The Growing Gap: How to Speak Across Generations with Dr. Darrell Hall

Modern Church Leader feat. Dr. Darrell Hall
The Growing Gap: How to Speak Across Generations feat. Dr. Darrell Hall on Modern Church Leader

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The Growing Gap: How to Speak Across Generations

Speaking across generations in the church is a challenge for many church leaders. 

Different generations have different ways of communicating. In fact, it's not even just that they use different words or phrases—it's more about how they understand the world around them.

So, how do you reach such a diverse audience? 

How can you convey your message in a way that resonates with everyone? 

If you want to speak across generations, you need to understand their mindset, values, and interests so that you can speak their language. 

No matter what generation you are speaking to—Gen Z, Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers—there are certain things you can do to better connect with them on a deeper level. 

All you need is some insight into the mindsets of each generation, as well as some practical tips for bringing those mindsets into your ministry practices.

Each of these generations grew up in a different context than the previous one, shaping their understanding of the world differently. 

Understanding how each generation perceives their reality will help you tailor your message to communicate effectively.

With the help of our guest, Dr. Darrell Hall, we'll unpack how each generation thinks differently and how you can use that knowledge to create an environment where all generations feel welcome, included, and valued.

Dr. Darrell has authored a book titled Speaking Across Generation. So, it's a real treat to hear some insights from his research and experience on this subject.

Whatever generation you're in, see yourself as a missionary to the generation you want to reach. 
-Dr.Darrell Hall

Darrell E. Hall is the campus pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Conyers, Georgia, where he regularly preaches and teaches across five generations. He is an experienced preacher and public speaker who has given messages in venues from local Bible studies to a packed NBA arena.

It is important to remember that generational gaps should not prevent us from reaching out to people. After all, Jesus' message of love and acceptance transcends all generational divides.

If you want to learn how to create a culture that engages all generations in your church, this episode will greatly benefit you.

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • What communication approach will work with each generation 
  • How to bridge the generational gap in your church
  • Why understanding generational differences matters
  • How each generation communicates
  • Some insights and research results from his book Speaking Across Generations: Messages That Satisfy Boomers, Xers, Millennials, Gen Z, and Beyond

Resources Mentioned:

Read Dr. Darell’s latest book: Speaking Across Generations
Follow Dr. Darell on Twitter: @iamdarrellhal
Follow Dr. Darell on Instagram: @iamdarrellhall

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

How to Attract Millennials to Church with Tony Fernandez
Evangelism in a Post-Christian World with Shaila Visser

Create a Culture of Belonging with Willie Dwayne Francois III

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[00:00] Political factors, social factors, family factors, religious factors, and communication factors, all of these contribute to shaping the way a generation prefers to communicate.

[16:55] If you're trying to reach folk born between the early 80s and late 90s, has to be dialogical. Preaching has to sound like listening.

[20:55] Each generation has its own language. And the goal is to enter their heart through that doorway. 

[32:44] For each generational language, there's a corresponding attribute of Jesus's personality and character. 

[35:17] Language is really the ability to reason with another in a way that will open their hearts to receive your message languages, not just lingo. 

[37:15] Whatever generation you're in, see yourself as a missionary to the generation you want to reach. 

[37:37] The goal is not to agree, is to understand. And I cannot claim to love a people group that I refuse to try to understand.

podcast transcript

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Dr.Darrell E. Hall (00:00):

The language of a generation is shaped by sociological factors that happen during that generation's coming of age years. So political factors, social factors, family factors, religious factors, communication factors, all of these contribute to shape the way a generation prefers to communicate.

Narrator (00:25):

Welcome to the Modern Church Leader, where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.

Frank Barry (00:39):

Hey guys, Frank here with another episode of Modern Church Leader. Excited to talk about just a really fun topic, actually that I don't think is talked about a lot. I'm joined by Dr. Darrell Hall. How's it going, Darrell?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (00:53):

Hey Frank, how you doing, man? Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

Frank Barry (00:57):

I never know if people want to have, I guess you worked hard for the doctorate, so you might as well use it in the name, right?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (01:05):

I use it where necessary. I didn't print it on the book though because I didn't want people to think I thought I was smarter than them.

Frank Barry (01:16):

But you got your doctorate in, I was reading through your bio, right? It says your doctoral research focused on generational intelligence and effective intergenerational communication.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (01:30):

Yep. Yep.

