Family holiday gatherings often bring multiple generations to the same table. It quickly becomes apparent how different people in the same family can be. In the best of families, younger members take the wisdom of their elders to heart. Older generations dote on the young ones. Patriarchs hand over leadership responsibilities to emerging adults in the family. Some traditions are kept and new ones are formed.

These things don’t just happen. Families must learn to understand the experiences and values of differing members. They must give grace to one another as they enter new stages of life and as roles transition. It’s the same with church families. We must understand each other to serve each other.

Researchers and the media have drawn generational boundaries, identifying common characteristics and values of groups of people connected by their place and time. While not everyone fits exactly into the mold of their generation, considering common value systems can help denominations, organizations and churches create specific strategies for ministry and can help bridge gaps between generations.

There are a lot of good reasons to connect and minister to people in the same generation. They understand each other. They are in the same stage of life with the same level of cognitive reasoning. But there are a lot of missed opportunities when we value one generation over another or when we rush to judgments or dismiss people of other generations.

This edition starts a conversation to promote understanding and to “make God’s faithfulness known through all generations” (Psalm 89). It doesn’t offer an in-depth understanding of all generations or all the best ministry techniques to reach people in different phases of life. This is a tool to begin the process.

We know when our families are flourishing. How are our churches doing? Invite different generations to the table and value the unique contribution each brings.