GENERATIONS PROJECT

Unity Through Empathy
Bridging the Intergenerational Divide in Church

Why is there a need for this research project?
We live at a unique point in history where at least five generations are living and working together. Each generation has been shaped by different formative experiences: for the Silent generation—World War 2 and the Great Depression; for Generation X and onwards—the advent of the internet. Because of this, the ways they view life and faith are different.

While it is wrong to overgeneralise the characteristics of each generation, and indeed each individual is in many ways unique, there are also common trends we see in the different generations. This has resulted in misunderstanding and conflict in our families, our organisations, and in the church as well, between those from different generations. One of the fallouts from this conflict is that young adults (millennials) are leaving our churches. This is a challenge the church has not faced before. Guided by the Spirit, we need to look to the scriptures to see how we should respond.

Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12, on the church as a body with many members, is particularly helpful. There Paul also deals with the divisions in the church—not caused by different generations—that arose from the fact that the members of the church were from different races, different social classes, had different understandings of the importance of certain spiritual gifts, and were loyal to different leaders, etc.

Paul reminds the Corinthian church, and us, that the church is meant to be marked by unity, diversity, and interdependence. This Generations Project seeks to help a church made up of different generations to be just that.

Read on
1. Unity

In a very divided church, Paul tells the Corinthians that the church of Christ is to be united.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12–14)

There is one Christ. There is one Spirit. There is one body—those who claim to belong to Christ and are made alive by His Spirit. Divisions in God’s church calls into question our identity in the same Christ. Although members of the body of Christ may differ in various ways, we are called to be united.

While Paul faced different reasons for the divisions in the church at Corinth in his time, I have no doubts that today he would also call a church made up of people from different generations to be united. He would call us to take seriously any divisions arising from the fact that our church has people from different generations.

Disunity gives lie to the fact that we have been baptised by one spirit into one body. Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 13 that the most important mark of Christian spirituality is love, and that surely includes love between the different generations.

 

2. Diversity

However, Paul does not equate the call for unity with a call for uniformity. The Corinthian church must take seriously the fact that her members are different.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:15–20)

Using the human body as an example, the body is one. It is united. Yet the body parts are different, and all the parts are valid members of the body. The church in Corinth is not just a church for the Jews or the Gentiles; the rich or the poor; those who favour more dramatic spiritual gifts or those who don’t; men or women; etc. The church is a church for all. Irrespective of background, all members of the church should feel that they are equally valuable and valid members.

In the context of the different generations, whatever generation a member may come from, he or she must realise and experience a sense of belonging. Therefore, a boomer shouldn’t be made to feel that the church is primarily for the young, and a millennial shouldn’t be made to feel that the church is primarily for boomers. This has implications for all aspects of church life, from how we do corporate worship, to how we do community and how we do mission.

 

3. Interdependence

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21–26)

Finally, Paul tells us that not only are we to be united though we are different, but we actually need each other. God has made us different for a reason. We need each other. He has already pointed out how ridiculous the human body would be if it were made of only one part.

The parts of the human body are different because the different parts have different contributions to make to the life and functioning of the body. Therefore, the fact that the different members of a church are different is not a mistake. We are different so that we have different contributions to make to the common life of the church. We need each other.

Elsewhere in the Bible we are told to learn from our elders (Hebrews 13:7). But Jesus would also tell us that we are to learn from children (Matthew 18:1–5). Therefore, our goal when we seek to understand the different generations and to help them understand each other is not just to minimise conflict between them. We are also seeking to help each generation contribute their unique strengths to the life and mission of the church. The different generations need each other.

 

Conclusion

The church of Christ is meant to be a body where her members are united, diverse, and interdependent. Therefore it is critical that we work at understanding the different generations in churches today; to help the different generations understand themselves and each other, to minimise conflict between the generations, and to help each generation contribute their unique strengths so that the church can be healthy and whole for God’s purposes.

This is why we are committed to the generations project.

What will this project consist of?

This project seeks to increase the empathy that the different generations have for one another through in-depth ethnographic research and literature review.

  • Ethnographic Research – Qualitative (in-depth interviews leading to the creation of archetypes) and quantitative research to obtain first-hand knowledge of how each generation approaches faith, church and life in general.
  • Literature Review – Desktop research to improve our understanding of the local and global trends which affected each generation and was instrumental in shaping their worldviews.
  • Collaboration & Partnership – Share and make use of the insights gained from the research with interested churches and organisations.

  • Publishing – Publishing the results of the project so as to bless the global church..
  • What generations are we researching?

    Silent Generation
    Baby Boomer

    Click on the Baby Boomer icon to find out more about them!

    Click on the Millennial icon to find out more about them!

    What is the project timeline?

    Would you like to contribute?

    Your financial contribution will go a long way to support the manpower costs required for the in-depth research required for this endeavour.

    If you would like to contribute in other ways, please email weihao@graceworks.com.sg.