Frank Barry (01:32):

Who knew you could get a doctorate in that? That's pretty awesome.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (01:35):

Yeah, man. It's amazing now in retrospect especially since the book has been released. At the time, man, I was just trying to make sense of my world and my reality. I was working on my DMin in preaching and I had to pick a topic. And so I had to hone in on something specific. I had suffered enough as a 20 something and 30 something pastor, trying to connect with people of older generations. I figured obviously at the guidance of the holy spirit that I could try to make sense of my reality and maybe share it.

Frank Barry (02:14):

That totally makes sense. I think that's probably par for the course like every young person in ministry or young person in any real profession, right? When you're the young guy and you've got the older folks around you and you're trying to figure out that dynamic, especially if you go into leading those folks somehow, and you're now the younger person that's leading a group or a church or whatever it might be and those people are older than you, that's a bit scary,-

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (02:40):

It is.

Frank Barry (02:41):

... challenging. It's got all of its stuff wrapped up in there. I'm excited to jump into that, but why don't we rewind. Tell folks about yourself and how you got into ministry and what church you serve at and where you're at and all that.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (02:53):

Well, my name is Darrell Hall. I am a native Atlantan. I'm born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and I still live here now. I am married, my wife and I, it'll be 15 years here soon. We have three sons and one girl, Yorky.

Frank Barry (03:11):

Nice.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (03:13):

It's a family of six in the Hall house. The church that I currently serve as campus pastor of now is called Elizabeth Baptist Church. It's a predominantly African American church. We have five campuses in the Metro Atlanta area and I give leadership to one of those campuses. And so as campus pastor, short of it is I take care of all of the spiritual responsibilities of a pastoral job description at my campus. And then I usually fill in to support the senior pastor as he may need, in other areas as well. And so what's interesting is the church I'm on staff at now is the only church I've ever been part of my whole life, 36 years. Born and raised at this church. It was my family's church prior to my birth. And so I've been able to grow as a believer as a person and obviously as a minister and staff person as well at my church.
I've served in many, many capacities, volunteer and paid and I've been on the pay staff now for about 13 or 14 years. I started preaching when I was 17 years old. I was a senior in high school and I was trying to make my plan for the future. I thought I was going to go to HBCU, do a five year MBA program, get the undergrad and the MBA, come out of school well partied and well educated.

Frank Barry (04:45):

As many do, yes.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (04:47):

And make my way through corporate America. That's what I thought I was going to do. But God had other plans and led me to preaching through two things he used. First of all, for some reason, Frank, I started reading the Bible on my own at 15. I had received the Lord as a little boy, but I just started reading the Bible, three chapters a night, every night at home, until I read through scripture, as a teenager. Simultaneously I was participating in oratorical contest, because my mom told me I needed to earn some scholarship money because I had to go college but she didn't have money. Here I am losing all these oratorical contests and reading the Bible.

Frank Barry (05:33):

That's hard too though, right? [inaudible 00:05:36]. Isn't public speaking one of the most feared things on the planet-

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (05:42):

It is. It's called glossophobia actually. Glossophobia is the fear of the tongue.

Frank Barry (05:46):

Really?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (05:47):

Yeah. It's the fear of the tongue. I know that because I also do public speaking consultation. But it's the fear of the tongue. What it means is you fear that your tongue will embarrass your brain or that your brain will abandon your tongue. That what's in your mind won't come out the way you want it to. Or when you're ready to speak, your mind will just go blank. So no, it's a real fear man. One of the top fears in the world and a fear I've been forced to conquer over and over again since I was about 15 years old.

Frank Barry (06:17):

Wow. That's crazy. You were doing that early on, reading the Bible, learning public speaking, going through contests, and then you end up going to get your MDiv. So you changed paths, right? You had this plan, but then you were like, man, God called me into ministry, I'm going to go get, was it your MDiv?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (06:38):

No, it was straight out of high school. I went straight into Bible college and-

Frank Barry (06:41):

Okay. Straight to Bible college.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (06:42):

... and a Bachelor in religion. I don't know if you can imagine this, but I'm an urban kid. I'm a black guy from Metro Atlanta. So here I am in Bible college with, back then we would wear the jerseys and Timberland boots. And so I'm 18 years old, freshman in Bible college and nobody there looked like me, nobody there was from where I was from, but man, I was so sure that's where I was supposed to be because for whatever reason, man, I just knew God had called me to preach.

Frank Barry (07:15):

That's incredible. So then you do that. Did you go straight in to get your doctorate right after that or did you take some time in between?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (07:21):

No, I took some time in between. Eboni and I married at 21. We had two babies by 23. I was trying to just be gainfully employed while I was in school. I worked through a couple degrees, took about two years off, let her get her education behind her. And then I went back and did the MDiv and then went straight into the doctorate after the MDiv.

