The other day I was asked to train a multi-generational Core Team. What I mean by this is we had every possible generation represented from Baby Boomers to Generation X and Y to Veterans (at least he seemed older than 66 to me). The youth minister was Generation Y: 28 years of age to be exact. It was an amazing Core Team with so many different life experiences, gifts and talents. Their experience of the Church ranged from Pre-Vatican II to our current Pope Benedict. Their spiritualities ranged from conservative to charismatic. Their love for the teens was identical: passionate and hopeful.
I would love to say that I see Core Teams like this everyday, but I don’t. Typically when there is a Generation Y (born 1980 or later) youth minister, they will pull a Core in the 18-25 age group. If there is a Generation X (1965-1979) youth minister, we often see a more adult Core in the age range of 20-35. Finally with a Baby Boomer (1946-1964) you might find a Core Team of parents and adults in the 35-55 ranges. In Edge, because of parent and even grandparent involvement you might have a Core Team that ranges from 16-60 (that is if you allow juniors and seniors to be on Core). I’m not saying this is the absolute norm, but it is typically what I encounter as I travel the Western Region of the United States.
Whether you are a Generation X or Y youth minister, or possibly a Baby Boomer who doesn’t feel quite as “booming” as you once did, there are certain challenges to mentoring and managing a variety of generations. Just think about the way communication has advanced in the past 2 years, let alone that past 20. As a Generation X-er myself, I remember going from rotary phone to touch tone to the “Zack Morris” cellular brick to simple cell phones that just made calls, to the 4G, data plan iPhones. Most of these changes happened in the past 5-6 years and are the norm in communication for Generation X and Y. My parents who are Baby Boomers (and Veterans) have a pay as you go cell phone, but only turn it on when they are traveling and they don’t even know how to check voice mail let alone texting. And this is just one of the ways communication has advanced.
Communication can be just one of the challenges when working with a multi-generational Core Team. Teaching and learning styles, work ethic, conveying expectations and affirmation all need to be managed in different ways. No matter when you were born, it can be intimidating to mentor and manage a generation younger or older than you. However, when you understand how to communicate, clearly articulate your expectations, encourage ongoing formation in Core’s spirituality and religious study, aid them in teaching this current generation with various techniques while affirming them in ways that speak to their gifts and talents, you will not only have a stronger Core Team, you will have stronger teens with a deeper relationship with Christ.
In a series of blogs, I hope to address this multi-generational Core Team dynamic and pray that it will encourage us to reach out to all generations and call them to share their life experiences and love for God with what is now being called Generation iY (because of the influence of the iPod, iPad, iPhone technology on this generation). When we limit the people who are serving our young church to the people we are comfortable working and serving with, we limit the Holy Spirit. I pray that this examination of how to better mentor and manage a multi-generational Core Team will strengthen your youth ministry program for generations to come.