“OK Boomer” was a sound bite that recently went viral of Chlöe Swarbrick, a 25-year-old old member of New Zealand’s parliament, when responding to an older person heckling over some proposed legislation. The pejorative retort was used to dismiss or mock a perceived narrow-minded, outdated, judgmental, or condescending attitudes of older people, particularly baby boomers (those born between 1946-1964). New Zealand isn’t the only locale of such attitudes, it’s been reflected by various folks in and out of the church in America too.
Born at the tail end of the Boomer generation (1963), I can agree with some of criticism of my fellow Boomers. The church we, Boomers, are leaving behind is not all together healthy. Many have sold their souls to gaining power; are intolerant of new ideas; have subscribed to failed church models; and are holding on to sacred cows that have crippled the church.
Likewise, Millennials (the generation that includes those born between 1980 and 2003) are not viewed without fault. A quick google search of “Millennials are…” gives a list that says lazy, soft, snowflakes, too sensitive, entitled, among other stereotypes. The argument is that Millennials were handed participation trophies instead of teaching the importance of hard work and a zeal to be the best.
The resulting mistrust of each other’s generation has given rise to church wars that have rivaled the hymn vs. chorus debates of a decade ago. Just as then, the entire church suffers for it.
The truth is there are good and bad examples of both generations. The stab wounds are still healing in my back from the millennial knives firmly inserted by some of their know-it-all, I’m-right-you’re-wrong, don’t-care-who-gets-hurt tactics. Moreover, my heart is still broken over some viscous carnal attacks from narrow-minded, judgmental boomers. Every pastor I know has similar stories. Likewise, I have seen millennials love the church, work hard to see her succeed and deeply care for the older generation. I know many boomers who are mentoring, listening and empowering millennials in the service of the church. All generations have their share of saints and sinners.
The church has enough problems (recent Pew research says only 49% of Millennials call themselves Christians. Church attendance is down 7% in the last decade, etc.). Casting blame for the current realities of the church (Millennials: Boomers are the reason for the mess; Boomers: Millennials are the facilitators of this mess) is not helping. Both Millennials and Boomers need to work together to fulfill the Great Commission. We need less blaming and more blessing. Less pointing fingers and more pointing people to Jesus. Less suspicion and more trust. Less stereotyping and more cooperation, empathy and compassion.
The church was Jesus’ idea for all generations. Boomers, Millennials and everyone before or since must work together to see God’s Kingdom come and His will done on Earth as it is in heaven.