Frank Barry (07:46):

Okay. Wow. Crazy. That's so cool. Now you've written this book, and I have three kids too. I have three boys.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (07:54):

Oh cool.

Frank Barry (07:55):

It comes up all the time. They're triplets. They're 10 years old.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (07:58):

What?

Frank Barry (08:00):

They're bananas.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:01):

Triplets?

Frank Barry (08:01):

This summer-

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:03):

That is so cool. Are they identical or fraternal?

Frank Barry (08:07):

Two are identical, one's fraternal.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:11):

That is so cool.

Frank Barry (08:12):

But they're all very different. You know what I'm saying? They're all very, personality, temperament, they're raised exactly the same, mom and dad, same everything. Everything's literally identical, but they're very different little humans.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:27):

That's incredible, man.

Frank Barry (08:28):

Being a dad is the best thing on the planet.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:30):

I agree, 100%.

Frank Barry (08:33):

It's crazy. It's summer right now, so they're out of school and it's just chaos.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:39):

Do they think because they're out of school, you're off work?

Frank Barry (08:42):

They're always like, dad, what are you doing today?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:46):

I know. My son just [inaudible 00:08:49].

Frank Barry (08:50):

I work from home. I'm at home-

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:51):

Me too.

Frank Barry (08:52):

That further complicates the matter a little bit. It's like, you know what I do every day.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (08:57):

Right.

Frank Barry (08:58):

I'll be at work. They're in camps. We're just camp after camp, after camp, half day. Football and basketball. We did a Dodge ball camp, a rock climbing camp. We're just with kids from school, we're just trying to organize stuff to do. Because back in the day when I was growing up, probably similar for you, you'd be out of school and I was just out, I was on my bike-

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (09:19):

Me too.

Frank Barry (09:20):

... with friends everywhere. That was it. Mom was at work. Grandma was home, single mom, grandma was home. I'd be just out on the bike until dinner time kind of thing. Right? whereas I don't know if that happens anymore.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (09:33):

No, I can't get my sons, I would have to pay them $100 each to ride their bikes for 30 minutes.

Frank Barry (09:40):

It's sad. It's so sad. Oh my gosh. It could be a whole nother show on this topic.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (09:46):

True.

Frank Barry (09:47):

Well it's related, right? Because that's another generation and you're going to have to figure out how to speak to them too. You wrote this book, right? It's called Speaking Across Generations: Messages That Satisfy Boomers, Xers, Millennials, Gen Z, and Beyond. You got your doctorate and you've written this book on essentially effectively connecting and communicating with multiple generations, which is really, really hard to do. I love that you went off and studied it and then wrote the book on it. I guess you've explained a little bit, but what drove you to actually write the book and put your thoughts and your learnings on paper?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (10:25):

Man, great question. I'll tell you, while I was working on the dissertation, which is the academic version of this work, I remember screaming to my wife, I'm never writing a book. I can't wait to be done with this dissertation. I finished. At the end of 2019 I graduated with my doctorate and then we all went into a pandemic in 2020. And so I had shared some of my research with a friend and the friend thought that it was great. She became an advocate for me really and sought out a publisher who might consider me publishing my thoughts. And so she came back to me like, hey, I got a yes from a publisher. And I'm like, really? Okay.

Frank Barry (11:20):

Can you write it for me too?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (11:22):

Do you ghost write or what are your fees? At that time I realized, hey man, the pandemic hit, my preaching and speaking went down right. And I just had space and opportunity to write. And so what I did was, I took the concepts from my doctoral research and did more research, partnered with the Barna Group. We did some creative, new proprietary stuff nationwide, right before the pandemic. It included 1,000 adults, different ethnicities, different age groups obviously, half of them churched and saved, half of them unchurched and nonreligious. We were able to discover that there's a correlation between the generational group somebody was born in and the type of preaching they prefer.
We played audio clips. We shared excerpts from preaching manuscripts and had people select their preferences, the ones they and the ones they didn't and come to find out there was some viability to my thought that each generation has a language they prefer to hear preaching in, and that became the catalyst of the research. And from there, Frank, man, I just wanted to help bring hope to communicators like me or even communicators of another generation who are struggling to do something they may desire to do and to give some practical ways of how to do it. I had space and opportunity during the pandemic, some new research added to my thoughts from the doctorate and IVP gave me the opportunity to put some words down. And so I'm grateful.

