Just how do we define a “generation”? What is it that distinguishes one from another? According to Larry Richard’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, a biblical “generation” can be defined as:
- The span of a single life – from the birth of a person to the birth of his offspring;
- A period of time, past or future or unending;
- A family line traced through history; or, as a …
- A particular group that was alive during a distinctive period of sacred history.
Culturally, a “generation” is understood by sociologists to be an age grouping within a civilization that shares …
- A common place in history;
- A set of common beliefs and behavior; or …
- A perceived membership within a particular generation.
The Builders are the elder generation. And, according to Scripture … we have a responsibility to “honor” our elders. But what does that look like in today’s world and church? In order to truly “honor” the older generations among us in our churches, families and communities, it is important that we first endeavor to better understand them.
The Builders represents a large percentage of our population. Time magazine reported that the fastest age bracket for percentage growth in America in the past decade has actually been the centenarians (those 100+ years of age).
The characteristics of the generation known as the Builders or those currently about 67 years of age and older (those born 1942 or earlier) are that they were very loyal to religious denominations, much unlike younger generations today. They were a heavily churched generation. Tom Brokaw in his bestselling book referred to them as “The Greatest Generation” citing their selfless commitment and overcoming mindset as they endured a devastating world war (II). They faced the shock of Pearl Harbor.
The Builders were (and are) group oriented as they invested much into big businesses, big organizations and clubs and as they exhibited great company loyalty. They sacrificed for the benefit of the whole and launched America into an expansive era of material affluence, global power and civic planning. Some have referred to this generation as “The Boosters.”
The Builders gave much and demanded little. They truly were quite selfless. They saw marriage and family not as something to bring them personal fulfillment as much as a God-given and civic responsibility.
As selfless as they were (and are), however, they were not prone to be risk takers and were not very individualistic (as were the Boomers they parented). Neither were they prone to go into debt.
The greatest technological influence within this generation was electricity and the radio. From these developments, these men and women have lived through phenomenal developments and changes that many of them have found difficult to navigate and keep up with.
So, how does today’s leader respond to this generation? What does it take to best serve and engage their needs? How can their characteristics be utilized to serve the purposes of God today?
Leading and honoring the Builders Gen – a few ideas:
- The group-oriented strength of the Builders needs to be harnessed to help churches develop authentic community. Many Boomers and Buster became so individualistic that while “virtual communities” were developed, authentic face-to-face community was missed.
- The selflessness of the Builders is a quiet servanthood waiting to be tapped by the younger leader who takes time to notice the character strength and encourage the involvement of these older saints. Most Builders are too humble to offer their services and too faithful to drop the ball once you have their commitment. They need to be called out into service as much as a trepid teenager does.
- In my recent experiences of pastoring congregations in the Northeast, I found enormous encouragement from spending one on one time with older brothers in Christ. One particular crusty old former Bridge-Builder named Ed shared breakfasts with me periodically. The loyalty in this generation often translates into great dedication to leadership, even younger leaders. Don’t miss the affirmations and support of a elder-mentor-friend.