How to fix tensions between Gen Z and Boomers

The church landscape, post ‘OK Boomer’

In the aftermath of the ‘OK Boomer’ trend, so many Generation Z kids feel like they are up against the ‘Baby Boomers’ in all aspects of life – including within the church.

Media coverage of OK Boomer has left both generations with unrealistic, preconceived ideas of each other. Gen Z (born after 1996) is often presented as “lefty loonies” while Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are depicted as the source of all the world’s evil.

Most people have valid explanations as to why they believe what they believe …

For those that missed the biggest online insult of 2019, the phrase ‘OK Boomer’ is typically used by a member of Gen Z to vent their frustration about the elder generation’s sweeping or narrow-minded comments (whether they be about youth, climate change or any another subject).

I can find it easy to succumb to trends which encourage inter-generational tension, even within my own church family. But simple replies such as ‘OK Boomer’ aren’t constructive when it comes to the discussions we need to have around these issues.

As a ‘Gen Z kid’, I think arguments over viewpoints can be handled in much better ways than exchanging cheap insults between generations.

OK Boomer won’t get us any closer to solving problems, but God’s word offers plenty of practical tips about how to dramatically improve the relationship between these two generations:

1. As a Christian Gen Z, the first step in fixing the inter-generational tension is to recognise that not all Baby Boomers are the right-wing, progress-hating stereotype. They hold their own views as individuals, rather than as a collective. And they also have a right to express what they really believe about issues, without being instantly dismissed by Gen Z.

Conversely, it helps when Baby Boomers recognise that not all of Gen Z are left-wing progressives. In fact, even among Christians who are Gen Z, the division between conservative and progressive views are stark. I’ve encountered many disagreements over issues such as gender roles, same-sex-marriage, ways to interpret the Bible, the role of the Holy Spirit, evolution, climate change, and the list goes on. Forever.

Most people have valid explanations as to why they believe what they believe, regardless of the topics of high debate. Whether somebody’s reasoning is anecdotal, direct or testimonial, all opinions have to be taken seriously for progress to be made.

2. Within Christian circles, both sides of this inter-generational divide need to realise that constructive arguments based on theological grounds can only be reached through a Bible-based approach. Again, nothing is going to be achieved by resorting to catchphrases like ‘OK Boomer’, or by disregarding people due to their youth. Gen Z may want to go gung-ho to tear apart the beliefs of those older than us in the church, but we must not trample our real self, our Christian-self.

Just keeping the fruits of the spirit in mind can help us stay focused! As Galatians 5:22-23 describes, some of those fruits are: love, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

They might even raise the likelihood of making real change.

These are enough to dampen most arguments made between generations.

Being kind means to remember arguments always have positive or negative consequences, and people always will be impacted by your words. To love while pitching your argument means to remember that the person you are debating with is only human, and no better than you (or me). To be gentle through discussions means to not treat the subject lightly and to consider the people on the other side of the argument.

Self-control means to not let your anger control you when trying to make your case.

If people were to bear these fruits in mind while trying to vent their frustration with a member of the other generation, discussions between the youth and the elder would be so much healthier. They might even raise the likelihood of making real change.

3. Next step to overcoming inter-generational tension is looking to Jesus himself.

When looking at Jesus’ view on both the old and the young, we see that he loves and values both. In Luke 18:17, Jesus expresses the value of thinking like a child, saying, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Of course, Boomers and Gen Z are going to have faults, and we should be open about it, but when we bring the focus back to being more like Jesus, it makes all interactions a whole lot easier.

4. In 1 Timothy 5:1 when referring to respecting those older than you, the apostle Paul tells his understudy Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.” Paul also calls for younger men to be treated as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters -with absolute purity. How’s that for a model of inter-generational respect? Quite the contrast with ‘OK Boomer’ pot shots.

We don’t need to sprint to the finish line with ‘OK Boomer’ comments

5. Finally, we should remember that, while many issues within the church (and beyond) need to be immediately addressed, most issues raised don’t determine whether someone is or is not a Christian. So, we should still treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

As the ‘OK Boomer’ bandwagon comes to an eventual halt, we need to validate those that are running the race of being a Christian.

We don’t need to sprint to the finish line with ‘OK Boomer’ comments, or while disowning those that are younger than us who are also trying to get to the finish.

Maybe, if we can do some or all of these godly things, we can move forward the relationship between Gen Z and Baby Boomers.