Frank Barry (13:10):

That's cool. That's super cool. I think the most common thing that I hear in the church is, the older church wanting to effectively reach the younger church. Right? The boomers let's say maybe or it could even be the gen Xers trying to reach the millennials or the gen Zs. Right? It probably exists in many other ways, but that particular dynamic of reaching the next generation is common. Right? You hear that all the time, church is trying to figure out how to reach the next generation. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. But walk us through, maybe give us the high level cliff notes on the research and the book and some of the big findings that you learned doing all of that.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (14:00):

You're right, Frank, in the way that you delineated, at least four of your generations, boomers, Xers, millennials, and gen Z, there's a generation older than boomers that we can call the elder generation or the silent generation. They were born in 45 and before. You're right, most of the time is churches of established leadership, established congregations who see as it were the handwriting on the wall and they want to get younger quicker, and they're trying to figure out ways to do that. In my case, I was a millennial pastor with 20 something, pastor the preaching to Xers and boomers, trying to figure out how to climb up that ladder so to speak, that generational gap and communicate above my group and my level. Here's what I found. Generations-

Frank Barry (14:45):

Memes don't work.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (14:46):

What did you say?

Frank Barry (14:47):

Memes don't work.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (14:49):

Memes don't work. You can't preach in tweets.

Frank Barry (14:55):

Got it.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (14:57):

You got to have a train of thought, some rhetorical approach and it's not just lingo. I think a lot of times, Frank, when people are trying to communicate with people of other generations, they think if I switch up the lingo, I've effectively changed languages, and that's not true. What I found was, generations are people groups. When we hear that term people group, our primary thought is ethnic people groups, which is correct. But my argument is that generations too are people groups, meaning generations are groups in which a message can travel without reaching language or cultural barriers. So the gospel message can travel through a group of folk born in the same cohort of time without reaching a language or a cultural barrier, which in my case would mean that generations or people groups.
What that means is they have a culture and a language. And here's what I discovered, the language of a generation is shaped by sociological factors that happen during that generation's coming of age years. So political factors, social factors, family factors, religious factors, communication factors, all of these contribute to shape the way a generation prefers to communicate and they bring that with them into the preaching moment. And so a preacher can be preaching, and if it's an intergenerational room, some will think it's a great sermon, others will think it's a terrible sermon for different reasons. And the preacher could become frantic, anxious, could turn in on him or herself, trying to figure out what it is they are or are not doing when the reality is these generations just have different languages they prefer to hear preaching in.
So some of the high level stuff. For example, I'll give you my generation millennials. Our language is dialogue. That means preaching, if you're trying to reach folk born between the early 80s and late 90s has to be dialogical. Preaching has to sound like listening. Now, where did we discover that? Why would I use the term dialogue? Well, during our coming of age years, millennials were born into post Christianity. So the concept of truth is one that was being argued, relativism, pluralism. These are the religious factors we were born into. From a communication standpoint, we were born into a world where platforms for mutual give and exchange are part of our everyday life. Social media-

Frank Barry (17:33):

Yeah, yeah, like social media.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (17:34):

Exactly.

Frank Barry (17:36):

... everywhere.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (17:36):

Right. We have this expectation, even if it's unrealistic, millennials have this expectation to see into the private lives of celebrities and people of stature and people of accomplishment through live feeds, periscopes, social media platforms, where we have access to people of high status. And we have our own platforms on these same mediums to share and give our own opinions about everything under the sun, whether we're qualified to or not. When trying to communicate with millennials we must appreciate that there has to be a give and exchange, a two-way flow of communication. And for the preacher, that means to sound like a listener as you are preaching, not just to give my thought-

Frank Barry (18:33):

That just sounds weird as you say, you're like, how do you do that? That's what everyone listening is going to be like, wait, what? How do you pull that off?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (18:40):

Yeah. What that means is to give affirmation of the otherness of the listener. Okay? For example, Frank, if I want to speak to you about, let's say I want to talk to you about, I'm trying to think of a biblical principle, family, right? I want to talk to you biblically about family and you're a millennial. I would affirm your opinions about how you may uniquely see families through the lens of a new normal. I understand why it would sound ludicrous to you that monogamy would be God's design, seeing as though even Christian marriages at a 50% clip end in divorce. I would understand why the traditional mother, father, children picture is a foreign concept, seeing as though your reality probably included other people stepping in and some people not being present.
I too know what it feels like to be reared in a broken home by a teen mom, with no father present and three younger sisters. I understand the emotional pain and wounds that come as a result of broken families all around us. And while I understand, I still appreciate God's original design. And I want to ask you, if you would consider why God set out from the beginning to the design families in the way that he did, right? That's a dialogical, I'm affirming.

