Working in the Messiness of Multigenerational Ministry
Working in the Messiness of Multigenerational Ministry

By Michael C. Mack

With apologies to Abraham Lincoln (and John Wycliffe, who, it’s said, actually originated the phrase I’m referencing), Christian Standard is produced by different generations of people, with different generations of people, and for different generations of people . . . to equip and encourage people to make disciples of and effectively lead different generations of people.

The Christian Standard team consists of three millennials (born 1981–2001): operations manager Renee Little and designers Megan Kempf and Abby Wittler, and four baby boomers (born 1946–1964): publisher Jerry Harris, managing editor Jim Nieman, contributing editor Shawn McMullen, and me.

The best teams, like the best churches, can be described as family, and families are by nature intergenerational. And like many multigenerational families, we face challenges in working well together. I don’t want to make too many “generationalizations,” but we simply don’t always look at things the same way. As Haydn Shaw pointed out in his June 2018 article, these generational differences can “create irritations, miscommunications, and misunderstandings,” and I’d say we’ve experienced each of these to a degree, especially when we started working together. As the title of Shaw’s book suggests, we must raise our “generational IQ” to work effectively together, which starts, he says, with asking the right questions. (Search for “5 Things You Need to Know About the 5-Generation Church” at ChristianStandard.com to learn more.)

Over time, our team has increased our generational IQ and we are working more and more in harmony with one another. I see God at work in this. He has taken people from different age groups, genders, backgrounds, aptitudes, temperaments, giftings, and even geographic areas where we live and work . . . and put us together to accomplish what he wants us to do. This is what God does! He takes imperfect people, puts them together in ways that often seem random or ridiculous to us, and uses them to carry out his mission and bring him glory. He “has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Corinthians 12:18). No matter what it may look like in your group, team, church, or even your family, remember, God knows what he’s doing!

In fact, a seemingly messy collection of individuals may be God’s way of working in your weakness to demonstrate his power. If you work with people who are imperfect, recognize and celebrate that; they’re the only kind of people God can use.

I believe successfully working together, especially with multiple generations, starts with humility. Many of the “right questions” will have more to do with them than us, says Shaw. We boomers need to be asking lots of questions of our younger team members. We must listen to understand, not to respond with our own opinions and viewpoints. We must go first in valuing others and their perspectives, even when we find it difficult to identify with their viewpoints.

I’m still working on this, but I find it’s a vital learning opportunity for me to become more Christlike, a better person, a more altruistic leader. And I’m seeing that we truly can accomplish much more together than any of us, or any generation, can accomplish alone.

That’s important, because our multigenerational team is working hard to make an impact on multiple generations. We are very intentional as we plan future issues—to use writers young and old to tell stories about people young and old to speak to readers and leaders young and old. You’ll see that reflected in this issue. Millennial Megan Rawlings and “old fogey” Dan Schantz both tell their inspiring and humorous stories. We also share the stories of Matt Wilson and Greg Johnson, a younger minister and an older minister who are partnering to grow the kingdom in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We tell the story of Kendi Kemerly who started a nonprofit ministry at age 8 and how those who are older have supported her in this ministry. And we discuss two issues—issues that people of different generations view differently—that the church must better understand and address.

The influence and blessings of Christian Standard have been passed on for more than six generations. Like our faith, though not as vital, of course, we want to pass this ministry on to the next generation. To do that, we’ll need all generations—staff, writers, and readers—working together. Thanks for being a part of that.

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