We have a problem. They are the problem. Our church has a bunch of old/young people. They like to do old/young person kinds of things. They like old/young person music. They dress like an old/young person. Let’s face it: old/young people are weird.
Part of the wisdom of God’s design for the church is that old/young people rub shoulders with young/old people. The older offer wisdom and experience to the younger. The younger inspire the older with energy and passion. This is God’s design for the benefit of the church.
Consider Titus 2. Older women are to “train the young women” (2:4). Implicitly, the young men are to learn from the example of the older men (2:2, 6-8). Consider Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” It would be absurd to suggest that this Proverb only applies to people within the same generation. Many Psalms call one generation to “tell the next generation” of the greatness of God (Ps. 48:13, 71:18, 78:4, etc.). This includes parents to children, but it cannot be limited to familial relationships.
Yet today we see widespread age segregation between churches and within churches. Congregations are more likely than ever to be made up of primarily one age group. Churches choose worship styles and ministries that cater to one age group. Within churches people simply choose to spend time with those with whom they are comfortable (read: people their own age). This obstructs one of the main avenues of discipleship in the New Testament.
The Biblical model of ministry includes ministry to all ages and ministry between generations, with an emphasis on the older passing on their faith to the younger. I believe that we need ministries that target people in specific stages of life (children’s ministries, youth groups, young married groups, parenting studies, etc.). But we must make it a priority to spend quality time ministering to and being ministered to by people who are not our own age.
We protest: “But they don’t understand the issues I’m facing.” You’d be surprised. If they are older, chances are they’ve experienced something similar. If they are younger, this is precisely why they need you.
“But I don’t enjoy the things they enjoy.” So what? Both the old and young use this objection despite the fact that it is self-centered and immature. We may be sacrificing the immense blessings of generations fellowshipping together because we are short sighted and shallow.
“But I can’t communicate with their generation.” Whether they don’t speak smartphone or they weren’t alive when we landed on the moon, you can communicate with a little patience and effort. Sometimes we are just too lazy to invest in another generation. You also might learn something about history or smartphones, and make a new BFF.
What can you do about it? Here are some ideas:
One of my favorite things about Green Pond Bible Chapel is that we enjoy a wide variety of ages in our congregation. We’ve got everything from 20 somethings to young families to middle aged folks to seniors. What a blessing! My fear is that we are missing out by not relating to one another. You need that old/young person, and they need you.