As Oklahoma Baptists, we have adopted the mission statement: We encourage one another to advance the Gospel. In this series of blog posts, I hope to help you appreciate the point of view of your pastor and give you some ideas for how to encourage him—over a piping hot cup of coffee!
So, you want to have coffee with your Generation-X (GenX) pastor to encourage him? Awesome! Your GenX pastor might not want to admit it, but he’s dealing with a lot, and he could use some encouragement.
COVID-19 has everything messed up right now, and your GenX pastor, while not surprised by it, is trying to figure it out like everyone else (stuff has always been messed up as far as he is concerned). Also, like everyone else, he’s trying to grow in his faith, maintain his health and relationships, all while struggling with finances and all the other stresses happening all around us.
Your GenX pastor will be glad to share a cup of coffee with you and talk, but make that a double-shot in a vaguely-branded Oklahoma Baptists cup, because that’s how he rolls.
Generation-X pastors were born between the years 1965-1980. Around 31 percent of Oklahoma Baptists pastors are GenX. Also called the Baby Busters, this generation is the smallest generational cohort in the United States.
If you want to understand your GenX pastor, you need to understand a bit of the history that shaped his generation. Like any generation, the common history that transpires in their developing years forges a shared generational outlook. And, as you will see the GenX had a few hard knocks—no wonder that coffee should be a double-shot!
Some history you need to know to understand Generation-X
The smallness of GenX age group is due in part because in the late 1960s and1970s, there was a widely-held belief that overpopulation was endangering the planet –kind of like the way global warming is the planetary concern of today. Because of this, parents of GenX kids didn’t want to have as many children.
The expanding use of the birth control pill (made available since 1960) made it possible that fewer babies were being born during the years Busters were being born. Also, tragically, due to the Roe V. Wade decision (1973) by the Supreme Court abortion was made legal in the United States and deeply reduced the number of children being born by millions.
Throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s, divorce became more common in the U.S. with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce. This generation includes children of these divorcées. They became a generation of “latchkey kids” who learned to become self-reliant, taking care of themselves after school until their parents (often a single parent) came home from work.
For Generation-X, the perspective on life is not as optimistic as the generations before or after them. They tend to feel that the economy never seemed to have given them a break because they had to struggle and delay their opportunities to be leaders or attain prominence in the working world. To them, the Coronavirus is just another kick in the pants.
Okay, you didn’t know there would be so much homework, right? Here is a little bit about Generation-X that might make good coffee talk starters with your GenX pastor:
Entrepreneurialism. Since many of them grew up as latchkey kids, Busters value their ability to make their own way. There’s a little entrepreneur in just about every GenXer. When they were younger, there was a church planting boom led largely because GenX pastors wanted to do ministry differently. So if you are thinking of starting something new, your GenX pastor might enjoy hashing over a few ideas with you.
Networking by working together. The GenX way to network is to develop relationships through work. They tend to work toward making the organizations they work with more efficient by cultivating deeper connections with work partners. Ask your pastor if there is any way you can plug into what your church is doing. Taking initiative this way will be very encouraging to him, and you’ll get to hang out with him more!
Spiritual transparency. Your GenX pastor is likely to be open to being very candid with you about his own spiritual struggles, so you can be too. Seeking balance in spiritual disciplines, Busters are turned off by programmatic approaches to spirituality they feel are canned. You don’t need to put your best foot forward; just be honest with your GenX pastor about your spiritual struggles. He will be encouraged by that. Your pastor will have some great approaches to spiritual growth you will want to talk through with him.
Balance in life and work. GenX pastors are not all work. They try to leave time for fun and recreation. Busters seek the right balance in life, being careful not to neglect their families and friends. I know of one GenX pastor who literally and regularly sets up a miniature golf course in his church’s hallway, just so his staff can hang out and build fellowship with each other. Pretty cool, huh? Don’t just talk about his work or his ministry. Talk about life with your GenX pastor.
Healthy parenting. Keeping their families together and healthy emotionally is a high spiritual objective. The Gen-X contribution to present day society includes family-friendly concepts such as popularizing homeschooling, paid maternity leave and stay-at-home fathers. Growing up in divorced or blended homes caused the generation to seek to prioritize the balance of work and family when they reached adulthood. Ask your GenX pastor about his kids.
Social consciousness. GenX pastors are concerned about their community, the state of the economy, the national debt and health care because they feel their indulgent forbearers, the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers, have left them with a litany of problems to solve. Global warming, social injustice, poverty, education and other issues also concern them, and they have been thinking through these topics since they were kids. How’s that for a discussion starter?