Frank Barry (20:19):

Masterclass right there.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (20:20):

I'm identifying with you. I'm more human than I am priest. I am more dialogical than I am authoritative. I am listening and showing my own wounds and weakness on the same subject matter. And I'm asking you to consider with me this biblical content or point of view on subject matter. That's just an example. That's one of the high level cliff notes and each generation has its own language. And the goal is-

Frank Barry (20:50):

And would you say...

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (20:52):

Go ahead.

Frank Barry (20:52):

Sorry. No, finish, then I got a question.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (20:54):

Yeah. I about say each generation has its own language and the goal is to enter their heart through that doorway. So for the millennial, I got to walk through the door of dialogue to get to their heart for them to be open to the heart of God.

Frank Barry (21:10):

And would boomers be, you used the word authoritative, do they like to hear it more from that standpoint? They want the authority teaching them from the position of experience and have done it and it's worked great and they have this invisible, their family's awesome and whatever. The preacher comes from a position of authority, is that how boomers prefer to hear things?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (21:38):

Actually that's how their parents, that's elders, those born in 45 and before.

Frank Barry (21:43):

Okay. That's elders. Got it.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (21:43):

Yeah. And the word I use to describe that type of preaching is propositional preaching, but is everything you just described, authoritative, firm, rousing, strong, unflinching, non relenting, fiercely biblical, mystical, spiritual even. They prefer authoritative one way communication. And it's not just because of their age and that they are beyond this space of seeing the world through an abstract lens. It's because during their coming age years, they had a world war and the great depression and significant struggle and challenge that they can look back on. And many of them during that time, elders that is, heard some of the most pivotal political addresses through a one way medium of communication, through radio. They heard presidential addresses through radio during wars and depressions and recessions. And so they have this great respect for authority, for one way, powerful, unflinching communication.
And boomers, I would describe their language as more of a tease from that. So whereas those born in 45 and before want it strictly proposition, boomers won a little tease before they get to the proposition. Because boomers were a generation who moved away from some of the norms of their parents, challenged some norms, pushed some limits, moved out of rural spaces, built large cities, lived in suburbs compared to the farms or rural spaces they were raised on, sought out these corporate jobs, worked these jobs for 30, 40 years, challenged some of these norms. They appreciate however the authoritative one way approach, but boomers need a little tease. So for boomers, don't hit the nose, don't hit it right on the head, tease it a little bit and then come right back to it.

Frank Barry (23:51):

Interesting. This is fascinating. Okay. So you hit millennials pretty heavy, but gen Z, right? Because millennials are old now.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (23:58):

I know. I'm almost 40. I'm closer to 50 than I am to my high school graduation.

Frank Barry (24:06):

Right. So gen Z is the next gen, millennials are, I'm a gen Xer, I'm 44. Nobody even really understands anything. Nobody talks about gen X. It's boomers and millennials, gen X whatever.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (24:21):

And there's a reason for that too, Frank.

Frank Barry (24:23):

Please tell me.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (24:24):

The reason for that is gen Xers are the smallest generation in American history. Boomers were the largest, millennials now are the largest. You're talking about being wedged as middle children so to speak, between the two largest generations that society, that economy has retrofitted itself around. The world was running after boomers, higher boomers, solicit the boomer dollar, praise the boomer, attract the boomer. And now that skill Xers to millennials, because it's more of us than it is of Xers, and Xers are wedged in between. Which is why Xers tend to be cynical, tend to be more intellectual, tend to be harder to reach than boomers. Not just because they're wears in between, but also because Xers were failed in many ways by so many institutions they were told to trust.
Xers were failed by their family. Xers were failed by religious institutions. Xers were failed by government. Xers were latchkey kids. Xers were forced to grapple with some of the harsh realities of civil life early in their coming of age years. And then on top of that, Xers were the generation for the advent or the coming of internet, information, postsecondary education, post Christianity. So add this brokenness to this information and it's a perfect mix for cynicism. So for Xers, they refuse to be open unless their intellects are engaged. Right? So the language I would say for Xers is intellectual. You must engage the brain of a group of Xers before they might give you access to their hearts. You got to prove, defend, argue, extra biblical content, quotes.

