April 17 – Generational “Hymn Sing”

This isn’t really a hymn sing, but people generally got what I meant by it.  I did this last year (look in my “Archives” post) with a congregation of about 30.  This year I was in a congregation of approximately 80 people.

In the entry way I placed six glasses and a large container of glass beads.  As people came in, the were invited to place a bead in the glass that matched their age category.  The breakdown ended up being:

1901-1932 – 1 bead
1925-1942 – 14 beads
1943-1960 – 31 beads
1961-1981 – 16 beads
1982-2002 – 3 beads
2002-present – 12 beads

I arranged to have one person from each generation answer 3 questions.  As each generation was presented their glass of beads were placed on the communion table.

The following is my outline of worship (which includes the “coming of age” hymns of each generation) and my mini breakdown or summary of each generation and the three interview questions.  Much gratitude and appreciation to Debbie Coss, who not only inspired this idea with a talk on Generational Theory, but also kindly gave me her thesis to read and that’s where my summaries come from. Warning: This took 1.5 hours, even with people prepped to be interviewed.

Hymn   Make a Joyful Noise                                                         VU 820
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Singing Bowl and Christ Candle
Call to Worship (an adaption of Psalm 98)
One: Sing to GOD a brand-new song.
All: For the world is full of wonders!
One: God’s love has travelled with us over the generations
All: Even in the times we have chosen not to acknowledge this love. One: Even in the times when we couldn’t acknowledge God’s love. Because of this unending love, we sing!
All: Shout your praises to GOD, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!
One: Round up an orchestra to play for GOD, Add on a hundred-voice choir.
All: Feature trumpets and big trombones, Fill the air with praises to GOD.
One: Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause, with everything living on earth joining in.
All: Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!” And mountains harmonize the finale—
One: Let us sing a new song, for with God’s Love anything is possible. All: With God’s Love we will work to build the kin-dom for ourselves and for future generations.

Opening Prayer
God your love has lasted throughout the generations.  We pray that this be a time of remembering, of learning and of building community.  Amen.

Generations (The Bible, The Theory, The Person)

The Prophets (born 1943-1960)  Roger Cooke
Hymn:  I am the Light of the World                                          VU 87 (v 3&4)

The Nomads (born 1961-1981) Jennifer MacLaughlin
Hymn: Draw the Circle Wide                                                      MV 145 (v1)

The Hero (born 1901-1932) Naaman Bush
Hymn:  Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah                              VU 651 (v1&2)

The Hero (born 1982-2002ish) Emily Harrison
Hymn:  Called by Earth and Sky                                             MV 135 (v1&4)

The Artists (born 1925-1942) Norman Hutt
Hymn:  Make Me a Channel of Your Peace                           VU 684 (v1)

The Artists (born 2002ish-present day) Meredith MacLachlin
Hymn:  I Can Feel You Near Me God                                       MV 48

Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation
There are as many gifts as there are people.  Let’s celebrate in our gifts.
Offertory  There’s A New Day                                           reVolve Song Book
Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR be gifts to inspire throughout the ages.  Amen.

Prayer Music  Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying                   VU 400
Prayers of the People and the Prayer of Jesus

Hymn Oh A Song Must Rise      MV 142  (We ended up cutting out this one)
Commissioning and Benediction
Musical Blessing  Amen                                                               MV 225   

 William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of “The Fourth Turning” have set out generational theory in a way that I find very interesting.  They’ve paired up Bible stories with the 4 types of generations.  When comparing this to the current generations at work in the church, it’s easy to see why we sometimes feel like we’re having the same arguments over and over again.  While having the same arguments and problems over and over again can be frustrating, when I step back and look to see what the real problem is, I’m always relieved when I come to the conclusion that it is something as normal as a generational gap.

I’ve been wanting to talk generational theory here for a while.  Like many other personality indicator tests, it can help us to understand how we function as a large community of individuals.  Because we worship as a multi-generational community, studying generational theory is particularly helpful.

Before we begin, I should say that the lines between the generations are very fuzzy and blurry, with lots of people identifying with a generation outside of their birthday. Also each turn of the cycle produces different results.  While there are six different generations in our church, there are four different types.  Two of those types are similar sharing many characteristics, but they aren’t identical.  Each one plays out in it’s own way based on world and community events, as each generation has it’s own crisis or spiritual awakening during it’s formative years that shape the way the characteristics.  What was a positive characteristic in one generation can be a negative in another because of the particular crisis or awakening that influences it.   Also, in some ways, the older we get the more we begin to embody the different types of generations based on our engagement with life and world events.  Strauss & Howe are American and statistically speaking Canadian generations are just a few years behind, due to a late entrance into World War II.


