Historians and sociologists have observed an interesting trend that occurs with groups of people, or in communities, or even in families. It is called the phenomenon of the third generation. Simply put, they have observed that there commonly occurs deterioration within a community that tends to climax with the third generation.
The process begins with a period of dynamic activity, usually stimulated by a strong leader or by some significant event in the life of the community. This is the first generation. It is characterized by great growth, materially, intellectually, socially, and even spiritually. There are new ideas around; there is a dynamic to living, an excitement because new things are happening. There is expansion and growth on all levels of human endeavor.
The first generation is marked by growth.
Then time passes and the second generation takes over. They have not directly experienced the dynamic events of the first generation. They have inherited good times and prosperity. There is no longer the drive to accomplish, to create new ideas, to grow. The second generation is usually content to preserve and consolidate the gains of the first generation. They know the triumphs of the past and sometimes wish or dream for them. Yet, because they are content with what they have inherited, there is little motivation to put forth the genuine effort to sustain the dynamic of the past.
So the second generation is content with listening to the stories of the old days, wishing for them, but is too involved with the preservation of the success of the present to continue the growth of the first generation. They work hard to preserve the status quo, fearing that any movement will risk losing what they have received.
The second generation is marked by entrenchment.
Time passes again and the mantle falls on the third generation. They have only heard about the dynamics and vitality of the first generation second hand. They have not seen that kind of vitality; they have only seen the process of preservation and entrenchment. They have heard the stories of the past but they are far away and unreal. They find no compelling reason to be driven by the vision that drove the grandparents. They are freed from the need to fight for recognition and security, and are even freed from the worries of preserving what was originally hard won. They are idle, with no vision that drives them, no passion that inflames them, and no purpose that gives them meaning.
As a result, members of the third generation usually begin to question their identity, their belonging. “Why even be a part of this group, of this community, of this family, if I serve no purpose and see no future?” Here is the tragedy of the third generation! The third generation is often a people lacking a strong sense of identity and belonging and so are uncommitted to the group; a people without a driving passion because they are fired by no vision; a people not sure of who they are, what they believe, or what they should do.
The third generation is marked by decline.
We do not have to look too far in the Bible itself to see examples of the third generation problem.
Moses and Joshua were first generation leaders who led the people of God through some of their most exciting days: out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, through the wilderness, across the Jordan and into the Land! The Israelites always looked back on these events as the most important events in their history. There was diligent worship of God as they built the tabernacle and organized the tribes.
Then the second generation came along. They had much of the land. The biggest task was to take care of the few remaining Canaanites, establish themselves in the land, and preserve the gains made. They were relatively secure and the worship of God was halfhearted.
And as they became more secure, the third generation arose. They had to fight few battles and so had little need for God the mighty Warrior. They had good times and were not driven to accomplish much. This is the end of the period of the Judges where the summary verse of the era is the last verse of the book of Judges (21:25): “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
Statistics show that 3% of these families make it!
God’s heart is that the third generation is not lost!
What can we do to change that so that this generation will be able to stand on our shoulders?
1. Prepare well
Make sure you are clear on the vision and mission that God has given you as a family.
Stay focused on that vision and mission.
Deal with your own issues; it will be a stumbling block for the next generation.
I don’t like driving for hours to a destination, but I had to learn to enjoy the journey so that my kids will experience our beautiful country.
What is holding you back to get into that car and enjoy the journey?
2. Pain Judges 2:15
Pain is not a bad thing – it means there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed.
It teaches us to go to God; The power of Christ in you makes you strong when you are weak!!
Pain drives you to God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10.)
Pain is necessary for maturity.
Pain produces fragility and insecurity.
Walk with your children in their pain, don’t be a ‘lawnmower parent’ who cuts through the thorns to make a way for them.
Every generation wants to progress the next generation.
Don’t loose sight of the vision and mission.
The task will change.
The hearts cry of this generation is: “Don’t loose us”
May we be parents whose response to that cry is: “We won’t loose you!”
About the authors:
Jaco & Johanessa are both Evergreen Parenting Facilitators. They run a ministry called Salt & Light, in Paarl (Western Cape) where they serve as pastors at Every Nation church.
They focus on building the local church and community by building strong families and building strong children, by directing them to follow the Word of God.