Bridging the generational gap

Here’s the latest article I wrote for the Presbyterian Outlook. It’s a little different than my normal writing style, but have been reflecting on these thoughts in the workplace as I look forward to the next adventure!

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” When an older person walks into a library and asks you how to use a computer having never touched one before, where do you start? When a young person walks into a church and asks you to explain God and faith having never heard of it before, where do you begin? How do you develop a sense of a belonging when the world is telling them: “this just isn’t meant for me”?

In the library, I constantly have discouraged patrons come into my workplace, YMCA Educational Services, who say something similar to, “I just didn’t grow up with computers like your generation. How will I ever find employment if everything is done online?”  The digital literacy gap between my generation and those in my parents’ and grandparents’ is largely ex-communicating people from our society – from accessing employment, social services, and general connectivity with others in a digital age. Not only is it a matter of being born too late, but also an economic issue that affects those who need the skills the most.

Growing up with first generation Apple computers in the classroom, I was privileged to have access to a young adulthood shaped by social media, Sims games, and typing instead of hand-writing essays. As a millennial it is so easy to be baffled that someone has never used a mouse until you imagine yourself in their position.

Moving on from two years of Young Adult Volunteer service, the issue of digital illiteracy I’ve witnessed in New Orleans is more relevant than ever as I transition into a new role developing a youth program at a church in Scotland. Generational gaps in the digital age mirror those existing in the church in the sense that differing groups of individuals face exclusion from a world where they want to belong, and should belong, but don’t have the understanding, means or capability to do so; it doesn’t feel relevant to them anymore, or maybe never will if there isn’t change.  The church is struggling to make connections. The older generations ask, “Where have all of the young people gone?” It can be easy for older generations to be baffled that a kid has never heard about God, but youth who may not have grown up in church like their parents need a way of understanding God that goes beyond our sometimes fluffy and irrelevant Sunday school classes.

The question I’m proposing to myself, and the church, is, “How do we keep the core of our traditions, while also making church relevant and inclusive to today’s youth? How do we encourage, and create a space where youth feel welcome, important, and needed?” I don’t know the answer, but what I’ve learned this year is that it’s vital to meet an individual where they are, and discover how to plant seeds of growth in their personal journey instead of pushing them onto a structured path of learning. I’m realizing that addressing personal, individual struggles is crucial to developing and encouraging a life of faith, just as it is to achieving digital literacy. It’s time to start bridging gaps, and start welcoming people into a world of belonging. It’s always better when we grow together. “

xx

Hillary

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