The Prophets (Moses, Idealist, The Boom Generation (born 1943-1960) God is Truth

The Prophets are the generation of people who impose a moral conscience on those around them. Like Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Because of their sheer volume in number they have been imprinting our culture and spirituality since their birth. By 2040 one in four people in the Western world will be over the age of 65.  It is this generation that changed the role of women and sexuality in society.  No matter what side they take on an issue, Prophets speak with passion, commitment and they “know” they are right.  Because of their passion and conviction…and probably because they “know” they are right, many Prophets consider themselves moral care takers.  Because they are the moral care takers, they are constantly seeking the true – the right.  For Prophets, God is Truth.

Roger Cooke is a member of The Prophets.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

I wanted to ask ‘Who or what is god for you?’, but when I ask that sort of question people don’t usually answer, so my third question is What is important about church to you?

Let’s sing the coming of age hymn for the Boomers: I am the Light of the World      VU 87 (v 3&4)


The Nomads (the Golden Calf, Reactive, Generation X (born 1961-1981) God is Community

The Nomads are the generation that felt there were things more important than God.  They were the people who roamed in the wilderness for a whole generation worshiping a golden calf.  These are the first latch key kids, both parents had to work.  These are the children of the first wave of divorces when the terms “single mother” and “dead beat dad” were coined as well as the idea of the television being the baby-sitter.  Families were smaller, and because so many children spent so much time along, friendships became very important and often took the place of family.  Gen Xers are looking for community, and not just any community.  They are looking for a community where they belong.    As newly divorced parents became alienated from some churches, The Nomads turned their backs on the church and the people who did not support them when they felt they needed it most.  For this generation, God is found in an accepting and supportive community.  The Nomads feel they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.  They’ve learned to depend on themselves for their successes and their failures. This generation is the generation that experienced major cut-backs. If they have a future, they will build it.  The Nomads may not seem to care, but it’s actually just a tough shell, if you can’t get in, you can’t hurt them.  So The Nomads stand on the edge of the promised land.  They can lead, but they cannot enter.

Jennifer MacLachlin is a gen xer.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

What is important about church for you?

This hymn sums up typical spiritual desires of the Nomads.  Draw the Circle Wide     MV 145 (v1)


This is where things get complicated.  For the 34 years, we’re been dealing with a phenomenon that hadn’t existed in the Western church before.  Previously, there had been 1-3 generation types in congregations.  Now with life expectancy being what it is we have 4 generations, and then a 5th that starts the generational cycle repeating itself, but with different life events shaping it’s outcome.

The Hero (Joshua, Civic, The GI Generation, (born 1901-1932) God is Power

The Hero generation leads the people out of their crisis in the wilderness and into the Promised Land.  The story of Joshua leading the people represents this generation.  This is the generation that became commuters.  After the war, those that came home created a stable economy, bought cars and houses and because of the stable economy, were able to have one parent at home with the 2.4 children.  Because of their “can-do” attitude, they have worked to create many systems to look after themselves and those who come after them.  They will do anything they can do to maintain them.  For this generation, God is power.  The crisis that shaped this generation was the Depression and World War II.  It’s important to note that this is the most homogenous generation.

Namaan Bush is part of the GI or the Hero generation.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

What is important about church for you?

Let’s sing about Naaman’s Generation   Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah          VU 651 (v1&2)


The Millennials (1982-2002ish)

The Millennials are still being studied, as a number of them are just reaching adulthood.  These are the children who grew up understanding the words ‘internet’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘global warming’.  These are the children who, I suspect, will save the earth.  They will be the ones to forge a new, diverse society, as their generation is the most diverse yet.   I suspect that this generation will put a slight twist on the understanding of God as power…I suspect that many of them will find God with justice.

Emily Harrison is a Millennial.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

What is important about church for you?

Let’s sing a Hero song for the Millennials Called by Earth and Sky       MV 135 (v1&4)

The Artist (Judges, Adaptive, The Silent Generation, (born 1925-1942) God is Love

The Artist generation can see the bigger picture.  They are the ones who nurture what the heros were able to do into something even bigger.  This generation is represented in the Bible by the Judges.  The people who managed the conflict of the day.  They also tend to be the mediators between two vocal, and sometimes opposing, generations.  These are the children of the depression, whose parents wanted more for them than they could possibly provide.  They took the nuclear family situation seriously, and were the youngest generation to marry.  They became part of the helping professions and were responsible for the explosion of public interest advocacy groups during the 70s.  Because of their intimate knowledge of the outcomes of war, The Artists see God as Love or Peace.

Norman Hutt is of the Artists.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

What is important about church for you?

This hymn is a hymn of Peace Make Me a Channel of Your Peace      VU 684 (v1)


The Unnamed Generation (born 2002ish-present)

This generation is still being formed – they are still being born.  Because of the generations cycle, we do know that they will be people who are creative mediators.  This is the generation that will solve conflict and act with love.

Meredith MacLaughlin is part of this yet to be named generation.

What is something that’s happened in the world?

What’s something that’s happened at church?

Why is church important to you?

Let’s sing for Meredith’s generation I Can Feel You Near Me God                         MV 48


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