Our churches are filled with all kinds of people from every walk of life. Young and old, God has gifted us all uniquely and has a part for each of us to play in bringing His Kingdom to earth today. We are indeed the Body of Christ, with every member given a role that is essential to God’s plan. Having an inter-generational congregation is vital to the success and survival of the Church.
Sometimes, however, because we are all flawed human beings, we discourage the involvement of those of other generations, mainly because we fail to see the value they bring during their unique season of life. We mistakenly believe there can be no understanding among the generations, and we fall victim to condescension and patronization. It doesn’t have to be that way.
God has called all of us from every generation to work together. We can do it! There is great inherent value in the contribution of those from every generation. It is our job, no matter how old we are or what our life’s experiences have been, to seek the involvement of people of all ages. Let’s take a look at how we can do just that.
An important part of every church is its children. They bring unbridled joy to the task of learning about Jesus and the Bible. They encourage us with their enthusiasm and innocence. Their capacity to memorize Scripture at an early age is an inspiration to those of us whose faith may have become stale. Children are the future of the church. Let’s always look closely in our interactions with young ones to see what God can teach us through them.
The Younger Generation.
There is no doubt that today’s younger generation of adults are still learning about themselves, growing and developing mentally and emotionally, and are often filled with angst as they face the world with confusion and uncertainty. The lack of experience of those in their 20s and 30s is normal, natural and to be expected, but sometimes the older generations disparage younger adults and devalue their opinions based on their lack of life experience and overall perspective. The reality, however, is that the Church needs young people. They bring a freshness to the Body of Christ. They bring new ideas and a lack of cynicism that is often developed with age. They aren’t afraid to fail. They are filled with unabashed confidence and energy. The Church can use this positive energy and attitude of renewal to launch new ventures and draw unchurched people to their services and programming. Young people must be mentored and discipled in a way that acknowledges that they are the leaders of the future. Pouring in to them is a serious duty not to be sidestepped.
Those in their 40s and 50s lead the Church today. They are in their prime physically, mentally, and emotionally. They have developed the personal skills needed to process events, lead others, and take the Church forward in its vision for God’s Kingdom. They’ve been mentored and discipled and called by God into positions of leadership. We need these people who are at the pinnacle of their professional and ministry lives to implement our mutually-decided-upon vision and mission. Despite the leadership and authority they are given, however, they must rely on the wisdom of the older generation and the enthusiasm of the younger generation to accomplish God’s work. Leading their teams, it is their duty to not only thrive in the present day, but also plan for the future. This includes mentoring younger leaders and connecting older leaders to places of meaningful ministry. Today’s leaders need help and encouragement as they seek to fill the role they’ve been given. Although they might be confident, they cannot do God’s work on their own. A church full of people of all ages will be more likely to thrive and more likely to be sustainable far into the future. Today’s leaders are responsible for making room for this to happen.
The Older Generation.
Those in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are the rock on which the Church is built. They have laid a firm foundation, trained up the younger generation, and now today have amassed a storehouse full of wisdom that will benefit today’s leaders. Now in what some have called the best phase of life, the older generation often has more free time to give to church ministries and the life skills to fill important roles. We need the older generation on our elder boards and as mentors to our pastors and other leaders. The perspective they have, gained from a lifetime of both successes and failures, can only benefit the Church today. Despite the fact that they might not understand today’s trends or the language our young people may speak, they know deeply what it means to live a life devoted to Jesus Christ. The younger generation can learn from them and be encouraged by them. The backbone of any church, the older generation has so much to offer and should be treasured for all they can still contribute.
Please note: I have given age ranges to aid in clarity and understanding. I’m fully aware that there are always exceptions to every theory! There will be young people who are in their prime and filled with wisdom. Similarly, there will be older people who freshen the conversation and may lack a certain maturity. Please use the age ranges given only as a guide and not as a hard-and-fast rule.