Gen X: The Forgotten Generation That is Replenishing the Church?

If you are a part of Gen X like me, you have probably started to notice that you are now the forgotten middle-child generation. Everyone wants to talk about the Boomers and Millennials… but not you Jan. Which is good when they are talking about how either generation is destroying everything… (even if you know it was Gen X that really did it). Related to that, this one tweet caught my eye today:

I would almost say this could be a compelling argument… if there wasn’t a significant generation between the two that, you know, had jobs and are at the general age when large portions of people tend to get involved with church. There are some anecdotal things I have observed about various generations that may come into play here:

  • Boomers were not as into church when they were teens and twentys as many assume. They might have been forced to go at some point, but so many of them seem to talk like they really stopped going at some point by their 20s.
  • These same Boomers seem to have come back to church in their 30s and 40s., when mortality and the brevity of life sinks in and they figure they need religion before they die.
  • Most people that have been in church know that “losing the youth of today” has been a common sermon trope for over 30 years now… but somehow attendance numbers seem to change little. If you have ever been behind the scenes at a church, you know that “reaching the youth of today” is more about getting money and commitment out of the 30-40 somethings than actually converting teens (which rarely works).
  • If you are Gen X, you know that most of the people you went to school with didn’t really like church. Most didn’t go, and many that did were forced to go by parents. A few believed at most, but kept it to themselves (until some big “reach the youth” event at their church guilt-ed them into doing some evangelism for a brief week at school).
  • Now that we have Facebook, we see that just like the Boomers before them, all of our Gen-X high school friends and family that were not Christian at all in their teens and twentys are suddenly all in church, posting scriptures all over Facebook and acting like they have been their all a long. Its really, really weird most of the time.
  • The current age of Gen-X is gnereally set at 40-54. However, older Millenials age 33-39 often talk about how they feel more in common with Gen X than Millenials. Generational differences don’t break down as easily as statistics would like them to, so you have to wonder what numbers get diluted when arbitrary divisions are used as standardized divisions across different research studies.

I may be reading too much into all of this. But I do know that there is a significant number of people that go back to church as they age. I do know that churches generally have large numbers of Gen-Xers in their midst, that those Gen-Xers generally have decent or good jobs. Therefore, I don’t think it is time to consider how Millenial trends will affect Boomer churches just yet. You can’t forget Gen-X.

Look – Gen-X was the original generation that was Emptying the Pews. We were the ones destroying all of the cool things that Boomers liked, while bringing in weird trends and food combinations. Gen-Xers were the ones that were struggling to get jobs and pay off student loan debt. But then we did start paying off loans and getting decent jobs (not all of us, but a lot of us). Our weird trends became retro-cool. And so on.

But wait! Will Millenials follow our same path? That I am not so sure of. Average college loan amounts are absurdly higher now than they were for us. Jobs are paying less, and are much harder to find for younger applicants. The economy really is in bad shape, but with less hope of anyone being able to fix it short or long term because of noticeably increased partisan divisions. It also seems like we have run out of time to save the environment. And so on. It could be possible that Millenials will follow the footsteps of Gen-X (how we somewhat saved ourselves from the mess that the Boomers left us… yeah, we were the first ones to notice that as well). But it may be too late for that to be possible. It might have gotten so bad that its not conceivable to change now. But I do think Gen-X is going to prop up what the Boomers have built for a lot longer than people seem to realize. Which is kind of ironic if you think about it.

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