What We Think We Know About Baby Busters

Written by William E. Easum, Ministry in a Changing World

Busters [born 1965-1983] (and the 1984+ Millennials) are the foundation generation for a new world being born. What they become will shape the emerging world for decades to come, if not centuries. . . .
Three paradigms separate the Busters from any previous generation.
First, they are by nature more Hebraic than Gentile, and more eastern than western. They reject the dualism of western culture that allows people of faith to rape the environment, cheat on a spouse, or preach against smoking only to be caught behind the church with a cigarette. Busters require an holistic approach to ministry. Church leaders have to “walk the talk.” As a presidential candidate, Bill Clinton’s campaign promise to now allow his religious beliefs to affect his political role played well with style-oriented Boomers, but would be disastrous with content-oriented Busters.
Second, Busters do not accept any ultimate value or truth. Fundamental values that my generation (Silent) assumed as fact, Busters question or outright reject. They come to worship with questions that must be answered before hearing the gospel.
The third paradigm by which Busters live is cynicism. To the casual eye, they appear to revel in their cynicism as entertainment, but in reality, cynicism is the crusty shell they hide under as they witness the breakdown of virtually everything on the planet. Emotionally abandoned by their family, brought up in broken homes, watching their parents put personal happiness before all else. This is their upbringing. And to add insult to injury, they are the first generation to face a bleaker economic future than their parents, even though they are better educated and more environmentally conscious. They know this. And the result is that they feel alone and resent being ill-equipped to deal with a deteriorating planet with deteriorating, archaic systems. Unlike the millennium generation that is coming after them, they are angry with those who have gone before them. This paradigm drives them to seek safe places where they can develop solid relationships that take place of the family they never had. To reach them, churches are going to have to deliver what they promise, focus on relational ministries, and provide safe places for honest dialogue.
Because church leaders grew up in a different time with different values, it is imperative that special attention be given to Busters’ concerns without attaching older generational expectations. Most church leaders are too rigid and righteous to bend for Busters, expecting them to be “joiners or else.” There are too many options for them, and they’ll spend time where they are truly wanted. If churches don’t want them, someone else will. To reach Busters and show you want them, just listen to them. As we listen, we interact. As we interact, we begin to form relationships and trust. As that happens, mentoring, midwifery, and life-transforming opportunities emerge. Church leaders should not concentrate their energies on changing Busters’ paradigms; they just need to offer Jesus in the midst of them.

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