My 5 Generation Family is a Microcosm of Society

The legions of ancient Rome were composed of ten cohorts each: cohesive units of 300-600 men who trained, ate, slept, fought, won, lost, lived, and died together. The strength was their ability to think, act, and react as a unit. Though composed of individuals, training and socialization equipped them to behave as if of a single mind when called to battle. Social demographers, students of the effects of population on society, use the term cohort to refer to people born in the same general time span who share key life experiences – from setting out for school for the first time together through reaching puberty at the same time, to entering the workforce or university or marriage or middle age or their dotage at the same time.

The five primary generations of today’s American lifestyle span a remarkable slice of American and world history. Three major wars, countless minor (?) ones, economic booms and busts, social upheavals, rocketing technological achievement, and even stepping beyond our planet are among the milestones that have directly and indirectly shaped the times.

I count myself fortunate to have a direct connection to all five generations. To me, understanding more about how each of them think, feel, and act is not just a mental exercise – it’s necessary part of life.

  • Veterans (1922-1945) My father and mother were born into the early part of this cohort. He entered military service just as WWII was ending; she was in college and then taught school; they were part of what some call “The Greatest Generation”. Think “American values” and you’ve got their number: civic pride, loyalty, respect for authority, and apple pie. My father passed away in 2012, and my mother is in declining health now. But as a cohort, their generation may be moving into their twilight years, but they still control a significant part of the economy and will continue to be influential in the years ahead.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) I am a late Baby Boomer. Born in 1958, I am a part of what was until recently the largest cohort in US history. For over thirty years, the sheer size of the Boomer generation defined the organization’s social landscape in a majority-rules cultural takeover. We were the civil rights, empowerment, and diversity generation. Never content with the status quo, we are always redefining what it means to be old and cool and important and successful.
  • Generation X (1965-1981) My oldest son and one of my daughters-in-law are Xers, even though they sometimes exhibit characteristics of the next cohort as well. Technologically adept, clever, and resourceful, the Xers are a deeply segmented, fragmented cohort. Their need for feed back and flexibility, coupled with the dislike of close supervision is but one of the many complex nuances of this generation. They are all about change- they’ve changed cities, homes, and even parents all their lives. Often seen as pessimistic with an edgy skepticism, many Xers are more positive about their personal future than the group as a whole.
  • Millennials (1982-2000) My other three children, a daughter-in-law, and a son-in-law all fall into this cohort. They are the children of the soccer moms and little League dads, and endless rounds of swim meets, karate classes, dancing lessons, computer camp and … you get the picture. They consider themselves the smartest, cleverest, healthiest and most-wanted group to have ever lived. Born into the technology boom times, barriers of time and space have little absolute meaning to them. They are willing to work and learn. By sheer numbers (their total births eclipsed the Boomers by several million) they are going to dominate history in new ways. They are the hyper-connected: constantly connected to multiple devices in order to know what and whom they need to know.
  • Generation Y (born after 2001) Just now entering into the teenage years, sociologists have little hard data yet. But it is the generation of my four grandchildren, and it is important to me! There are some indications that generational cohorts repeat every four generations, so we’ll just have to see. At least from my viewpoint, their generation will be about social technologies, a decreasing importance of the US, and a growing global awareness.

An interesting fact, and the origin of the title of this website: there are 27 years between each of the above generations in my family, thus 27gen.

The next five to ten years are going to be very interesting as each of these five generations exert influence on each other. I will be actively watching my own microcosm of society!

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Social Media and the Divinity School Student

100 years ago when I was in graduate school at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary…

Okay, it wasn’t 100 years ago, only 31. The pace of change just makes it seem like 100 years.

Anyway, my version of Facebook was a hardcopy directory of all students, printed the first few weeks of each school year (we called it the Funny Book, for obvious reasons). Mail (including tests and papers) was hand-delivered in post office boxes. Research was done in a physical place (library) using objects (books) resulting in papers (typed on a typewriter). GASP!

Today, it’s a little different.

My daughter is beginning her final year of the M Div program at Campbell University Divinity School. She also works part-time as Communications Coordinator for the North Carolina WMU. She is also beginning her second year as a Resident Chaplain for a couple of freshmen girl’s dorms. She loves her life!

Because of my past history at a divinity school and serving on a church staff, and now in a consulting role to church leaders, we often have interesting conversations.

Like the one that followed this question: “How are students at the Div School and in your circle of influence using social media?” Here is her reply:

The divinity school uses it to post pictures of what’s going on during the week at school, serious stuff and fun stuff too, like birthdays’ of professors and when the staff and students are goofing off, or there is a social event, like today, there is a div school tailgating thing after class before the football game. They use Facebook and twitter. Admissions has their own Facebook page along with the Div school itself. They also use it when they go to conferences to announce they are there and if other Campbell people are there, they use it to find them at those conferences and places and such. They post lots of pictures.

