Crossing Generational Boundaries

I found McLaren’s answer to the question posed to him very helpful and brings our whole engagement with people belonging to our fast changing culture into perspective.

I’m interested in knowing how you have been able to cross generational boundaries: to what extent? have you published in this area? what are your plans for including older folks/seniors in open dialogues or collaborative efforts? (I’m not quite a senior @ 52, but feel quite at home in “postmodern” settings.)

This is a great question. The church I serve as pastor, Cedar Ridge Community Church, is a multigenerational church. We have people up through 100. But it wasn’t always that way. When we started, I was 26 and my partner was about 32, and nearly everyone was that age or younger. When we moved to a permanent facility, more older people started coming. Plus, when I went bald, I think that helped older folks feel more at home too! (What a sacrifice for the cause….) Some people visit Cedar Ridge after reading my books and they’re a little disappointed. They expect a young, super-hip, super-cool congregation … but what they find is a pretty representative cross section of our community – old and young, conservative and liberal (politically), rich and poor, white and blue collar, educated and less so, cool and less so, modern and postmodern. I’m happy about the mix, because I think this is one of the things the gospel is about … bridging barriers, bringing people together who wouldn’t otherwise be together. How is that done? That’s a huge question. I don’t think there’s a short-cut answer, beyond welcoming, loving, accepting, serving, listening. We feel we still have a long way to go.

I think that since most churches are “modern” in their culture and theology, there needs to be special sensitivity to “postmodern” people; otherwise, they’re unintentionally excluded. As for the emergent network , it is already a diverse group in terms of age. I’m doing my part to keep the over-40 (and nearing-50) and beyond category going strong. We’re constantly trying to correct the misconception that this conversation is generationally limited: it’s about philosophy and culture, not birth date. I’ll share an idea from the other side of the world that might become a reality here in the U.S. before too long. Our friend Mark Pierson in New Zealand is planning an event there for over-40 people only. He wants to bring them together to talk about mentoring and encouraging and watching the backs of younger sisters and brothers in leadership. A few of us are talking about an event like this in the U.S. and Canada. I hope you’ll be part of it! (Stay tuned at emergent website.)
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