For the first time in U.S. history, it will soon be possible to have five generations working together in the same office. Generations are – generally speaking – different in terms of their institutional loyalty, expectations, dress codes, organizational structures, and more.
So imagine what it would be like to have – on the same church staff – the Gen X Head of Staff, the Baby Boomer Music Director, the Millennial Office Manager, the Silent Generation Parish Nurse, and the Generation Z communications intern working on her high school service hours. It could be a disaster or it could be amazing.
What would make it amazing?
- An attitude that we can all learn from each other. The seasoned staff person might have lots of experience working with personnel committees while the youngest staff member might have tech skills that everybody else needs to know.
- Respect for and enthusiasm about differences. Instead of feeling disdain over the fact that one staff member wears a suit and heels while another wears jeans and an untucked shirt, appreciate the differences for the way a variety of parishioners can connect. Acknowledge that dress styles mean different things to different people.
- Patience. No eye rolling allowed. No jokes that diminish colleagues and make them feel foolish.
- No sweeping generalizations: “You people need to learn how to use google maps.” “Why is your generation so lazy?” Not helpful.
- No cute name-calling: The youngest members of the staff might indeed be the age of your grandchildren but don’t call them “kids.” The oldest members of the staff might be somebody’s Grandpa, but he’s not yours. He’s your colleague.
- No throwing colleagues under the bus. Honestly this is essential for all church staffs of every age. Heads of Staff: support your young colleagues, especially when parishioners criticize them behind their backs. Young pastors, back your older colleagues. Healthy personnel evaluations don’t happen in church parking lots.
The best staff relationships I’ve enjoyed included a 20-something colleague, three thirty-something colleagues, and a 50-something me. We learned so much and it made for better ministry for our congregation.
As Generation Z enters the work force in the not-so-distant future and retired people need to keep working because they are pension-less, and all the generations in between have so much to offer, this is a great opportunity to enliven our ministry. I would love to hear from those of you whose church staffs enjoy broad age diversity. Anyone?