Gen X is defined by individuals born between 1965-1979. At the height of their careers, they are often hardworking and value common sense solutions over-idealized opinions. Often overlooked for the generations before and after them, Gen X comprises 20.97% of the population; a larger group than the often-hyped Gen Z. Many Gen Xers grew up as “latchkey kids” or children who often cared for themselves due to working parents. According to 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? by Straus and Howe, those part of Generation X were children when society focused more on adults, due in part to the rejection of the child worshipping era of the 1950s by society and their parents. They grew up in a time of soaring divorce rates and waning parental supervision due to increased material participation in the workplace. This caused Gen X to grow up faster and develop a sometimes callous, but later protective, view of the importance of family and a healthy marriage. Now approaching middle age, Gen Xers may feel abandoned by their parents and society, but they foster a strong sense of independence. Their independence and resilience give them a healthy sense of self and a dedication to hard work to see results. Often overlooked, the Gen X cohort is one of the most under-reached generations in America today.
Many Gen Xers were raised with no religious affiliation, and they may harbor distrust of religious institutions. Despite this, 70 percent identify as Christians. They often question authority but are surprisingly loyal to their faith and are less likely to disaffiliate from their religion. This is in contrast to their parents, the Baby Boomer generation, who were 50 percent more likely to stray from their faith. Of Generation X, 34 percent are committed to attending church weekly and seek purpose and meaning from Christ and the Church.
Currently raising Gen Z kids, Gen X values pragmatic approaches to solving issues affecting themselves. They seek to raise their children to value hard work, empower them to be autonomous, pragmatic, and sometimes cynical, and seek more results-driven solutions. Gen X will be interested in helping their community and appreciate knowing exactly how their church’s donation or time volunteering will be spent. Now between the ages of 40 and 54, Gen Xers often struggle to raise their children and care for their aging parents. The church can help this season by offering caregiver support and resources to give Gen X some needed help and relief when caring for their parents.
Many Gen Xers grew up in divorced households causing them to put off marriage until later, resulting in a drastic 18 percent reduction in divorce rates in the United States. Gen X values family, those that are married foster a deep commitment to marriage and would appreciate marriage enrichment resources or sermon series offered by the church.
Having suffered so much financial instability from the recession in the 90s, the dot-com bust in the 2000s, and then the housing crisis of 2008, Gen X suffered the most from these setbacks, and many are still trying to recover fully. They lost the most jobs of any generation and half of their life savings from these events, and they are now growing closer to retirement age. Many Gen Xers would appreciate financial planning classes or tax resources their church could offer as they seek to approach retirement with more security.
Often having needed to grow up quickly during childhood, valuing self-reliance and entrepreneurship, and having weathered various generational hardships, Gen X possesses a healthy distrust of institutions, but they still long for genuine connections. They often search for a nonjudgmental community and the opportunity to serve without bureaucracy in the Church. Many have children in middle school and high school and are currently raising the next generation of churchgoers. By connecting with Gen X, the Church is also able to help influence the lives and of their children (Gen Z), helping ensure they don’t graduate high school and the church simultaneously. Gen X is looking for an open conversation with the church rather than a lecture and values a focus on purpose and ministry rather than empty Sunday morning events. Creating genuine connections, offering transparency, and providing meaningful opportunities to serve is the key to reaching Gen X and their Gen Z children today.
For more information on assimilating any generation into your church, download ASSIMILATION BEST PRACTICES WITH THE WHOLE CHURCH IN MIND. Or visit our Church Growth website for more information on generational differences and other blogs.
Andrew Esparza is the founder of Kingdom Analytics. This company has served over 300+ organizations doing good globally by helping better connect them to their community, congregation, or customers using advanced demography research. He also has experience in the church world working for the largest high school ministry in the country at North Point Community Church. Andrew graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in Design Management and Tourism Development and is CITI certified in Social and Behavioral Research.