Personally, each of the dorms I work with have a Facebook group page so I am a part of that to keep up with events and announcements (keep up with issues in the dorm that the residence life staff have to address) and what official events and unofficial events are going on to go to and get to know the residents. The residents that I am friends with, I keep an eye on their statuses and stuff and if I notice something is wrong and there seems to be a hint of something not right, I make sure to check on them and see how they are doing. Sometimes, Facebook statuses are more informational than just talking with them casually in the hallways and stuff on campus!

One of my dorms LOVES Twitter. The RAs, RD, and residents tweet ALL the time and have conversations with each other. That’s another way I keep up with what’s going on and stay connected. In fact, this dorm is having a program event this semester that is a twitter scavenger hunt. They will have a list of stuff to find and instead of just taking pictures and showing everybody, they will tweet the pics with a hashtag. Whoever finishes with the most items on the list wins, and if there is a tie, then the earliest timestamp on tweet wins! I thought this was an interesting way to use social media to have a dorm event

Ironically, each dorm program has to fit into a certain category and this one is a physical event, because it’s making them get out and walk around campus even though they are using technology and  the Internet to show it!

Just a snapshot of how social media is used in my life! 🙂

Absolutely fascinating.

Okay ChurchWorld leaders, are you paying attention?

 

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The Next Great Generation

Leave it to a Millennial to dig up some research on her own generation and send it to me. Well, that’s my daughter – what can I say?

Part 1 of a 4-part series on Generations in ChurchWorld

Last week this post introduced the generational lens that I view a lot of things through. Today I want to look at the first of four generations active in ChurchWorld leadership roles today, and the implications for you as a leader with your own team. The other three generations will be examined the rest of this week.

Just in case you wondered, there is a fifth generation that’s almost in a position of leadership – those born from the late ‘90s on. The oldest of that generation is already leading your youth or student groups, even without a position of leadership – but that is another series for another day! Now about those Millennials…

The Next Great Generation

Meet the Millennials, born in or after 1982 through the late ‘90s  – the “Babies on Board” of the early Reagan years, the “Have You Hugged Your Child Today?” sixth graders of the early Clinton years, the teens of Columbine, the much-touted Class of 2000 entering the new Millennium, and this year, poised to enter their thirties.

As a group, Millennials are unlike any other youth generation in living memory. They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse. More importantly, they are beginning to manifest a wide array of positive social habits that older Americans no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty, and good conduct.

When you fit these changes into the broader rhythms of American history, you can get a good idea of what kind of adult generation the Millennials have demonstrated so far, and are likely becoming. You can foresee their future hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses, as they rise to adulthood and, in time, to power. You can understand how today’s young adults are on the way to becoming a powerhouse generation, full of technology planners, community shapers, institution builders, and world leaders. Many observers think this generation will dominate the twenty-first century like today’s fading and ennobled G.I. Generation dominated the twentieth. Millennials have a solid chance to becomeAmerica’s next great generation, celebrated for their collective deeds a hundred years from now.

– from “Millennials Rising” by Neil Howe and William Strauss

And they are the “young gun” leaders chomping at the bit in ChurchWorld today.

Millennials want to make a difference from the day they arrive on the scene, and think they can. After all, they had parents who told them how great they were. They listened to Baby Einstein to get smarter. They expected to get an A in school, and if they didn’t, they negotiated with the school staff.

Millennials bring a lot of valuable skill sets in terms of thinking outside the box and in the world of technology. They are the first generation that are digital natives. They don’t know what status quo means, but they will be the first to speak up is something doesn’t work.

Some thoughts to consider when leading Millennials:

  • Provide specific examples of what you expect at the office
  • Give them feedback at least once a month
  • Capable of learning several tasks simultaneously and performing them admirably
  • Flexible scheduling is important in developing a balanced life
  • “Fun” is not an F-word; it’s a vital aspect of a meaningful, productive workplace
  • Leadership is a participative process; they will learn best from leaders who engage them
  • Continuous learning is a way of life
  • Diversity is expected
  • Being hyper-connected is normal

By 2015 (less than four years away!) Baby Boomers will cede the majority of the workforce to the Millennials. When you consider the changes in the amount of knowledge available at our fingertips, the advent of social technologies, and the expansion of the global economy over the past decade, it’s no wonder that generational collisions are inevitable – even in ChurchWorld.

Are you ready?

Generational Disclosure: I am the parent of three Millennials: a 27 year-old son completing Air Force Basic Training, married with a daughter who is nine months old; a 23 year-old daughter who is employed as a communication director and is completing a Masters in Divinity; and an 18 year-old son who is beginning college this fall as a culinary arts/food services management major. My generational studies start at home!