership, they must provide an environment of nurture and learning for the next generations.  David T. Olson, in his sweeping statistical analysis of church attendance, concluded that many churches become so generation-focused that they fail to notice their inability to adapt to changes around them, and especially share the mission of the church with emerging generations. Olson contends that “Churches will struggle if they cannot adjust to changes in culture” within which the younger generations are immersed.(2)   He suggests positively that “established churches can thrive no matter how old they are” but only if they continually revitalize themselves through the nourishment of relationships and mission across generational barriers.(3)    Likewise, in another sweeping church survey, Robert Wuthrup has concluded, “congregations can survive, but only if religious leaders roll up their sleeves and pay considerably more attention to young adults than they have been.”(4)   Church analysts from the Barna Group argue that the emerging generations are by and large “not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped” by their churches to “love or to think like Christ.”(5) 

(see ::generation.problem.1:: and ::generation.problem.2::)
1  Wuthnow, 224.
2  Bibby, 134
3  Olson, 136
4  Wuthnow, 230.
5  Kinnaman, David, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… and Why it Matters.  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 82.

graphic from photo.net


  1. Barna is interesting. Of course he himself has his own opinions about equipping all generations for ministry… stemming from his research and from personal experience. His book, Revolution, really reveals that. In that book he suggests that the “institution” of the local church will not be relevant to the real faith expression of future North American Christianity. The Barna Group itself might not come to that same conclusion from its research… but it is very interesting for sure.

  2. I would suggest a re-wording of the Barna Group statement from ‘the emerging generations’ to ‘all generations’. From my observations this is a cross-generational problem.
    What evidence does the Barna group cite that the church is allowing, encouraging and equipping older generations to the exxclusion of the emerging genrations?
    It is a real pleasure to watch how you and other young leaders are allowing, encouraging and equipping the younger generations. Continue to rely on the Holy Spirit, Ken, to allow Him to do the great work He is doing through you!
    But where is this younger generation supposed to go when they become a little older? Will they become lost to the church in a few years?

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