“A lot of what we believe about generations isn’t true,” claims Jason Dorsey in his Ted Talk. “It sounds good but it’s not grounded in real research.”
According to ‘The Centre for Generational Kinetics‘, I am a Baby Boomer!
There are currently 5 generations that make up our society.
- Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: Born 1996 and later
- Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995
- Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976
- Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964
- Traditionalists or Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before
“A generation is a group of people born around the same time and raised around the same place. People in this “birth cohort” exhibit similar characteristics, preferences, and values over their lifetimes. At The Centre for Generational Kinetics, we believe that generations are not a box; instead, they are powerful clues showing where to begin connecting with and influencing people of different ages.”
So – what social and historical forces have shaped each generation? How do we get our Generations together? Is there such a thing as ‘generational friction’? Do we want our generations to be together? What judgements do we make about certain generations? Which generation doesn’t use commas?
I love the idea of Generations Together but I am concerned that sometimes we underestimate the contribution the younger generations can make to everything we do at school and at church.
For example, some people may believe that teenagers are self-indulgent, lazy time wasters who are prone to getting into trouble. However, there are two brothers, Alex and Brett Harris, who are challenging this idea about teenagers. The brothers wrote a book – called ‘Do Hard Things’. They believe that God is doing something in the hearts and minds of the younger generation and it is about rebelling against the low expectations placed on teenagers. The Harris brothers are committed to the idea that the teen years offer people an extraordinary opportunity to do great things both as individuals and as a generation. They encourage young people to grab hold of a more exciting option for the teen years than the one portrayed as normal in society today.
The Harris brothers are extraordinary and their passion is to expose the low expectations that they believe are ‘robbing our generation’.
The brothers believe that what holds teenagers back as a generation is a harmless but very powerful idea that they call ‘The Myth of Adolescence’. (Do Hard Things. Page 29)
They point out a rather fascinating fact. At one time, the whole idea of ‘teenagers’ did not exist.
Do you know when the first documented use of the term ‘teenager’ occurred? It wasn’t in Tyndale’s first edition of the New Testament in 1526. It wasn’t in Romeo and Juliet in 1623. In fact, it was in a Reader’s Digest issue in 1941 – less than 80 years ago! Before we ‘invented’ teenagers, people were either children or adults. The book tells some wonderful stories of the extraordinary achievements of young people in history. I am sure you can think of some examples yourself.
One story in the book tells of David born in 1801. He began his career at the age of eleven at sea serving in the Navy. By the age of twelve, he was given the command of a ship that had been captured in a battle and was dispatched with a crew to take the vessel and its men back to the United States. The captured British Captain did not like taking orders from a 12 year old boy and threatened to shoot him. David was able to handle the situation with dignity and force, ordering the Captain below decks. David went on to become the U.S. Navy’s first Admiral – David Farragut.
The book goes on to explain that embracing responsibility and challenges in the teen years has an incredible impact on people’s lives. Young people who make a habit of overcoming obstacles develop the determination and character that will empower them for the rest of their lives, according to the Harris brothers.
“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27).
So, if you find yourself working with the ‘younger generation’ here are a few suggestions from Brett and Alex Harris which might help you.
Encourage the teenagers who you care about to:
- Do things that are outside your comfort zone. (This will stretch and grow their skills and confidence.)
- Always try to do more than what is expected or required.
- Try and challenge yourself by doing things that are too big to accomplish alone.
- Do things that don’t earn an immediate payoff – look at the long term.
- Be prepared to challenge the cultural norm – maybe dressing modestly, refusing to participate in poor social media practices or watching inappropriate media/movies.
So why did the Harris brothers make their own choices to do hard things?
Well, in their own words, “You see, we choose to do hard things because Jesus has done the hardest things – the thing we could never do for ourselves: He died in our place and paid for our sins. Apart from Him, nothing we attempt or accomplish will have any enduring significance.”
So back to Jason Dorsey and his fabulous Ted Talk on generations. Dorsey urges us to remember that despite the differences, every generation brings something important and necessary to the stage. As a society we have huge issues to face and we need all generations to work together to achieve the future we want.
“I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13