Lay Ministry Blog: Look both ways before crossing the road


Much has been written and discussed about the different ages of people in this country and they have been categorized into groups called generations. Such as the following:

  • If you were born between 1900 and 1924 you are members of the G.I. Generation.
  • From 1925-1945 you are members of the Silent Generation.
  • From 1946-1964 you are members of the Baby Boomer Generation.
  • From 1965-1980 you are members of Generation X.
  • From 1981-2000 you are members of the Millennial Generation or Generation Y
  • From 2001-present you are members of a generation called The New Silent Generation.

My experience is that all of these generations have their own personalities, traits and peculiarities.

Today, much is written about the Millennial Generation. They are a group of about 97 million young adults approximately 17 to 36 years old. They are the largest of the generations alive today.

While many major offices of the country are currently held by older persons who are Baby Boomers, Millennials will soon be filling a number of these positions, bringing with them new ideas, values and plans. There is nothing wrong with this. It is the natural process that takes place. It is the natural attrition of our country and also of our church.

At this point, it would do us good to stop and take a personal assessment of the church. In other words, now is the time to “look both ways before crossing the road.”

Steve, what do you mean by this statement?

The answer is, from the end of World War II until now, the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers and even Generation X have been a part of making the decisions of the church. For the most part, during this time the church has experienced prosperity, good attendance, rich treasuries, and a false perception that this would continue until the end of time.

However, I think it’s past time for our heads to be buried in the sand as the leaders of the church, regardless of the generation to which we belong.

Just look at the deterioration of things we took for granted just a short time ago. As a church, we had continuous growth with new members, numerous professions of faith, loyal worship attendance, and many children being raised in church learning the Wesleyan way of grace. The list of what we are slowly losing and not teaching to new generations could go on and on.

Twenty-five years of contemporary worship services brought a lot of people into the United Methodist Church, but we failed to fully integrate the masses of new people into our Wesleyan way. So now, many have left for other denominations or moved on to something that intrigued them more.

I know electronics and social media have made a difference, and I am thankful we measure the worship attendance of those who watch our church services on television or through the Internet. Staying “connected” not really new in the life of Christians. God has been corresponding with us since the beginning of time through PRAYER. Prayer is much faster, more reliable, less expensive and more personal than the fast Internet connection.

Just to clarify, I have no ax to grind with the Millennials, and think they have so many values that are part of the fabric of our country and our church. The question is how we can adjust as members of the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers and Gen X so that Millennials can blend with us and be integrated in to the John Wesley team before it’s too late. The church needs their ideas and, most importantly, we need them in masses if the church is to survive long into the future.

Sure, we have problems not yet solved that divide our church and perhaps only time will heal this divide. It’s been 275 years since John Wesley walked on this earth and left us his and Charles Wesley’s model of Methodism. This model has worked for generations and, in my opinion, can continue to work a longtime into the future, if we will just look both ways before crossing the road.

What is on the road that could hurt us? What is on the other side we need to get too?

Your guess is as good as mine.

So why don’t we just stay where we are and work harder in our local church. I believe the most successful farmer is the one that gets the most out of the plot of land he has been allotted on his side of the road.

Let’s ask ourselves, are we getting the most out the church we belong to, or are we always searching for the church that seems to have greener grass on its cemetery?

I love the generation of the Millennials; sometime I even vainly wish I were one.

The way we reach this generation, and they reach us, is through prayer and letting them know we love them, and need them in the Church.

As to the problems in our church that tend to divide us, when I’m in a United Methodist worship service, I’m oblivious to these problems and am able to just worship. Thanks be to God that we live in a country where we can still worship, hear the music and tune out the world for a little while.

Today, hug a millennial…
Steve Lyles
Conference Lay Leader

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