Mission work is full of military metaphors: we talk about “targeting” individuals, “mobilizing” workers for an “advance” on the “field”. Many organisations have realised that this kind of talk is deeply inappropriate, but it still remains perhaps because there is an underlying mindset which still thinks in those terms. In particular, mission in the age of the buster and boomer generations is still based on a command-and-control mentality.
The controlling assumption amongst older agencies is that new missionaries come to the field helpless, with no knowledge or experience, and sign up to the mission agency to await their marching orders. They need the help of the agency to get them where they feel God is calling them to be, and in exchange for that help, they willingly submit to the direction of the agency leadership. Even in decentralised and bottom-up organisations like my own, we take new recruits and tell them what to do. And this worked well in the past, when new missionaries were helpless with no knowledge or experience, and when missionaries were expected to stay on the field for their whole career and there would be time to develop their own ministry after an initial period of orientation and gaining mutual trust.
But these controlling assumptions are no longer true. The Internet means that younger generations of missionaries come to the field with much more knowledge and information about the country, the mission, and the work; access to international travel means that they may well have visited the field independently; shorter expected careers means that they are eager to get into ministry (read: independently) as soon as possible without “wasting time”.
So rather than expecting agencies to help them get into mission, they (quite rightly) see themselves as being in mission, and that means that the need they feel is for partnership rather than direction. They expect to be consulted, advised and coached. To put it crudely, they come expecting a travel agent and are surprised and disappointed to find they’re being told what to do.
Stuck in the middle, in Generation X, I can see boomers and millennials talk past each other because of these different expectations. Boomers think that millennials are uncommitted, overly independent, and unwilling to sacrifice and submit to authority; millennials think that boomers are slow, controlling, and expect others to fit into their organisational boxes. If agencies want to retain millennials—and if millennials want to continue to work with older agencies—both sides need awareness of these differing expectations, to communicate their own hidden assumptions, and show flexibility towards each other.Subject tags: theologymissiologygenerations
apologies for the lack of cartooning. life has been full of events and twists and turns making this a very interesting year indeed.
please check out this set of 26 advent animations i’ve done… you can get them here… http://www.proost.co.uk/altadvent
it may be just the ticket for some of you as you prepare for christmas this year.
here’s what the website says…Alt.Advent Artist: Jon Birch
Alt.Advent is a collection of 26 short Advent animations which can take you on a reflective journey from 1st December until Christmas Day. Put together by Proost regular Jon Birch the animations capture the heart, humour and depth of the Christmas story and challenge some our preconceptions about this most familiar of narratives. We think this is a fabulous resource for it’s high quality animation, punchy dialogue and approach but also because it is very suitable for both children and adults.
If you want to get a flavour of Alt.Advent then you can see the first film on our You Tube channel.
i hope you like it, and that you all have a good and meaningful season.