Generations offer different gifts

Generations offer different gifts: are they empowered to use them?

When invited to nominate their gifts, skills and talents each generation offers a different perspective. Boomers were most likely to choose hospitality, whereas Generation X spread across a range. Generation Y were most likely to claim education and interpersonal gifts. Nearly half of Gen Z claimed they can play, sing or write music. 

With such potential, do attenders believe their gifts and skills are being used well at church?

Given a list of 11 options to choose from in the 2016 NCLS, obvious differences in the self-selected gifts and skills of each generational group of churchgoers can be seen.

Builders more reserved

Builders tended to be most unsure or reserved about naming their own gifts. This reservation to personally identify their gifts may be linked to lower levels of formal education and differences in educational pedagogy, where in times past there was a lesser focus on self- evaluation. 

That said, around three in ten Builders (31%) nominated hospitality as their skill. A quarter of Builders were unsure of their gift, skill or talent.

People-centred Boomers

Boomers' main skills centred around people - welcoming them, communicating with them and building relationships of care. Over a third of Boomers (36%) named hospitality as their gifting, followed by communication (29%) and interpersonal skills: building relationships and caring for people (also 29%).

Gen X are all rounders

The choices of Generation X churchgoers were more evenly spread than older generations, across the range of gifts and skills. The top self-nominated gifting was hospitality: welcoming, hosting, providing food (33%). This was closely followed by education: teaching and coaching (31%), communication (30%) and interpersonal skills (30%).

Leadership emerging in Gen Y

Generation Y were the most likely generation to claim communication (24%), education (32%) and interpersonal gifts (32%). In addition, this group were more likely than other generations to see themselves as skilled in leadership and management (33% compared with 29% of Gen X, 28% of Gen Z, 23% of Boomers and 19% of Builders). At 34%, music was also strong in this group.

Gen Z's creative suite

Generation Z's giftings appear to form a creative suite, including music, communication and arts and crafts. Gen Z stood out with 47% claiming they can play, sing or write music. A third (33%) selected communication: write, edit or speak. Around three in ten (31%) nominated arts and crafts: building, visual and textile arts.

Feeling empowered to use gifts and skills: how generations compare 

To what degree then, do attenders believe their gifts and skills are being used well at church? Almost three-quarters of all age groups believed that their local church leaders had encouraged them to find and use their gifts and skills in their local church. However, just under half of attenders from each generation believed their gifts and skills were being used well.

Given such a broad range of gifts, skills and talents amongst churchgoers, church leaders are wise to consider ways to empower their attenders to contribute to local church life, as they build a ministry of all believers.

Ruth Powell, Miriam Pepper, Kathy Jacka, Sam Sterland
Data Sources:

 Powell, R., Pepper, M., Hancock, N. and Sterland, S. (2017) 2016 NCLS Attender Survey [Data file]. Sydney: NCLS Research. 

Related Articles

Bridging the tech divide

Bridging the tech divide: catering for the digital generation at church

Innovation to include generations

Churches are innovating to include multiple generations

Builders and boomers bridge

Builders and Boomers: a bridge from faithful tradition to contemporary choice

Parents are role models for faith

Parents remain the most valuable role models of faith