Why doesn’t anyone care about Generation X?

August 14, 2013

I’ve been in a number of conversations where people in my beloved generation (I'm an Xer) are frustrated by all the recent buzz around Millennials and the church. Many in Gen X are annoyed that we’ve spent a lifetime living under the looming Boomer shadow, and now we’re getting swallowed up by Millennials.

Churches worry about the fact that the 20-somethings are missing. And we should be concerned. In the denominational church, we have been closing a stunning number of congregations every month. About 75-80% of our ministers will be retiring in the next ten years. This keeps me up at night. Not just because I care about our churches (I do), but also because I care about people. I’ve prayed about it, written about it, and spoken on it for the last eight years.

And now that Gen X is no longer in the 20-something cohort (we’re 31-51), I’m still concerned. Why?

•We believe that faith extends from generation to generation. I don’t want to respond to the notion that no one cared about us while we were in our 20s, by resenting the Millennials.

I cannot tell you how many times Baby Boomers come up to me at conferences, where I am invited to talk about ministry to and with a new generation and say, “You left me out! How come you didn’t talk about my struggles? How come you didn’t talk about how the church has treated my generation?”

Of course, I didn’t talk about Boomers, because I wasn’t invited to speak on Boomers. Boomers already have plenty of people speaking. 

I don’t want to be that person—resenting emerging voices, always feeling neglected. I want to be continually nurturing leadership, voices, and faith in a new generation.

•We’re survivors. There were many things that Gen X had to go through and we know better now. I became a latchkey kid in 6th grade. It was common. There is no way I would let my kid babysit herself for hours every single day. You can call me a helicopter parent, but I would rather make sure that there are after-school programs, sports, and clubs for my daughter than look forward to another generation of record-high teen pregnancies.

We can look at so many things that our generation has had to survive—endless wars, ballooning student loan debt, roller-coaster housing costs, short-term work, horrifying environmental damage, and the gouging of pension and medical benefits. But we’ve always found strength when we looked to make things better for the future. Can’t we keep doing that in the church?

•We’re old enough to claim community--even with all of our alienation. Generation X would have a thunderous voice in the church overnight if we all started to tithe. We would have a huge voice in politics if we showed up at the polls. I know that we’re in debt and most of us have felt alienated from institutions. But, at age 51, we can’t always be victims. We can't blame others for our detachment. We will need to join in common action--whether it's within existing structures or with movements that we create.

Though I've spent most of this post talking about generational cohorts, I want to end by saying that even though I use them, it makes me frustrated that we're divided by them. Why should we start resenting younger generations just because they wear a different label? Why can't we all keep working for this movement of mercy, love and justice at any age? 


Missing generation

Hi Carol, you are the first person I've heard talk publicly about the missing generation. Thanks for addressing it. You're right. An entire generation is missing and the church doesn't appear to care. But this can only change one church at a time, and the only way to change it is for the Gen X folks to stick with the church despite the offense.

On the northside of GenX

I'm on the older end of being a GenXer and I tried to do some ministry focus on my generation when I was in my late 30's, but I was told then that we "shouldn't waste our energy" on the "lost generation."  Instead we should focus on the children and the youth so they don't become lost as well.  Interesting enough, those in the Boomer generation were telling the GenXers how to reach the Millennials.  But how they were telling us to reach out to them, was full of the same problems that cause so many of my generation to fall away from the church.

Robert +

Part of the reason Gen X is

Part of the reason Gen X is disregarded is that, in the eyes of Boomers who still control everything, we are not yet old enough to given responsibility. Organized religion is one of the few places where the young are not welcomed, listened to, or treated as equals. If we are hired in the private sector or govt for a decent salary we deliver and if we make a suggestion, it will be considered, otherwise, there is no reasons To Pay us. We can make partner, be a physician in private practice, or even have a pulpit by age 35 but not have a seat at the table in a congregation.