Recently I was part of a discussion around the learning habits of current bible college students. The idea of a young student doing their weekly module reading on their phone was raised and immediately questions followed… Would they really be able to take it in, let it permeate, really do the learning if they’re just looking at a small screen? These questions were raised by older leaders, leaders in the Gen X and older category.

When the question was asked in the discussion, I felt like all eyes landed on me. I was the youngest in the group however I’m not Gen Z, in fact I just turned 40 making me a Gen Y or a millennial. As I’m on the older end of the Millennial spectrum I’m referred to as an ”elder millennial” which seems suitable stately. And in this discussion, I experienced something I think a lot of Gen Y leaders are experiencing currently.

We have become the Translator Generation.

We are old enough to understand where our Gen X and perhaps even boomer leaders, colleagues, clients and church goers are coming from, why they are asking the questions they are asking and what they mean when they shake their head or look at our younger counterparts with a glazed appearance. We respect their experience and wisdom enough to not respond to their questions with an eye roll but instead a nod of understanding and pause to do the necessary generation to generation translating.

We also know where the younger leaders are coming from. The reality is for most of us these are the leaders we have raised up, invested into, ministered to, and known and loved for the larger part of our leadership journey. We are encouraged by their enthusiasm, excited by their fresh passion and envisioned by their ability to disrupt the norm and create the new and so we pause to do the necessary generation to generation translating.

Gen Y leaders are right in the middle of a transition moment in culture. Gen X’s are thinking about the next season of their leadership. They’re thinking legacy, stability, and safety. Meanwhile, Gen Z are just starting to sprout some confidence in their ability. They’re thinking change, risk and new. Gen Y are the mediators, the baton handlers, the middle ground, the advocates of old and new, the balances of stability and risk, the ones dedicated to seeing leaders they care about both finish and start well all while carrying their own increasing responsibilities, dreams and desires.

As I’ve sat in this discovery and thought about it more and more, I’ve realized something important. This is not unique to Gen Y. This is something that happens to all generations at a certain point in time. Currently it’s Gen Y’s turn but I’m confident Gen X felt this same way in the transition between Boomers and Gen X and I’m sure that a transition moment is coming where Gen Z will be the translators for Gen Y and Gen Alpha. This is not unique to one generation, but it is a reality and so here are two things to think about when you’re the translator between generations.

  1. Find the Gold

Every person has their own set of experiences, skills, and experience. Whether what they’re saying, doing or vibing feels irrelevant or naive there is gold – look for it, find it and use it in the translation process.

2. Take some time.

Have you ever watched a language translator at work? Or have you been translated yourself? There’s that awkward space where you stand there with a goofy smile on your face waiting for the translator to think and then translate into a different language. This takes time, sometimes there isn’t an easy word to translate, and it takes creativity and brain power to make the connection. Give yourself the time you need to build mutual respect and a way forward that is paved by understanding.

We are in transition moment. Batons are being passed and people are changing. Jesus is the same. The mission is the same. If you are currently acting as the translator between generations then you have a unique position in the effective passing of of the mission. It’s important we do it well.

Cath Tallack

Emerging Leaders and Rise Program Director

Cath joined Arrow Leadership in 2017 as the Emerging Leaders Program Director. She began pastoral ministry at Gateway Baptist Church as the Children’s Pastor in 2009 and as Generations Pastor. Cath is passionate about seeing leaders developed and be given the opportunities to achieve the potential that God has placed within them. Cath is married to Michael, who is a doctor and together they are parents to Henry and Oliver.