“OK, Elder BoomXerZ!”

The other day I was in a deeply philosophical conversation with one of my camp staff about Eminem’s recent Oscar performance. My staff thought it was lame, I descended into a discourse on the history of Em’s and the entertainment industry’s rocky relationship and the maturing of an entertainer. To which my camp staff responded with, “OK Boomer!” “First of all,” I said, “I am what’s called a Cusper (a person born on the line between two generations and shares characteristics of the two cohorts), second I’m a cusper between Millennials and Gen-X, and -most importantly- third, your opinion is irrelevant because you weren’t even born when the harpsichord and bass of “Sing for the Moment” began in 2002. So what you see as a “lame out of place performance by an old dude’ singing about something you don’t understand is simply that, you just don’t understand.” At which point the crowd that had gathered applauded.

Okay so that may be a bit of a hyperbolic colloquy, but I to be fair I was offended that this kid thought I was that old and I may remember the interaction differently than he does. The actual conversation has had me thinking a lot about what people know and don’t know about the generations in existence today. There are a lot of misplaced labels out there for generations. As Dr. Allan Martian recently noted on Facebook, “people talk about Millennials like they are the ‘future of the church,’ I thought it prudent to remind folks that most Millennials and many GenZs are in the throws of full-fledge adulthood.” It doesn’t help that there are a wide variety of researchers with differing opinions on when exactly each generation begins and ends, let alone what we should call them. Even if the average person had the interest to study generational cohorts seriously, what would be the criteria for selecting one researcher’s definition over another’s?

Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

I have come across seven researchers and seven different opinions on where to divide the cohorts. There are probably more out there, this was just the ones that seem to have the most influence in the conversation. For the question of where to divide the generations, I have two solutions to propose. First, the simplest way is just to just pick your favorite researcher that suits your purpose and stick to it. Both Pew and Barna are researchers that focus on religious trends, it makes sense for the Adventist Church to align with either of their data. Maybe a more scientific approach would be to take an average of all the main researcher’s date ranges and round them up to the nearest five-year group.

Generational LabelBarnaPewStrauss/HoweKasasaDorsey/GenHQPowell/JackaSchroerAveragern to 5 YrAge in 2020Cultural Label
Elder-19451928-1945-1942N/AN/A-1942-1945-1943-194476+Elderly
Boomer1946-19641946-19641943-19601944-19641942-19611942-19611946-19651944-19631945-196456-75Adult
Gen-X1965-19831965-19801961-19811965-19791962-19761962-19761966-19761964-19781965-197941-55Adult
Millennial1984-19981981-19961982-20041980-19941977-19911977-19911977-19941979-19961980-199426-40Young Adult
Gen-Z1999-20151997-20122005-Today1995-20151992-Today1992-Today1995-20121997-20171995-20190-25Youth
Generational Sources: compiled by Tim Floyd on January 2020

Regardless of where researchers draw the line for generational cohorts, there is a big chance that you are a human. As such, you are far more complicated than having been born in a specific year. While it is a significant influence, what shapes you to be who you are is far more complicated than the times in which you were born and have lived. As a human, you have a fundamental need that surpasses your generation’s caricature. That need, according to Laine Davey, is to feel valued. Davey states, “one thing you can count on is that regardless of age, everyone wants to be valued.” When we recognize that everyone wants to feel valued, we tap into our empathy wells. We draw draughts of patience and compassion that drives us into conversations that deepen our relationships with those we may have initially found different from us. When that happens, we are less likely to respond with an empty, “OK Boomer!”

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

by Timothy Floyd

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