James Choung is vice president of strategy and innovation at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He previously served as InterVarsity’s national director of evangelism. Choung has been in campus ministry for over 25 years. He is ordained with Vineyard Churches, and previously served on the pastoral staff of a Boston-area urban church plant, a megachurch in Seoul, and a house church in Los Angeles. He is the author of three books including his latest: “Longing for Revival: From Holy Discontent to Breakthrough Faith.” He studied management science and marketing at MIT, and received his M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Baby Boomers are more likely to be Christians than any other generation. Millennials are least likely of other generations to attend religious services. Does each generation necessitate a different approach when being presented with the good news? This is the question James Choung, vice president of strategy and innovation for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, has spent years researching and answering.
In Today’s Conversation podcast hosted by NAE President Walter Kim, James shares what each generation values, and discusses the central gospel question that must be answered for each generation. He also explains:
- Generational theory and why it is important in our current moment in history;
- The importance and motivation behind each generation’s question;
- How churches and pastors can reach different age groups at the same time; and
- How this information impacts the way we share the gospel.
Read a Portion of the Transcript
Walter: Lay out a framework for us of the different generations and what kinds of questions these different generations are asking.
James: What Strauss and Howe talk about in “Generations,” as they were looking at American history, is that there was a four generation cycle that repeated itself through generations…. This cycle only skipped a generation once and that was during the Civil War, which was such a traumatic experience for our country, but besides that jump it’s been these four generational cycles of what they call the “prophet” generation, then the “nomad,” then the “hero” generation and the “artist” generation.
What they did back when this book came out in 1991 was predict ahead, using the cycle, what these folks would be like. And so, at that time the Millennials would have been at most about 10 years old, and they made predictions about what they would be like as adults and a lot of that seemed to pass. It made them the foremost experts on Millennials. Since then, Strauss has passed away. Others have taken on the next generational leadership about the next generations. But that idea — I wondered if that had some implications for us in the spiritual realm as well. I wondered if there was a driving spiritual question of the day for each generation, and so the quick, going through that without explaining why, would be:
- Boomers, born between ’46 and ’64. They are asking, “What is true?” Being one of the last, truly modern generations
- Xers being one of the first postmodern generations, born from ’65 to ’80. They ask “What is real?”
- Millennials, born between ’81 and ’96, ask “What is good?”
- iGens or Gen Z, born about ’97 to 2015ish (that’s still being debated), they ask “What is beautiful?”
I think then if you don’t answer their front door spiritual question — all those questions are important — but if you don’t answer that first, front door question, they won’t want to hear your answer to the other questions.
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- Check out James’ books:
- Listen to these related podcasts:
- Rebecca McLaughlin | How the Gospel Answers Culture’s Questions
- Kaitlyn Schiess | Spiritual Formation for Public Life
- Jolene Erlacher | Unravelling the Mysteries of Millennials
- Read articles from our Evangelicals magazine issue, Context and Connection, on ministry to different generations.