Generation Gap among Pastors: Some Anecdata

the generation gap

Recently I was with a group of pastors and we were talking about activities we found spiritually nourishing and restorative. We generated a long list, both stuff we did and stuff we wanted to do but found it hard to make a priority (sadly).

All of these pastors are talented, dedicated people. All are folks you’d probably enjoy being around. I know I do. Here’s what I noticed: when it came to the list of spiritual practices we cherished, the Boomer-aged pastors listed things like daily scripture reading, mission trips, and group Bible studies—churchy activities, all—and the younger pastors (Gen X and younger) listed those things, but added stuff like attending plays, connecting with friends (in person and [gasp!] on Facebook), and doing art.

There are a number of different ways to take this. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

1. It was a small, non-representative group and there is no broader trend.
2. Older pastors, who’ve been in “the system” longer, don’t feel as much permission to be expansive in their view of spiritual practices. (Is it a surprise that the younger pastors are the ones who brought up S-E-X as a way of nurturing one’s spirit?)
3. A related possibility: the further along you move in your career and the further “up” you go, the less time you have for stuff that’s considered superfluous. (Let’s face it, scripture reading does have a personal benefit, but it also has direct utility for your congregation.)
4. Young pastors have a particular gift for connecting a broad set of creative and cultural activities to the life of the Spirit.

If it’s #4, I am encouraged about the future of the church’s ministry and mission.


4 thoughts on “Generation Gap among Pastors: Some Anecdata

  1. Kelley

    Amen! I told someone recently that Marci and you were my “younger” mentors! I find encouragement from your ministry and the ministry of your peers.
    I like to think I dip into the #4 category once in a blue moon…it helps to have four other family members who are “arts” people. Keep it up, Rev. MA!

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  3. Charlotte Lohrenz

    I’m betting on #1. I know it was pastors older than I am who opened the door to Christianity by telling me sex, sweat, yoga, gardening, nursing, cooking and doing nothing were all pathways to spirituality.

  4. Rachel Heslin

    I wonder if there is any impact of general cultural shift. Not quite sure how to articulate it, but something like how, as a society, we’ve gone from having expectation of playing more or less rigid roles to trying to “balance” our lives to now seeing more of a trend towards integration. Might your generational observations be affected by that as well?


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