First, there are the WWII—era Traditionals that were born before 1928.
This is Tom Brokaw's purported Greatest Generation. One to two occupational, career- oriented fellows, most of who have already been retired for many years. This group is not very fond of communication in general, and when they are forced to write, they tend to do it with pen in hand. These men communicate mainly by telling stories to each other, knowing full well they've told the same stories many times before; yet enjoying the outcome just as much each time. As a group, it's safe to say they are now hanging out at home, senior centers, veteran halls, assisted living centers, and Masonic Lodges if they go out at night.
The second group is the Schwartzkopfers born between 1928 and 1946.
These are your brothers like me who are the in-betweeners; born too late to participate in WWII and too early to be a flower child. They were stuck between the veterans of the Great War and the Me-generation Boomers. They were young adults when it was hip to be teenagers and in their thirties when you couldn't trust anyone over thirty. By the time the flower children were making free love, not war, these guys were in there forties and already knew love was not free. Not knowing quite where to fit in, most just tuned to 'TV, fell in love with classic cars, enjoyed holding hands when they danced, and institutionalized the consumption of domestic full-calorie, un-neutered beer. Now leaving the workplace in huge numbers, they will essentially all be retired in three more years. They hang out at golf courses, retirement communities, coffee shops, and yes, they are our most active members in our Masonic fraternity.
The third group is the infamous Baby Boomers.
There are actually two brands of Baby Boomers older and not so old. The older Brothers are called the Woodstockers, born between 1946 and 1954. The not so old are called Young Boomers, born between 1954 and 1964. Mind you, this dual distinction is a thing that Baby Boomers have mainly created among themselves, primarily because the younger group doesn't like to be called rock and rollers and the old group is not willing to give the younger guys credit for being social revolutionists. The main difference in Baby Boomers is that the Woodstockers were always in the right historical place at the right time. They were kids when it was cool to be kids, teens when it was cool to be teens, and were in their twenties when you couldn't trust anybody over thirty. The Young Boomers, on the other hand, learned early on that you couldn't trust politicians, that idealism won't turn into action without hard work. They were the first generation in our time to discover that real change unfolds from the inside, not from the o u t s i d e. You will now find Baby Boomers spending time with their grandkids because they still feel guilty about how little time they gave to their own kids while out slaying the dragons of their own self-absorbed, me generation. You also will find them hanging out with long time friends, being a non-profit community volunteer, community boards, groups and committees, Lions and Rotary Clubs, and, yes they are the second-largest group in Freemasonry today.
The fourth group is the GenX—born between 1965 and 1977.
If any generation got off to a bad start at no fault of their own, it would have to be the GenXers. They were born during one of the most blatantly anti-child eras in United States history. Their Shwarzkopf and Baby Boomer parents had the highest divorce and abortion rates, the highest number of dual income families, and the most permissive parenting habits in history. The GenXers were the first generation to be told they would not be as well off as their parents. They never developed connections with the old institutions of their parents. They rebelled against, such institutions as churches, schools, corporations and political parties. They became the most unsupervised generation of our time, so Is it any wonder that they grew into independent, goal- oriented entrepreneurial thinkers whose ease with technology and information forever changed how we look at the world? Today, you can find them hanging out with their kids. Since they were abandoned as children, they are intensely dedicated to being parents. They define their success by their ability to create the life that they want. Flex hours, contract work, and telecommunications are their world. You will find them hanging out with family, friends, hobbies, vacations, think tanks and career development centers. But their drive for lasting relationships, long-term bonds of loyalty, and wise mentors who can teach them things they never took the time to learn may now lead them to, you got it - Masonic lodges.
The fifth group is the Millennials (GenYers)—born after 1977.
If there was ever a generation erected and honed for Freemasonry, it is the Millennial & Children of Baby Boomers and younger siblings of the GenXers, this group is coming of age in the most expansive economy of our time. They will be the global citizens. Told by their parents and teachers that they would make a difference in the world, they truly believe they will. They are the most socially- conscious generation in the last fifty years. We can expect to see them engaged in social, environmental, and health-related causes for the rest of their lives. Yes, they may know all there is to know about designer drugs, violent video games, sexually charged advertising, and being bombarded by TV, music and movies, but they were influenced by education-minded Baby Boomer parents and they know that education is key to their success. They are poised to be lifelong learners, and fueled by their facility for technology and they are digitally adept. They will be ready to learn, anywhere, anytime. Unfortunately, they have been sidetracked with some deep economic and global realities over the past few years. But they are team players, and thrive on doing meaningful things with meaningful people in a meaningful way. You will find them hanging out with socially conscious individuals and organizations. You will find them at sports gyms, golf courses, lecture halls, marathons for social causes, Internet cafés, social networking sites, cigar bars, and yes Masonic Lodges.
But move over, Millennia's because the eldest among you are fast approaching thirty, and there is another generation behind you just begging for attention. This new group has just been named the iGeneration, born after 1993.
They are still kids, and there's a lot we need to know about them because they will be joining our social network in the next five years. First, the oldest of these youth, who are now graduating from high school, don't remember a time without the constant connectivity to the world that digital technology has brought to them. They're growing up with expectations of always being socially present—ever available to peers, wherever they are. It's hard to believe, but the tech-dominated life experience of those born since the early 90's is so different from the MillenniaIs that they warrant the distinction of their own generation. Because for them, it's not only about technology it's about mindset. The little "i" in the iGeneration stands for "individualized." Everything has been customized and individualized for each person in this group. Their distinctive characteristics are their adeptness at multitasking, their desire for immediacy, and their ability to use technology to create a vast array of content. It is nothing for teens and pre-teens to post videos on each others Facebook walls using webcams. This group has high expectations that whatever they want or can use will be tailored to their own needs and wishes and desires. Everything, in fact, to them, portability is the key. They are inseparable from their wireless devices. Because they're not yet out on their own, you will find them connected to each other on their mobile devices twenty-four hours a day. Text messaging is so pervasive in this group that they have to tell each other to stop so they can go to sleep.
So there you have it. We are an organization that will, in the very near future, have as many as five generations of males in lodge at the same time. In fact, it has been in only the last seventy years that we have had just two generations in lodge. This is why we have paid so little attention to the young generation in lodge in our time. It was such a rarity that it didn't seem to count for much.
But this is all-rapidly changing. In our lodges that are now growing in member numbers across the American landscape, the Traditionals and Schwartzkopfers are no longer in the majority, which means that very soon, our lodges will cease being ruled with a 1950's set of eyes.
in today's changing Masonic culture, there are exciting new things to be aware of, grave implications to consider, and sober opportunities that will either be reaped or passed over in our multi-generational lodges. Tomorrow's Freemasonry will have to be consciously reflective about how it handles these different generations in lodge.