Part 4 of a 4-part series on Generations in ChurchWorld

Last week this post introduced the generational lens that shapes a lot of my views. Monday I began this four-part series by looking at the Millennials; on Tuesday it was Generation X, and Wednesday it was the Baby Boomers. Today I want to look at the fourth of four generations active in ChurchWorld leadership roles today, and the implications for you as a leader with your own team.

G.I. Generation (Born 1901-1924)

Silent Generation (Born 1925-1945)

There are actually two distinct generations represented in today’s post, but due to the small number of G.I. Generations still involved in leadership roles in churches, I am going to look at them as a group.

Scarcity is a common denominator for these two groups. Between two world wars and the Great Depression, these generations had plenty of opportunities to do without. The need to “save for a rainy day” was tangible, and “Waste not, want not” was more than a slogan – it was a commandment. No wonder these generations later disapproved of the Boomers’ eagerness to pay two dollars for a bottle of fancy water! Symbols carried great weight. From swastikas to Sputnik and from flappers to flat tops, these were generations that drove their roadsters to drive-ins, smoke cigarettes and drank ice-cold Coca-Cola, and stacked a few 45s on the record player and did the twist.

Defining events such as World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, the Korean War, and the GI Bill changed millions of lives and shaped the God-fearing, hardworking, patriotic character of these two amazing generations.

The generational personality of these two groups who lived through these events and conditions can be described in a single word: loyal. These are generations that learned at an early age that by putting aside the needs and wants of the individual and working together toward common goals, they could accomplish amazing things. They learned to partner with large institutions in order to get things done, like winning two world wars, conquering the Great Depression, and sending a man to the moon. These are generations that still have an immense amount of faith in institutions, from the church to the government to the military.

– “When Generations Collide,” by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman

What is the impact of the G.I. and Silent Generations in ChurchWorld today?

It is diminishing due to age, limited mobility, and illness, but the spark of service still burns bright. These two generations have a strong sense of obligation to serve the church. For decades they have been at the heart of their church, and they remain dedicated and willing to help where they can. Of all the generations discussed, they are the most church-going, and they give generously to their churches.

Characteristics like the following served these generations well during dark and troubled times in our nation’s history; they continue to serve by being passed along to younger generations.

  • Hard working
  • Savers
  • Frugal
  • Patriotic
  • Loyal
  • Private
  • Cautious
  • Respectful
  • Dependable
  • Stable
  • Intolerant

For the G.I. and Silent Generations, hard work, self-discipline, and sacrifice have paid off. They survived the difficult years of war and economic depression and believe that the affluence of the 1950s and 1960s proved that striving and surviving were the right way to go.

Even though the youngest of these generations is age 66 and the oldest above 100, don’t make the mistake that they have nothing to contribute. The characteristics listed above not only served to keep our nation strong in difficult times, they can be tapped by younger generations as a gift of legacy.

How are you honoring, remembering, and tapping into the G.I. and Silent Generation?

Generational Disclosure: My parents are from the Silent Generation; my in-laws are from the G.I. Generation. As a young boy, I was lucky to have grown up spending a great deal of time around my father and his peers because we lived right behind the gas station he owned and operated. I grew up listening to stories of WW I and II from men who had been there and survived; I experienced first hand the optimism of the 60s and the tremendous  changes America went through. In college and graduate school my professors were primarily from these two generations; my first “bosses” were also part of these generations. In short, most of the adult influencers, from parents to professors to pastors were from these two generations. They were, and remain, the Greatest Generation.

 I hope you have enjoyed this briefest of introductions to the generations now serving as leaders in ChurchWorld. You will be seeing more in the future!



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