Generation X (early 1960s-early 1980s) and Generation Y (1980s-1990s) are said to see things differently from baby boomers (1946-64). Our clergy talk about how they care for a multigenerational flock.
The Rev. Laurie Cline, Saint John Lutheran Church, Bellmore:
The main difference in ministering to Gen X and Gen Y and the baby boomer generation is the language used. Many Gen Xers and Gen Yers did not grow up in a church, or are from a different tradition, and are not familiar with the liturgical and theological language that the baby boomers grew up with.
For example, during Lent we focus on the disciplines of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. For Gen X and Gen Y, we now refer to almsgiving as "giving to charity."
Our new hymnal, "Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship," has adjusted our liturgical language so that it is more accessible. The Agnus Dei is now simply called "Lamb of God," the Sanctus is called "Holy, Holy, Holy," and the processional and recessional hymns are called "Gathering Song" and "Sending Song." Although traditionalists mourn the loss of the ancient language of the church, we recognize that it is very important to reach out to all generations.
With all that said, the most important part of ministry applies to all generations -- the ministry of presence. We need to listen carefully to the concerns and stories of our people and encourage them to let us know when they need a listening ear or a helping hand.
Rabbi Ronald N. Brown, Temple Beth Am, Merrick:
When they're young, children go to service because you're compelled to by your parents. They're told "You have to." Then, they reach a certain age, and we see them drop out. You don't see them until they have children and they begin saying "You have to."
I can't minister to young people the same way I would to older people who actually want to be there. Young people want something exciting, something relevant. For them, nothing is left off the table.
With older people, they have children to raise and elderly parents to care for. They want a place of comfort, to see their friends, to close out the frustrations and problems of Monday through Friday. They want quietude and a sense of spirituality that is soothing.
When I give a sermon, I want to make people think, to be challenged and even unnerved a bit. I also want to give them comfort, a sense of belonging and to be a contrast to the stress of their week.
But, most important, the clergy has to address everyone with honesty, because, whether young, old or in- between, they will be engaged by what they feel is real.
Father Roy Tvrdik, SMM, director, Shrine of Our Lady of the Island, Manorville:
Unfortunately, Generation X and Y are very religiously ignorant. There is a lack of knowledge of biblical issues, biblical stories. This is in all religions, not just Christianity. When I say ignorant, I don't mean that as a judgment. I mean they're ignorant of many things that are in the Bible.
Many [in] these generations may not even be baptized. But, they're still hungry for knowledge. You just assume you'll have to go over the basics.
As for baby boomers, many are much more knowledgeable. I find that the baby boomers are patient with the need to spoon-feed some. You also have baby boomers who have been away from the faith or who want to make a closer connection. So, you just have to remind the boomers who have more knowledge that we're all in this together and that all questions will be answered.
The Rev. Terry Wiese, pastor, CrossBridge Church, Westbury:
There is a pendulum effect of each generation to compensate for what they saw wrong in the previous generation. My parents believed in institutions, causes. They did things because they thought they were the right things to do. Spiritually, they were faithful and committed.
My generation -- I'll be 58 on April 28 -- reacted to the perceived lack of fulfillment in the previous generation. My generation wants personal fulfillment. Baby boomers want to know "What religion will give me."
Generation X and Y are heavily affected by divorce. They also saw a lot of people who were driving BMWs, Mercedes, etc. but were still unhappy. Relationship is everything to them. And they are comfortable with the mysteries of religion. Everything doesn't have to be explained.
Baby boomers want fulfillment and happiness, but not as much of an intimate relationship with God. You have to remind them that only a relationship with God will give them true fulfillment.
Generations X and Y don't see right and wrong the same way boomers do. They'll say what may be wrong for you may not be wrong for me. To them, there are no absolutes.