Generations, Multi-Generational Issues in Churches

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Generations, Millennial Generation, Inter-generational Unity

Note: This resource guide is part of the site archive, which was last updated in 2012.


There are several ways to speak of generational issues in established churches. One is from a Christian education angle on the importance of generations coming together for learning and worship. For example, do children and adults always worship together, or are there occasional separate activities? Questions like this are important, and generally fit into the category of Intergenerational Ministry. A few resources from this category are included here, but only the most introductory, as this is a specialty within the field of religious education and faith formation.

This Ministry Resource Guide focuses on Multi-Generational Ministry targeted to younger and older adult generations, primarily the challenges congregations experience with the coexistence of five age groups, and the concerns over the waning interest of the younger generations. The five groups are:

  • Seniors – The Greatest Generation, born 1900-1928
  • Builders – The Silent Generation, born 1929-1945
  • Boomers – The Me Generation, born 1946-1954
  • Busters – Generation X, The Lost Generation, born 1965-1983
  • Bridgers – Generations Y and iY, or Millennials, born 1984-2002

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Most of the material on generations highlights conflict and misunderstanding. Intergenerational conflict is not new. Yet many churches today encounter challenges in the relationship between the older and younger. The current struggle is partially due to the confluence of three major trends: longer life spans, rapid change, and the transitional period of post-modernity. People live long enough for five generations to be present in congregations, and the pace of change during the last three generations’ “coming of age” has widened the generational gap. This is exacerbated in settings that feel the seismic shifts of the postmodern ethos (this is not universal). When these three trends converge, it often results in conflict over worship styles, sermon forms, Bible translations, views of the church building, the place of pastoral care, drama and video, spirituality, leadership styles, and the scope of mission (holistic vs. evangelistic), etc.

This guide provides help on two fronts. First is how to reach, keep, or reclaim the younger generations, since this is where we incur the greatest risk of loss. Yet incorporating the youngest generations usually brings about considerable change and conflict for established churches. Thus the second task of facilitating healthy multi-generational relationships in the process of change.

Each of the resources below is listed in alphabetical order unless indicated, and is hopefully described well enough for each reader to prioritize according to need. Click the links to find more complete descriptions of each book. Please remember to consult the list at bottom for related resource guides

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Multi-Generational / Intergenerational Ministry

It is important to distinguish between multi-generational and intergenerational ministry. Multi-generational usually discusses how to create generation-specific experiences for all the age groups in a church. Intergenerational discusses how to intentionally bring the age-groups together for the purposes of interactive faith formation. I have a strong bias for intergenerational, but realize most churches lack the degree of intentionality to shift their church cultures in that direction. I have listed “First Reads” in both subject areas.

First Reads on Intergenerational (in suggested order):

First Reads on Multi-Generational (in suggested order):

Other Helpful Resources:

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Related Resources:

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Ministry to Millenials (Twenty-somethings):

Understanding Millennials (ages 16 to late-twenties):

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Understanding Emerging Adults (18-23):

Reclaiming De-churched Millennials (suggested order):

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Reaching Un-churched Millennials:

Understanding Churched Millennials — Missional (suggested order):

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Churched Millennials — Resurgent Reformed (Gospel Coalition):

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Other (Older) Suggestions on Generational Issues

Books of this genre have a brief shelf-life. Those listed below are certainly older, but for those who have specific questions about previous generations (e.g. Busters, Boomers), the following volumes may help.

Generation Theory:


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Busters / Generation X:

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Related Ministry Resources

See Related Resource Guides:

See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry:

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