Adrian Sledge

Sledge

I had the great opportunity to attend a leadership course at the Army Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in January 2018.

One of the topics touched upon was “Leading and Understanding a Multigenerational Workplace.” In this class, each generation was classified into groups. We identified the current working generations as Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. The instructor shared with us historical events that shaped each generation. We also had the opportunity to discuss the assets, liabilities and the personalities of each group.

Since returning to Culpeper from this class, I have diligently and purposely devoted myself to get a better understanding of each generation. Proverbs 4:7 tells us to seek wisdom and understanding. So with the information I received, I discovered that this topic is imperative to the growth of the Church. In order to conduct an effective ministry we must have an understanding of the people who attend our local churches. Each generation has its own personality traits, which means it is impossible to minister or treat each one the same.

There must be a deliberate attempt to minister to the needs of all generations. Many churches have launched campaigns designed for specific generations. I’ve seen leaders develop strategies to reach Millennials, and I’ve seen churches that are only structured to fit the Traditionalist and Baby Boomer generations. All the while, Generation X and Z often become an afterthought. Church leaders must realize that all these generations need one thing—and that is Jesus Christ.

Regardless of generations, the message of Jesus Christ is still the same. Jesus laid out our mission in Matthew 28:18-20. However, the method of how we deliver this message may need to change. The message must be articulated in a way that each generation understands. In order to do this, we must communicate and learn from generations outside of our own.

Once we have acknowledged the diversity we have in our churches, we must now teach our diverse membership how to coexist. It is important that pastors and leaders teach a message of love and tolerance. All generations must learn to appreciate and respect one another. This concept starts from the pulpit. Clergy need to be willing to embrace diversity within the congregation. As soon as this concept is achieved in the church, it can be useful in taking the next step to evangelism in the community.

I have developed a greater appreciation for the different generations since I’ve begun this study. I have also been able to see my biases as a Generation X-er towards other generations and biases others have towards mine. This growth has made me a better person, co-worker and leader.

I have been fortunate to pastor a multigenerational church with five active generations being productive in ministry. It has been challenging, but it has been fun. It is great seeing Traditionalists working with my young Generation Z school-aged children. I have watched Millennials and Generation X-ers join Baby Boomers in many of our key leadership positions.

This attitude has spilled over into our worship services. Everyone is comfortable in their own skin. There is no strict dress code and no unrealistic rules. I like to call it authentic worship. Antioch Baptist Church of Culpeper has created an atmosphere where a person can be who they are without judgement. Some will use hard-copy bibles, while others may use iPhones and tablets. It is still God’s Word, either way. The church must appreciate, respect and value all generations in order to be complete and whole.

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The Rev. Adrian D. Sledge is pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, an institution in Culpeper since 1889.

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