There once was a woman who had a problem she simply could not shake. It influenced her every day, affecting her even when she was not thinking about it. It started when she was born and, at least in her mind, it would be with her the rest of her life.
What was her unique life predicament? She was a middle child.
Her older brother could do no wrong. He succeeded at everything he did. He lavished in all the attention and praise others could heap upon him. He was big, gregarious, handsome, and had an outsized influence on all the people around him. He learned to be in charge at a young age and leveraged that skill in seemingly every environment in which he found himself.
Her younger brother floated through life on a breeze. Like most of the youngest children you know—babies of the family—his parents hovered over him incessantly and made him believe he could be anything he wanted to be. He enjoyed the attention and became quite confident as a result. He was outgoing, socially conscious, popular, technically savvy, and determined to change the world.
This middle child was small, timid, and often overlooked. And, with siblings like hers, is it any wonder that being a middle child was such a struggle?
If you haven’t figured it out yet, my generation—Generation X—is the middle child in the story. Stuck between the massive Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, Generation X has been called America’s neglected middle child. Although there is some disagreement regarding dates, GenXers were born roughly between 1965 and 1980. (Some experts say the cutoff is 1978 and others say it is 1984.) For our purposes, if you came of age in the 1970s, 1980s, or early 1990s, you’re a GenXer.
What is the unique contribution Generation X can make to our church?
We have several strengths to offer:
- We are focused on our families. Because so many people in my generation grew up in broken homes, we are determined not to suffer the same outcomes. By guarding and growing our homes, we strengthen the foundations of our church and of society.
- We are hard-working and entrepreneurial. We love a good challenge. If there’s a problem, we don’t want to sit around and talk about it. We want to do something. And, our education, experience, and willingness to work hard position us to make a huge impact.
- We are resilient. We have lived through seemingly perennial wars abroad, one political and social crisis after another, economic upheavals, and constant uncertainty in the world around us. Yet, we keep showing up, coming back for more.
- We embrace change as a way of life. GenXers have dealt with being outsourced, laid-off, restructured, reorganized, and relocated more than any other generation. We have lived through the technological revolution. We can use our understanding of the necessity of change to help the church adapt to changes in the world around us while preserving the Gospel.
While we are working to leverage our strengths, we must remain aware of our weaknesses:
- Our independence can lead to isolation. GenXers can have difficulty risking vulnerability. However, in the church, we must let down our guards to cultivate the relationships we so desperately need.
- Our cynicism can make it difficult to trust. We were brought up to question institutions and authority figures. And, in large measure, they earned our distrust. However, we must not let this tendency to keep us from investing in the church and from submitting to our spiritual leaders.
- Our impatience can cause us to move on too soon. In our desire—even eagerness—for change, we cannot allow ourselves to become disillusioned or discouraged. We must remember to keep our eyes on Christ and to continue working for him, even when we don’t see the changes for which we work.
If you’re a GenXer like me, let me encourage you not to fade into the background and let your older and younger siblings get all the attention and do all the heavy lifting. You have much to offer. Speak up. Jump in. Roll up your sleeves. Let’s use the best of what God has given us to impact the world around us for the cause of Christ.