by Trevecca Okholm, MA – Certified Christian Educator (PCUSA), Family Ministry Consultant, author of The Grandparenting Effect: Bridging Generations One Story at a Time
The first wave of Generation Alpha (the generation born between 2010 – 2025) will reach adulthood by the 2030s. By that time, the human population is expected to be just under nine billion, and the world will have the highest ever proportion of people aged over 60 meaning this demographic cohort will bear the burden of an aging population. These statistics also mean that it is time for the church to begin having serious conversations about what all this entails for ministry.
How should the church intentionally be about bridging the gap (aka bridge building) between those soon to be emerging adults in Generation Alpha and the increase of the elderly population which, by then, will be largely made up of those in the Boomer generation?
And, since most of the Boomer generation falls into the “grandparenting” demographic and most of the Boomer’s grandchildren have been born into Generation Alpha, the role of effective grandparenting can take on a significant focus of the ministry of bridge building.
I suggest this ministry of bridge building does not and should not require the church to begin by adding new staff positions to oversee the development of more church programming. Bridge building between generations should be more organic, more about equipping and empowering those of Boomer generation - more about planning worship, mission trips, service projects, faith formation sessions, and the like, so that Boomers and Gen Alpha end up having to rub shoulders!
As well, effective generational bridge building should certainly be about sharing our stories! Jerome Berryman expresses it this way: without our shared stories our families (and our churches) have become “like neighboring islands without any bridges.” In a church setting these neighboring islands look like adults worshiping in one space while youth worship in another, children in yet another space and only coming together a few times a year for something that looks like a “Youth Sunday” or children’s choir performing in adult worship.
In his newest book, Shane Claiborne writes about “The Wonder Gap.” He writes, "If our community is all white, something’s not quite right.” But our church might also have a Wonder Gap when our church community is divided into generations (“siloed” groups) for separate experiences of worship and ministry. Something’s not quite right there either.
I hope this short Forum post creates a curiosity in you to talk more about models of how this generational bridge building can begin to take place in your church. If it does, please register HERE for our upcoming Children's Spirituality Summit (April 17-18) and plan to join me in the breakout session on Bridging the Gap Between Boomers and Generation Alpha. (early bird registration ends March 15). Discounted rates are available for students.
I hope to talk more with you there!