Sbanotto, Elisabeth A. and Craig L. Blomberg. Effective Generational Ministry. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015.
I must admit I hesitated as I picked up another book researching the characteristics of Baby-boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials. I have grown weary of the labels and generalization of these groups. However, the introduction of this book alleviated my hesitation. The authors acknowledge their own bias and allow for exceptions in each generation based on personality, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and religious affiliation. One of the most powerful statements in the entire book is found in that introduction. “Every generation takes for granted the good that went before it, reacts against the bad, and responds within its own historical context” (xix).
Effective Generational Ministry is a collaborative work by a Gen-X/Millennial “Cusper” (Sbanotto) and a rock-solid Baby-boomer (Blomberg). Unlike other co-authored books that read more like an anthology, Sbanotto and Blomberg actually weave their chapters together. For each of the three generations, the authors dedicate three chapters. The first identifies the significant characteristics of the generation, the second provides a biblical perspective of those characteristics, and the last provides practical recommendations for the church to minister most effectively to that particular generation. I especially appreciated the chapters that held the characteristics of each generation against the truth of scripture. There is a powerful difference between accommodation and admonishment.
Ifound it insightful (and a bit indicting) when the authors used the metaphor of birth order to capture some of the personality of each generation. Baby-boomers are the oldest child (perfectionist and the loudest voice), the Gen-Xers are the middle child (lost and sandwiched between two larger and louder generations), and the Millennials are the youngest child (manipulative, attention seeker and entitled). It is human nature to find ourselves first in a group photo that includes us. That happened to me as I read this book. My head was nodding as I read the chapter on Baby-boomers. However, the benefit of this well researched book is not the rehearsal of the characteristics of my generation, but what I learned about understanding and effectively ministering to the other generations. If your church seems a bit less than generationally inclusive, Effective Generational Ministry should be required reading for your leadership.