    GENERATIONS PROJECT

    Unity Through Empathy
    Bridging the Intergenerational Divide in Church

    Why is there a need for this research project?
    We live at a unique point in history where at least five generations are living and working together. Each generation has been shaped by different formative experiences: for the Silent generation—World War 2 and the Great Depression; for Generation X and onwards—the advent of the internet. Because of this, the ways they view life and faith are different.

    While it is wrong to overgeneralise the characteristics of each generation, and indeed each individual is in many ways unique, there are also common trends we see in the different generations. This has resulted in misunderstanding and conflict in our families, our organisations, and in the church as well, between those from different generations. One of the fallouts from this conflict is that young adults (millennials) are leaving our churches. This is a challenge the church has not faced before. Guided by the Spirit, we need to look to the scriptures to see how we should respond.

    Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12, on the church as a body with many members, is particularly helpful. There Paul also deals with the divisions in the church—not caused by different generations—that arose from the fact that the members of the church were from different races, different social classes, had different understandings of the importance of certain spiritual gifts, and were loyal to different leaders, etc.

    Paul reminds the Corinthian church, and us, that the church is meant to be marked by unity, diversity, and interdependence. This Generations Project seeks to help a church made up of different generations to be just that.

    Read on
    1. Unity

    In a very divided church, Paul tells the Corinthians that the church of Christ is to be united.

    Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12–14)

    There is one Christ. There is one Spirit. There is one body—those who claim to belong to Christ and are made alive by His Spirit. Divisions in God’s church calls into question our identity in the same Christ. Although members of the body of Christ may differ in various ways, we are called to be united.

    While Paul faced different reasons for the divisions in the church at Corinth in his time, I have no doubts that today he would also call a church made up of people from different generations to be united. He would call us to take seriously any divisions arising from the fact that our church has people from different generations.

    Disunity gives lie to the fact that we have been baptised by one spirit into one body. Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 13 that the most important mark of Christian spirituality is love, and that surely includes love between the different generations.

     

    2. Diversity

    However, Paul does not equate the call for unity with a call for uniformity. The Corinthian church must take seriously the fact that her members are different.

    Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:15–20)

    Using the human body as an example, the body is one. It is united. Yet the body parts are different, and all the parts are valid members of the body. The church in Corinth is not just a church for the Jews or the Gentiles; the rich or the poor; those who favour more dramatic spiritual gifts or those who don’t; men or women; etc. The church is a church for all. Irrespective of background, all members of the church should feel that they are equally valuable and valid members.

    In the context of the different generations, whatever generation a member may come from, he or she must realise and experience a sense of belonging. Therefore, a boomer shouldn’t be made to feel that the church is primarily for the young, and a millennial shouldn’t be made to feel that the church is primarily for boomers. This has implications for all aspects of church life, from how we do corporate worship, to how we do community and how we do mission.

     

    3. Interdependence

    The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21–26)

    Finally, Paul tells us that not only are we to be united though we are different, but we actually need each other. God has made us different for a reason. We need each other. He has already pointed out how ridiculous the human body would be if it were made of only one part.

    The parts of the human body are different because the different parts have different contributions to make to the life and functioning of the body. Therefore, the fact that the different members of a church are different is not a mistake. We are different so that we have different contributions to make to the common life of the church. We need each other.

    Elsewhere in the Bible we are told to learn from our elders (Hebrews 13:7). But Jesus would also tell us that we are to learn from children (Matthew 18:1–5). Therefore, our goal when we seek to understand the different generations and to help them understand each other is not just to minimise conflict between them. We are also seeking to help each generation contribute their unique strengths to the life and mission of the church. The different generations need each other.

     

    Conclusion

    The church of Christ is meant to be a body where her members are united, diverse, and interdependent. Therefore it is critical that we work at understanding the different generations in churches today; to help the different generations understand themselves and each other, to minimise conflict between the generations, and to help each generation contribute their unique strengths so that the church can be healthy and whole for God’s purposes.

    This is why we are committed to the generations project.

    What will this project consist of?

    This project seeks to increase the empathy that the different generations have for one another through in-depth ethnographic research and literature review.

  • Ethnographic Research – Qualitative (in-depth interviews leading to the creation of archetypes) and quantitative research to obtain first-hand knowledge of how each generation approaches faith, church and life in general.
  • Literature Review – Desktop research to improve our understanding of the local and global trends which affected each generation and was instrumental in shaping their worldviews.
  • Collaboration & Partnership – Share and make use of the insights gained from the research with interested churches and organisations.

  • Publishing – Publishing the results of the project so as to bless the global church..
  • What generations are we researching?

    Silent Generation
    Baby Boomer

    Click on the Baby Boomer or Millennials icons to find out more about them!

    What is the project timeline?

    Would you like to contribute?

    Your financial contribution will go a long way to support the manpower costs required for the in-depth research required for this endeavour.
    If you would like to contribute in other ways, please email weihao@graceworks.com.sg.