Frank Barry (26:35):

That's fascinating. And I get it. I can somewhat see it as you're describing, I'm like as an Xers, single mom, latchkey for sure, mom was at work, grandma was home, but grandma was grandma, she's hanging out and I'm gone all day. It's either sports or I'm out doing whatever until it's dinner time. And just internet came, I literally remember getting the first computer thing and the modem dialing up crazy noise going on.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (27:09):

It's so cool.

Frank Barry (27:10):

All of it. Right. AOL happening. I remember all that. And then yeah, college was computers and everything were a bigger deal. I have a computer science degree, so that introduction of computers into the home definitely sparked the tech interest in me kind of thing.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (27:33):

That's what's up.

Frank Barry (27:34):

That's fascinating. What about gen Z? Because that's probably the generation that church leaders are, when they say reaching the younger generation, my hunch is they're talking about high schoolers, middle schoolers, those kind of groups, into college.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (27:51):

Yep. That's definitely gen Z. Those born between the late 90s, so let's say 99 to 2012, 2013. You're right. When we speak of the younger generation, that's who we should be talking about. I do think sometimes there's a misnomer as millennials are still characterized as the younger generation. But yeah, gen Z. Gen Z, we studied them, but during the time of the research, they were only about three to four years worth of adult population for gen Z. I have some thoughts and concepts which I'll share, but I'm curious as to if they're a placeholder and maybe lower willing another decade from now I'll do the research again and see if it's changed. Anyway, for gen Z-

Frank Barry (28:39):

Just prove it out a little bit more.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (28:41):

Think it out some more, prove it out and give more gen Zers a chance to speak for themselves. At the time of the research, 2019, it was only three or four years worth of gen Zers in the adult population, that means older than 18. What we discovered is that their language is more relational. Right? Think about this continuum, from proposition through skeptical, which is boomers, through intellectual, which is Xers, dialogical, which is millennials towards relational. There's this add on, so to speak, towards the gen Zs point of view. The beauty of gen Z is that they are really a blank slate from a religious standpoint. They are two generations away from post Christianity really setting into America and many of them are unchurched, many of their parents and grandparents are unchurched, non-religious, atheist, even pluralistic, not fiercely Christian in the sense of disciples of Christ.
The benefit of that is they're a blank slate that we could really disciple in more of a pure, non-religious type way. But I would describe their language as more relational, a step past dialogical is, can I trust you? Are you constant and consistent? Will you be present? Will you identify with me? In order to dialogue, we must at least understand one another. But to step deeper than that is, will you identify with me? Will you relate to me in a healthy way? Which for some established leaders, Xers and boomers and what have you, can be frustrating because the younger you get, millennial down through gen Z, what you leverage for influence with older generations doesn't matter to younger generations.
So if you're a boomer or Xer leader, they could care less about your title, they could care less about your pay grade, your tax bracket, your resume, they want know, do you see me? Do you care? Will you be present? Will you relate? And so thank God, Jesus is so amazing that he spoke of himself as a friend to his disciples. I call you friends, no longer do I call slaves because a slave doesn't know what the master is doing. I have revealed to you everything my father is doing. We are friends. There's a mutual relationship. There is a connection on a deeper level than just authoritative. Jesus was a model for that. And I think that's a real biblical paradigm that we could leverage.

Frank Barry (31:42):

I love your connection too. I didn't even think about understanding these generations and the way that you've studied them helps you pull out scripture that connects with that generation's heart. Like you just said, Jesus was a friend, highlighting, studying that, putting a lot of emphasis on Jesus's friendship with us as followers of him, and how that might connect with the gen Zer versus the boomer. The boomer maybe that's cool and that's nice, but not the thing that hits their heart as much. Or maybe it really does, but it layers down until you get to that point, whereas Zs you lead with that. I love that thinking around how to use scripture to really connect.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (32:25):

And that's Jesus though. When we think about the language, I do believe there is an aspect of Jesus's. All right. I've done a couple of these podcasts, but I haven't gone here yet. Okay. This is going to be so cool.

Frank Barry (32:40):

It's time. Bring it out. Let's go.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (32:44):

All right. For each generational language, there's a corresponding attribute of Jesus's personality and character that is very real and authentic. For-

Frank Barry (32:53):

Which one is flipping the tables, connect with? That's what I want to know.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (33:01):

Boomers.

Frank Barry (33:02):

I knew it. I knew it. I was like, open the table [inaudible 00:33:02].

