Preaching to Generation X

Preaching to Generation X

We are considering how to preach to the various generations in your church.  We’ve already looked at the Builder Generation and the Boomer Generation.  Now we turn to the subject of how to go about preaching to Generation X people, who represent about 30% of the adult population in the United States.

Generation X Challenges

Generation X people, sometimes referred to as Baby Busters, are complex as a group, and present some interesting challenges to the preacher.  Here are some of the things that set this generation apart.

  • The GenX people were born between 1965 and 1983.
  • Many of them were “latch-key kids”.  In other words, their parents weren’t home after school, so they spent time alone at home.
  • They are mistrustful of authority.  This is not surprising at all when you consider what they faced in their lifetimes.
    • A high percentage of their parents got divorced.
    • They watched the great religious scandals of the tele-evangelists in the 80’s, and therefore learned to mistrust religious figures.
    • The GenXers watched news of multiple school shootings, starting with Columbine in 1999.
    • Racial tension in society has defined their lifetime.
  • They are the first generation to grow up with technology as a normal part of life.  When you meet a GenXer, they will likely have a cell phone handy, from which they are rarely parted.
  • Gen Gers tend to be well educated.

These are things to keep in mind when thinking about preaching to Generation X people in your congregation.

Generation X Religious Characteristics

There is a tension in the generation of the Busters.  Though most of them described themselves as Christian in a recent survey (73%), their church involvement has been decreasing through the decades.  Many of this generation accepted and adopted the postmodern and secular world views of the general culture.  Yet, in a survey done in 1991 (when they were in their teens and twenties), 71 percent identified as Christian, and about 48% made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.  (From a report by George Barna, Busters, Boomers and Elders). 

Then there was a resurgence of faith in this generation, believed by many to have fueled the rise of the megachurch in the US.  In 2011, 80% of this generation identified as Christian and 60% expressed a faith in Jesus Christ.   This is also the period of time when this generation was engaged with their families, or in the early empty nest period of life.

In 2019, the percentage of Busters who identified with Christianity dropped to 73%, but 64% still said they had a commitment to church.  Only about 50%, however, attended church on any regular basis.

How To Preach To Gen X

So, how do you go about preaching to Generation X people in your church?  Here are some things to keep in mind.  They state a strong preference for sermons that help them feel connected to God, as well as feeling an application to their lives.  Here’s another insight from the study by Darrell Hall:

When it comes to sermon styles Gen X is very predictable.  They lean toward intellectual stimulation…which leads them to a person connection with God and life application.  

Another way that Hall describes this generation is that they are the “show me” generation.  Here’s another quote from his book that is compelling for the person who is preaching to Generation X people:

No longer is it acceptable just to know what the Bible says.  Now the preacher must know what archaeologists, sociologists, and geologists have to say about what the Bible claims.  Theology may be the “Queen of the sciences”, but Xers will not bow to her without the presence of other sciences in regalia in her royal court. 

So, how will this affect your messages?

  • Research your messages well.  Don’t be lazy in your study, or this generation will be frustrated with your preaching.
  • Practice your language.  This generation loves eloquent preachers.  So, think through not just what you are going to say, but how you are going to say it.
  • Make the structure of your sermon clear and logical.  This generation appreciates things like acrostics and alliteration in your structure.

This is a great generation to preach to.  They are reachable with your preaching.  Preach the good news well, and they will respond.