Communicating To/With Next Generation

October 10, 2008 by

Next GenerationAdweek, one of the trade pubs for the advertising industry, had an opinion piece by Deborah Morrison in their September 29 issue. Morrison is a professor of advertising at the University of Oregon and wrote a great article about the next generation and how they’re thinking, behaving and living. Although it was written about the changes the ad industry is likely to experience as a result of the next generation’s differences, Morrison’s well researched perspective can certainly help the church.

How they live has everything to do with how they work. They time shift. Favorite shows happen online on-demand. News is 24/7. There’s not much use for e-mail. Instead, they’re YouTubing, Stumbling, Digging, Twittering, blogging, updating. They’re Loopted and LinkedIn. Caffeine drives the day and night. In this world, wristwatches and alarm clocks are as necessary as rabbit ears. They grew up IMing, and the cell phone rules. Area-code identity is mobile but long lasting–a virtual network.

It’s the shortcut generation. That toolbar up top is for old-timers; these guys learned to Cmd-Option-Shift-A in middle school because it was cool, not necessary. Desktops are institutional holdovers. Everyone has a set of on-the-go tools: camera, laptop, videocam, hard drive, cool bag to tote it all. They’re experts early on, manhandling Final Cut or Flash with intuitive authority. They’re Idea 2.0, the mashup generation and one with confluence, that place beyond convergence where the old sloughs off and the new quickly gets morphed into the cultural DNA.

It’s OK to change messaging, styles and design. It’s OK to use different fonts, different music and different meeting spaces. That’s a relevance issue. What’s not OK is when we change the DNA based on generational influence. I appreciate the words from Dino Rizzo, pastor of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, La. At the Multisite 2.0 Conference last month in Charleston, S.C., Rizzo said that “My primary role at the Healing Place is the guardian of our DNA.”

As we pursue and proceed to communicate with and to the next generation, may we not lose our soul at the altar of contemporary imagination.

Post By:

Brad Abare


Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it. He and his wife Jamaica live in Los Angeles with their daughter, MirĂ³.
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3 Responses to “Communicating To/With Next Generation”

  • Mark Howell
    October 11, 2008

    I’d go a little further. It’s not just ok to change messaging, styles, and design. It’s essential. Without movement on those three…you’re irrelevant. Must your DNA be anchored? Absolutely. But you’d better be understandable.


  • Josh Hatcher
    October 11, 2008

    Actually, I think the DNA itself has to change…
    some of the ideas of the past have “morphed into the DNA” like Morrison says…
    a church’s “inward focus” for example…
    a church’s “core values”… whether they are officially state or not…
    a church’s expectations of leadership, or structure…
    these things have become embedded into the DNA, and sometimes might need to be purged.
    I would say that we need to purge the DNA down to the model started by Christ, and then we can package that DNA however we need to, as long as the MESSAGE and the MODEL of Christ are not bent or broken.


  • Nathan
    October 14, 2008

    According to the article, I fall into the older end of the “next generation,” and the big issue that stuck out to me reading this was being inspired. Other than hearing Tony Campolo speak a couple of years ago, I really can’t tell you the last time I was inspired in church.
    It’s absolutely important that church try to maintain some degree of relevance in how it communicates to twentysomethings. But if what it communicates doesn’t address the core concerns or priorities of that age-group, then it’s not really going to matter much.
    Corn flakes in a brand new box are still corn flakes.



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