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (33:02):

Boomer and Xers I would say as well. But I would say for the elders, Jesus is king. For the boomers, Jesus is rebel. For the Xers, Jesus is teacher, he is intellect, intellectual. For the millennial, Jesus is disciple maker. Right? He would reason with them, he would pull them aside and explain to them the meaning of the parable of the sower. And then for the Zer, Jesus is friend, he's brother.

Frank Barry (33:33):

Man, that's awesome. That's Tweetable. We're going to tweet all of that.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (33:38):

Okay. That's never come out before on a podcast. I'm a nerd about this kind of stuff, so I'm really happy right now.

Frank Barry (33:47):

There's a cool thing in this program that we use Riverside, where you can clip it and I don't even use it. I've used it twice and you're second time. Right? I just clipped. Somehow we're going to use that.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (33:58):

All right. Cool. Just tag me when you do. I think it'll be dope.

Frank Barry (34:02):

But that's cool. I think there's something to that. You could write a whole nother book in a sense on the biblical teachings of Jesus from the Bible and how they connect with generations. Because I'm thinking of it from like, man, as a church leader, as a pastor trying to teach, trying to connect, trying to shepherd the flock that's been entrusted to me, how to disciple, all the things. If you give me that lens of when I'm talking to this generation, in general, right? I know there's always variation in here, but in general if I'm talking to the gen Zer, relationship really matters and here's how I bring out the friend in Jesus.
You literally arm the pastor with something that they may never even thought of. And now they get to go study that and let it sink in and then know, okay, I'm hanging out with the middle school ministry this week. I'm going to make sure that I'm weaving that into my lesson or my Bible discussion or my small, I don't know, there's something there that I think is super cool.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (35:07):

It is. My hope, Frank, was to do exactly what you say, arm the pastor with rhetorical tools. See language is really the ability to reason with another in a way that will open their hearts to receive your message. Language is not just lingo. So what most pastors would do when they're going into the gen Zers, is try to listen to some new songs and get some new lingo. Right? What's the new lingo? I'm going to throw this lingo on my sermon. And we could try it. Right? We could say for the elders, that's jive. For the boomers, that's cool. For the Xers that's, I don't know.

Frank Barry (35:55):

I don't even know.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (35:57):

For the millennials that's tight. There's fleet. We could go with lingo

Frank Barry (36:03):

For my 10 year old kids, which I don't even know what they are, they use the word SUS.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (36:08):

Mine too, as in suspect-

Frank Barry (36:12):

Where did that come from? Suspect. They say it all the time. I'm like, what is that?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (36:15):

What do you mean?

Frank Barry (36:15):

And where did you hear it?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (36:19):

Lingo changes so fast that we use lingo, but lingo is not really the key. What I think the key is, is reasoning. How they process messages and then reshaping to your point to arm the pastor in that way.

Frank Barry (36:34):

Man, I dig that. We could keep going forever, because this is such a fascinating time. Maybe we do a round two someday.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (36:42):

Cool.

Frank Barry (36:42):

But I want to be respectful of your time. I also like to keep the show where people can digest this thing. Why don't we end with, if there's one thing you want people to take away from the book and obviously where can people go to buy it online? I'm sure you can get it at the major places, but what's the big concept you want people to take away and where can people go to buy it?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (37:04):

The big concept I want people to take away is two. Well, I know you asked for one, let give two.

Frank Barry (37:12):

That's fine. Extra credit.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (37:15):

Whatever generation you are in, to see yourself as a missionary to the generation you want to reach, and to be hopeful as you study their culture that is possible for you to learn your language. That's one big takeaway. The next big takeaway I would say is, the goal is not to agree, it's to understand. I cannot claim to love a people group that I refuse to try to understand. So if I really claim that I love boomers, Xers, millennials, but I don't seek to understand them, then I don't really love them. But if I do really love that generational people group, I will seek to understand even in areas where I may not agree, because the goal is to win the group, the person, the persons, not to win some theological fight or debate.

Frank Barry (38:17):

Right, right. Love that.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (38:19):

Those are the two things I will leave you with. You can go grab the book, it's published by IVP. You can go grab it anywhere books are sold. You can go straight to the InterVarsity Press website. You can go to Amazon and grab the book. It's also already been released in audio version as well. So a great reader.

Frank Barry (38:19):

I was going to ask, did you read it or did you get someone to read it?

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (38:41):

No, I wanted to read it, but they recommended against it. They wanted to streamline publication costs. I'm a first time reader, so it would've took me longer. Now, we got a great reader. I believe his name is Jaime Lincoln Smith. Awesome reader, great voice, pace, all of the above.

