Monday, February 2, 2009

Bob Dylan,, and the Nature of Change

Of all the commercials on the 2009 Super Bowl, the one that impressed me (and many media commentators) most was this one…

What struck me about the commercial was how well it portrayed the cyclical nature of generations. As I said in the previous post,: The more things change, the more they stay the same –and yet, are different.

If you have never read any of the work of Strauss and Howe on generational cycles, you should do so. Or at least get a summary from this Wikipedia article (CLICK HERE) and then explore their web sites (CLICK HERE.)

Strauss and Howe define a generation as “a group of people who share a common experience--a social moment of spiritual awakening or secular crisis--during the formative phase of their life, usually youth or young adulthood.” This usually is a period of about twenty years, although the defining point is common experience, not number of years.

They see cycles consisting of four phases and, hence, four generational cycles:
  • Civic Generation – populated by ”Heroes” whose formative years were in a time of Crisis.
  • Adaptive Generation – populated by “Artists” whose formative years were in a time of High.
  • Idealist Generation – Populated by “Prophets” whose formative years were in a time of Awakening.
  • Reactive Generation – Populated by “Nomads” whose formative years were in a time of unraveling.
The significance of this for those in ministry: First, in every congregation we have Heroes, Artists, Prophets, and Nomads, who represent each of these generations. In fact, in most congregations, we have people from six generations. (See chart below. It includes another division: Those “native born” in a digital world as opposed to those who are “immigrants” in that world.)

Second, while each generation is unique, they have characteristics in common with some of the older generations before them.

Third, In the course of a long life, a person will live through a cycle of crisis, high, awakening, and unraveling – perhaps through parts of even more than one cycle – and because of his or her generational experience, will have a role to play at each stage of the cycle.

Finally, it all seems to say something in favor of intergenerational ministry. There are blessings we can bring to one another if we take the time to understand one another. It is too easy to think that nothing of significance ever happened before we were born or that one generation is greater than another generation. The Body of Christ is enriched by us all, whether we sing the song of Sinatra, Dylan, or
For additional posts on generational issues, click on "generations" in the labels box at the the end of this post.

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