Today's guest blogger is Matthew DePrez, Intergenerational Pastor at Frontline Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI, and part of the 2011 Sticky Faith Cohort.
I don’t believe in the next generation.
There, I said it! It actually feels a lot better to get off my chest.
Here’s why: I don’t believe in the next generation because I don’t think it actually exists.
Today, more and more churches are hiring next generation pastors for their next generation ministries. Four years ago, this was the case with Frontline. As we started processing the title, though, we realized we didn’t see students as the next generation at all. We saw students as a younger generation, but not a next generation. We did, however, see them as a generation ready to advance the Kingdom of God now. So, we canned the title. Our student ministry pastor, Nate, is officially called the NOW Generation Pastor and we use the title all the time: introductions, bulletins, website, business cards, etc. Needless to say, we take it very seriously.
Sure, this is probably a dumb semantics issue, and people could argue they mean to say students are the next generation to “run” or “oversee” the church, but we see it being way more significant than that. I think when we call students the “next” generation, we’re unintentionally telling them they have to wait to do something substantial in the church. It’s no surprise, then, that students who have been isolated their entire “school-life” have a hard time getting connected into the “larger body of the church” when they turn 18 and leave for college.
We don’t want our children and students to believe they’re only significant when they get jobs and start tithing. We believe they’re significant right now.
On the flip side, we’ve taken this reasoning even further over the years. We’ve realized senior citizens aren’t a “has-been” generation. They’re part of the now generation, too. Right now, for the sake of Nate’s job description, he oversees 6th-12th graders, rather than overseeing the now generation in its entirety (which is, essentially, what our lead pastor does). Ultimately, we believe we can learn from every age group in the church. Whether we’re eight, eighty, or anywhere in between, we’re all able to teach others what it means to be a follower of Jesus. An eight year old brings as much value to the church as an eighty year old.
Call me crazy (or call me maybe?), but we believe we all have value now in the Kingdom of God, no matter how old we are.
Our lead pastor, Brian, said this to me the other day: “I don’t want to be an old person church and I don’t want to be a young person church. I want to be an intergenerational church.” He sees an equality in the Kingdom of God that isn’t based upon age, but upon the fact that we’re simply human beings.
And that’s why I don’t believe in the next generation or the has-been generation. I believe in the now generation.