I could write two words to make this article complete. The two words: Mix and Mingle. But we both know I won’t stop there, so let’s go a little deeper. Let’s take a look and how to mix and mingle in the church to bridge the generation gap as well as why we even need to bother.
Okay, so I’m going to reverse the order by telling you why you need to bother bridging the generation gap in your congregation.
Reason #1: God tells us to.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. ~Deuteronomy 6:6-7(NIV)
Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. ~Titus 2:4-8 (NIV)
We cannot impress God’s commands upon our children if we aren’t with our children. We cannot talk about God’s love and commands if we aren’t spending time with them and interacting with them.
Likewise, older women cannot urge the younger women to treat their marriages and families with the love and respect God intends us to if the two aren’t together. Neither can older men train younger men in the duties of being leaders in the home, the church, and the community if the two aren’t working side by side.
These acts of impressing, teaching, and training are about a lot more than just talking, though. These things, when done as God intends them to be done, require worshipping together, fellowshipping together, working side by side in ministry, and developing personal relationships with one another. These relationships are what build trust, respect, friendship, and love between one another. And that’s what makes the bridge between generations passable.
Reason #2: Everyone benefits.
Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. ~Proverbs 4:10-13 (NIV)
His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation. ~Luke 1:50 (NIV)
I personally cannot begin to express the joy and the spiritual growth I’ve experienced over the years as a result of being mentored by older Christian women and mentoring younger Christians. Worshipping, serving, learning from, teaching, and fellowshipping with Christians of all ages (both male and female) has been the meat of my spiritual diet. It is from these relationships that I have learned to:
- Know what it means to tend to the needs of others
- Extend hospitality in numerous ways
- Give of myself rather than think about myself
- Look beyond the obvious to what is inside a person
- Study the Word of God deeply, going beyond the words on the page to the true meaning
- Make the Word of God relevant to my life, applying it to make me more like Jesus
- Recognize the power of prayer
- Understand that life isn’t perfect but that God is
- Set an example for others to
- Use the talents God blessed me with for His glory
Bridging the Gap
Now let’s move on to how to bridge the generational gaps in the church. I won’t take a lot of time to explain the things on the list that follows. I think they are pretty self-explanatory. So as you read through the list remember what you have already read about why it is important to bridge the generation gap in your church and just do it.
Instead of never including the children (including toddlers) in the worship and preaching on Sunday, gather everyone together for all of the service at least once a month and all but the preaching other weeks. It is imperative that children learn how to conduct themselves in a ‘regular’ church service, that they see and learn the importance of communion, and that the children and adults in a congregation get to know one another.
Don’t design small groups, Sunday school classes, etc. around age groups
Mix the groups so that the different generations can learn together as well as from one another. NOTE: Just make sure childcare is offered whenever small children are involved. Otherwise, many young parents will not participate. This isn’t to say age-specific groups shouldn’t exist. We all need peers to lean on, relate to, and so forth. But these should be in addition to mixed-generation groups—not your exclusive involvement. Speaking of which…
Get involved in some of the various ministries in your congregation. But don’t go alone. Take your children or grandchildren with you so they can serve and grow with you and everyone else involved. Involvement also means volunteering to work with the children and teenagers as well as the senior groups—whichever ones you aren’t ‘naturally’ a part of.
Speak to the people in your church outside of your generation. Have them in your home. Send them cards on their birthday. Offer to help them with household chores. Congratulate them for accomplishments at school or in extracurricular activities. Just let them know you care.
My heart and life will forever be made better and fuller because of Gloria’s yearly birthday cakes, Tessie’s random phone calls, Ginnie’s encouragement and road trips to go looking for craft ideas, Jack’s wit, wisdom, and constant encouragement, Albert’s unquenchable joy for life no matter what, and my Granny’s unconditional love like none other—except God’s (to name just a few).
Likewise, I will never not be praying for and encouraging Seth in his ministry, let Tommy forget God requires first place in our hearts, or swell with pride when I hear Monty preach. Alicia’s music will always bring a smile to my face and all the young people who call me Mom even though I’m not their biological mom, have their permanent places in my heart.
And it’s all because generational gaps weren’t an option where I was raised and where I raised my family, but praise God they weren’t!
~ By Darla Noble