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In Every Age…Generation

Deborah Stollery

Jason Dorsey and the Gifts of Every Generation

He was the PERFECT after-lunch speaker: quick, funny and reminding us that he was only funny because he was speaking truth.  For example, Jason pointed out that if you need a pen, you ask a Boomer (someone born between 1944-1964).  They will always have two, in their pockets or purses, just in case.  To make his point, he then asked how many people in the room came there that day WITHOUT a pen.  We Boomers nervously laughed as we noted that half or more of the people raised their hands!  They don’t see the need for one, you see.  They have some sort of digital device to take notes with.  Funny, true and the beginning of an important lesson for all who exercise leadership in today’s organizations.

What is the lesson?  Ever generation, every age group has strengths they bring to their organizations.  It falls to leaders to learn what those strengths are, and like an orchestra conductor, to put them to the best use possible to achieve the organization’s mission.  His other point, not lost on the people with whom I shared this event was this:  there’s no choice about this.  Four generations are in the workplace.  Five generations are in congregations.  Four were sitting in the room with me, viewing his presentation.  Leaders have to figure this out NOW.

Jason Dorsey in the president of The Center for Generational Kinetics, which provides research, presentation and consulting intended to debunk the myths and get to the strengths of each generation.  It’s what I loved about his presentation apart form its uncomfortably funny truths:  it was not based in anecdotes but in research.  Here’s some of what he offered that I think is important for ecclesial leaders:

  • The #1 trend affecting each generation is PARENTING.  Strengths and weaknesses in generations flow from how the young are/were parented.  For ecclesial leaders, this highlights the importance of partnering with parents to help raise their children grounded in perspectives that flow from faith.
  • The second most influential trend affecting the generations today is technology.  Every generation has a natural affinity for technology which we don’t notice until it clashes with another generation.  Radio gave way to TV, which gave way to color TV, which gave way to pay TV, which gave way to SMART TV, which is now giving way to streaming services that provide visual content viewable on devices other than TVs.  And here’s another one of his funny truths:  technology is only “new” if you are old enough to remember the way it was before.  My grandson will never know a time when you could not see the person you are talking with on a hand-held “phone”, pretty much whenever and wherever you want.  Pay phones, anyone?  For ecclesial leaders, this highlights the need to be investing in technology, considering its appropriate uses, and learning how to use it with style and grace.

Leading a parish/congregation today means learning to orchestrate the gifts of five generations.  Take a look at Jason’s website, genhq.com, start to discover and appreciate the gifts, and take up the task of animating the gifts of all five generations in the Body of Christ.  See what others are figuring out about the gifts and how to invite them into organizations and learn how to reach Millennials and Gen Z with the Gospel.  Leaders must serve their organizations using this knowledge stream.

But, but…perhaps the most important message Jason offers to all ecclesial leaders is this:  learn the differences between what research is saying and popular myths.  Don’t rely on your own experiences of anecdotal evidence alone.  Find out the differences, figure out the score and lead that orchestra of five generations, all desiring to sing a new song unto the Lord.

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