A generation is often defined as the group of people spanning the time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring. For example, we’ve named “The Baby Boom Generation”, “Gen X”, “Millennials”, etc. When you break down generations into segments based on age, we often see large differences in values, viewpoints on the cultural issues of our time, and even character traits. These differences are a beautiful thing because what one part of humanity values complements what another part of humanity values. Together, we are a more whole expression of humanity. This phenomenon is certainly one reason researchers who study young people and spiritual growth have suggested inter-generational ministry as essential, in direct contrast to segregating by age group in church ministry programs.
I get deeply concerned when one generation harshly criticizes, judges, or even worse, devalues the contribution of another. In particular, one of my greatest concerns is the harsh overall judgment that many adults make toward the adolescent population. During adolescence, a person will begin to look like an adult and have many capacities of an adult, but are not yet an adult. Their brains are not fully developed until approximately age 25. It not fair for adults to make assumptions about an adolescent’s character during this crucial stage of development. They are still maturing. For this reason, I enjoy using the VIA Character Strengths Survey with teens and young adults. They need to know they have wonderful character strengths to contribute, and with this knowledge, they are more likely to develop higher self-esteem and report more overall happiness.
My favorite definition of the word “generation” is simply referring to all who are living at any given time. So, this could mean everyone alive today are a generation together. Maybe, just maybe, God designs each new young population of the generation to challenge the ideals of their elders, lest we become too arrogant and think we have it all figured out, lest we become lazy in renewing our mind, lest we get too comfortable, lest we become rigid in our views. Let us thank God for the character strengths of each member of our generation, to complete this beautiful mosaic of humanity—for in it, we see a more accurate reflection of our magnificent Creator.