The Forgotten Generation

generation-xI am Xer, hear me (cynically) roar!

Throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and the 80’s Baby Boomers were all the thing. Commercials were geared towards them, they were the ones who were slated (and did) to take over the leadership of the country, they changed America in ideology, culture, and overall world view of generations to come. And now in the media and in churches people are talking about the Millennials.

The Millennials are the generation that is the young adults now. The age range is a bit iffy, but basically those in their mid to late twenties and into their very early 30’s. They are the just recent college graduates to the youth professionals. And they are making waves. They are the ones that the media is being geared towards. They are the ones whom churches are scrambling to reach out to because they are the ones leaving the church in droves. They are a new culture unto themselves.

And then, there is the forgotten generation–the Gen Xers. Generation X was so called because people didn’t really know what to call them. At first they were referred to as Busters because they came right after the boomers. The Xers are the children of the early to mid Baby Boomers. They were born in the late 60’s to late 70’s. They lived through a time and era of upheaval, of change, of struggle, and a loss of innocence they never had.

Generation X experienced AIDS in school. We were taught about Sex Ed as early as 5th or 6th grade. We lost an innocence we never were allowed to have. Boomers started off with an innocence and then purposefully moved away from it. Millennials were given an innocence that Xers never were allowed to have.

Generation X was at the end of the Cold War. We knew of the immediate threat of a nuclear fallout, of Chernobyl, of both and East and West Germany. And we witnessed the Berlin Wall fall. We witnessed the Soviet Union come crumbling down.

Generation X saw the Challenger explode on live TV. Generation X experienced bad leadership by organizations they were told to trust. And their parents, products of the 60’s, told Generation X to question authority and then became furious when we questioned theirs.

generation x2Generation X was called the slacker generation. We produced grunge music, gansta rap, hard rock, and had a distopian future in mind. The word that we were told summarized our generation was “whatever.”

In the 90’s and into the early Aughts, there was no scrambling by media and churches on how to reach out to this generation. There was no asking how we will handle them leaving the church. The thought was, was that they’d come back after they had children, just like many of the Baby Boomers did.

And to tell the truth, the Xers didn’t raise a stink about it. We didn’t cry foul. We didn’t push against the grain. We felt unwanted and so walked away. We were called slackers and lazy by the media and the previous generations and so we wanted nothing to do with it. Many just walked away queitly and lived their lives. We became the forgotten generation.

The Millennials are demographically and statistically much larger than the Xers in numbers. The Millennials are mostly the children of the later era Baby Boomers. In the late 90’s and early Aughts these parents were referred to as the helicopter parent. During the late 90’s and early Aughts, schools started to change in the theory of education. They began to stress self-esteem and social justice. The theory was that if the child felt good about themselves, if the child could meet certain standards of out come based education that showed that they were able to morally be part of society, then they were successful.

generation x3And now Millennials are labeled as egotistical, self-centered, yet have a strong desire for authenticity and social justice. Because they don’t want to be ignored (for this would invalidate their self esteem that they were taught they should have) they are loud. Because they are loud, they are being listened to. Because they are being listened to their self-esteem and egoistical self-centered focus is being reinforced.

And the Xers, the forgotten generation, is in the middle, once again ignored. The Boomers are speaking loud about what they want. The Millennials are speaking loud about what they want, and the once labeled slackers of the Xers are having their cynicism reinforced once again. If you don’t want us, whatever.

Where is the church reaching out to Xers? They aren’t. Where is the church trying to minister to the needs and desires of a forgotten generation who is cynical of institutions, cynical of leadership, and felt pushed to the side for their younger siblings? It isn’t. No one is crying foul. No one is listening. No one seems to care. And the Xers remain forgotten by the church.

The Xers are slowly rising into leadership. They are slowly coming into their own. They have waited by the sidelines they were pushed aside to and want to step into leadership roles, want to be accepted by the church. And aren’t. The focus of the church is on the younger, hipper, more lucrative models of Millennials.

In Xers there is a desire to be wanted, a desire for the church to be hospitable, a desire for authenticity and acceptance. There is a desire for our voice to be heard by the church as well. We don’t speak with words or out of self-centered egotism which seems to be typical in both Boomers and Millennials, no, we speak in whispered cynical tones that we feel one listens to.

Please, church, bend an ear. Tune your ears to the frequency of the Xers who are there, wanting to be involved, wanting to be accepted, yet feel pushed to the side, still labeled as a slacker, still burdened with the word “whatever.” Bend your ear to hear our voice. Reach out to us, and you will see an abundant response.

All generations are important. Both the Boomers and the Millennials are important. Don’t neglect the forgotten generation in the middle.

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3 Responses to The Forgotten Generation

  1. Sam says:

    Generally I don’t like generalizations. 🙂 Especially about generational groups. Maybe I don’t understand the differences completely since I straddle the fence (although I probably lean millennial since I’m 30 y.o.). But, from what you describe here it seems that each generation struggles with the same egoism and narcissism. They just present it differently: “Look at me!” or “Whatever, I’ll do my own thing.” Either way its about me. Spiritually we would call that the sin of pride and that one has been around a long time.

    • Josh says:

      Sam, thank you for your comment. Yes, each generation struggles, and yes, I am painting it with a broad brush using generalizations taken from statistics and research. At the same time, the emphasis here is on the fact that because Boomers and Millennials speak louder than Xers, there is a larger focus on that egotism and a reinforcing of it. I do not believe that there is as much egotistical focus on Xers, in fact, failure, disenfranchisement, and disappointment are worn as badges for Xers rather than as shame for Millennials and Boomers. I’m not sure if that is also the sin of pride as you say, but it is a marker that shows the difference between generations. The main question that I want to ask though is how is the church trying to reach this forgotten generation? What are your thoughts on that?

  2. Pingback: Throw Open the Doors! | Spiritual Musclehead

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