For the first time in American history we have a generation without Christian parents or grandparents.
Many of the people – especially the youth – who give their lives to Jesus in the church I pastor were never taught Bible stories, prayed at meals or bedtime, or heard grandma sing Jesus Loves Me.
If you live outside the USA, this may have been true of your culture for a long time. But for us, it’s new. Actually, if you live in the Bible Belt, it may not have happened in your community yet. But it is coming.
This makes pastoring today both a great opportunity and an interesting challenge.
Overcoming The Christian Heritage Gap
I'm a third generation pastor. It’s a heritage I thank God for every day.
When I’m ministering to other multi-generational believers, we easily find a common rhythm of speaking and understanding, even if we've never met before. That kinship and common heritage is rich, comforting and beautiful.
But that heritage can put me at a distance from those who aren’t multi-generational Christians. Without that common background, I have to work harder to cross barriers that I may not even recognize at first.
As a pastor, I'm learning how to speak from my multi-generational faith to people who have no Christian family heritage to draw from.
This is especially true in California, where I live. Most of our neighborhoods are only one generation old. Many traditions, including church attendance, are non-existent.
A lot of the Christians in our church are not just the only believers in their family, they’re the first one in generations. Maybe ever.
Here are 9 lessons I’m learning about doing ministry in a church with a lot of first-generation believers:
1. I can't assume even the simplest biblical understanding
...including what the Bible actually is. So, in addition to teaching from the Bible, I always teach them something about the Bible.
Also, I don’t use phrases like “we all know the story of…” to summarize a Bible lesson.
And I never assume that everyone owns a Bible. Instead, we make free Bibles available and I tell them the page number where they can find Ephesians.
Because of this, I have to (and get to) teach the basics more often.
2. I can’t use theological terms – unless I explain them first
I’m not a fan of using theological terms when ordinary words will do. But sometimes you have to. First, because some words, like redemption and salvation, have no parallels. And second, because learning essential terms is an important aspect of good discipleship.