Frank Barry (38:41):

That's awesome.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (38:58):

It's pretty cool, because I can go back and listen to it and I'm like, man. Wow. You can get it anywhere audio books are sold as well. I will highly recommend it and hopefully-

Frank Barry (39:06):

Look, everyone needs to go, just search, go Google it, Bing it, whatever you do. DuckDuckGo. There's all kinds of them out there. But Speaking Across Generations, just go search for that, you'll find it and grab. Maybe we'll do something. We should do a promo and get it out to some of our customers too. Maybe we'll buy a bucket of them and-

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (39:24):

I appreciate it.

Frank Barry (39:25):

... give out some for free.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (39:26):

I appreciate it. I think it'll be helpful.

Frank Barry (39:29):

This has been great. Well, Darrell, thanks for coming on, man. Appreciate your time.

Dr.Darrell E. Hall (39:31):

Thank you, Frank. Appreciate you.

Frank Barry (39:33):

And thanks everyone for listening. We appreciate you guys and we'll see you next week on another episode of Modern Church Leader. Bye-bye.

Narrator (39:39):

If you enjoyed this episode of the Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple podcasts or Spotify, so you never miss an episode. We'll see you again next week with another conversation here on the Modern Church Leader.

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The Growing Gap: How to Speak Across Generations with Dr. Darrell Hall

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The Growing Gap: How to Speak Across Generations with Dr. Darrell Hall

If you want to learn how to create a culture that engages all generations in your church, this episode will greatly benefit you.

Show notes

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The Growing Gap: How to Speak Across Generations

Speaking across generations in the church is a challenge for many church leaders. 

Different generations have different ways of communicating. In fact, it's not even just that they use different words or phrases—it's more about how they understand the world around them.

So, how do you reach such a diverse audience? 

How can you convey your message in a way that resonates with everyone? 

If you want to speak across generations, you need to understand their mindset, values, and interests so that you can speak their language. 

No matter what generation you are speaking to—Gen Z, Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers—there are certain things you can do to better connect with them on a deeper level. 

All you need is some insight into the mindsets of each generation, as well as some practical tips for bringing those mindsets into your ministry practices.

Each of these generations grew up in a different context than the previous one, shaping their understanding of the world differently. 

Understanding how each generation perceives their reality will help you tailor your message to communicate effectively.

With the help of our guest, Dr. Darrell Hall, we'll unpack how each generation thinks differently and how you can use that knowledge to create an environment where all generations feel welcome, included, and valued.

Dr. Darrell has authored a book titled Speaking Across Generation. So, it's a real treat to hear some insights from his research and experience on this subject.

Whatever generation you're in, see yourself as a missionary to the generation you want to reach. 
-Dr.Darrell Hall

Darrell E. Hall is the campus pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Conyers, Georgia, where he regularly preaches and teaches across five generations. He is an experienced preacher and public speaker who has given messages in venues from local Bible studies to a packed NBA arena.

It is important to remember that generational gaps should not prevent us from reaching out to people. After all, Jesus' message of love and acceptance transcends all generational divides.

If you want to learn how to create a culture that engages all generations in your church, this episode will greatly benefit you.

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • What communication approach will work with each generation 
  • How to bridge the generational gap in your church
  • Why understanding generational differences matters
  • How each generation communicates
  • Some insights and research results from his book Speaking Across Generations: Messages That Satisfy Boomers, Xers, Millennials, Gen Z, and Beyond

Resources Mentioned:

Read Dr. Darell’s latest book: Speaking Across Generations
Follow Dr. Darell on Twitter: @iamdarrellhal
Follow Dr. Darell on Instagram: @iamdarrellhall

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

How to Attract Millennials to Church with Tony Fernandez
Evangelism in a Post-Christian World with Shaila Visser

Create a Culture of Belonging with Willie Dwayne Francois III

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[00:00] Political factors, social factors, family factors, religious factors, and communication factors, all of these contribute to shaping the way a generation prefers to communicate.

[16:55] If you're trying to reach folk born between the early 80s and late 90s, has to be dialogical. Preaching has to sound like listening.

[20:55] Each generation has its own language. And the goal is to enter their heart through that doorway. 

[32:44] For each generational language, there's a corresponding attribute of Jesus's personality and character. 

[35:17] Language is really the ability to reason with another in a way that will open their hearts to receive your message languages, not just lingo. 

[37:15] Whatever generation you're in, see yourself as a missionary to the generation you want to reach. 

[37:37] The goal is not to agree, is to understand. And I cannot claim to love a people group that I refuse to try to understand.

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