Emma Bell. Hazel Farley. Gary and Joan Baker. Gloria Huskey. Ginnie Carrolla. Tessie Parker. Albert Hale. Shirley Salts. Mr. Farley. Zach Mace. Mr. O’Neal. Judy Penfield. Sue Stoll. Rosie and Jerry Lane.
These are just a few of the folks who, along with my parents and grandparents, took the time to make a personal investment in my life.
And guess what? Every single one of these people were older than me. Some were MUCH older—as in ancient to a three or four year-old little girl.
Their investments ranged from keeping me pacified in the nursery class, helping me glue cotton balls on the outline of a sheep to teach me that I am God’s lamb, teaching me deeper Bible truths, and challenging me to make my relationship with the LORD real and personal, to mentoring me as a wife and mother, and for using my God-given talents to serve the church, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and my community.
Again… none of these folks were my age. Everything they did was special and impactful—even though I didn’t always realize it.
Everything they did was also within the perimeter of God’s expectations for His Church. That’s right—God expects (even commands) us to invest ourselves into the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter how old they are.
What does the Bible say about multi-generational relationships in the Church?
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. ~Psalm 145:4.
In order for this to take place, however, we have to know one another. We have to spend time together—serving, worshipping, and fellowshipping together. Otherwise, we won’t know what each generation is doing.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ~Titus 2:3-5
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…. ~Titus 2:6-8
The older generations have a responsibility to teach the younger people of the Church. They are responsible for teaching Godly behavior, doctrinal truths, and the business of the Church (yes, there is a certain unavoidable amount of business that goes with maintaining a local congregation).
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. ~1 Timothy 4:12
Young people have an equally important responsibility to be the living and active hands and feet of Jesus to the elders in their congregation and alongside their elders in the Church and in the community. In doing so, the older generations can see first-hand that the future of the Church and the local congregation is in the good hands of faithful, doctrinally-sound young people who are committed to the LORD.
So you see, the Church as God intends it is a family of young, old, and in-between.
Just like our biological families, we aren’t complete unless we have one another.
Each generation’s role
Each generation has specific roles to fill and jobs to do in the Church. But many, if not most, of those roles and jobs are most effective when done with people from other generations.
Let’s take a look at the roles and jobs of the various generations in the Church and the benefits they bring to the Church and Church family. These are not listed in any particular order of importance or relevance. They are all important and relevant to God, so they should be to us, as well.
Let’s start with our little ones
Babies and toddlers are the future of the Church and the local congregation. But they are just as important in their early years.
The cries of a baby bring smiles to the faces of older women as they remember their own years of young motherhood. The older women who serve in the nursery find purpose and joy in being able to soothe tears and fears. They are able to shower them with grandmotherly love. And who doesn’t enjoy a good dose of that?
Babies and toddlers bring an equal amount of joy to the older men, too. They enjoy teasing them, handing out pennies and candy that can always be found in their pockets, and making them smile.
Babies and toddlers give the older children and teenagers someone to reach out to. When they are allowed to help in the nursery, babysit, and work as teacher’s helpers in Sunday school and VBS, children and teenagers experience a sense of maturity and importance. They enjoy being looked up to and admired by the little ones. And when mentored correctly, they take this responsibility seriously.
The role of young parents in the lives of their babies and toddlers should be obvious, but I’ll take a minute to state it anyway. They have a direct command from God to bring up their children in the way of the LORD and to teach them to know and long for a relationship with Him. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
To be showered with love, taught and mentored, raised to know the LORD personally—these are the roles of the babies and toddlers in the Church.
Young children have a significant role in the Church. In addition to bringing hope for the future of a congregation and the Church in general, young people (elementary through middle school) have a lot to offer across the generations in the local congregation. Some of the things they can (and should) do include:
- Reading scripture before the sermon
- Playing their instruments for worship or special music
- Helping clean the church
- Greeting people coming in the door
- Visiting elderly people in the church to cheer them up or help with simple household tasks
- Helping occupy a fussy baby with adult supervision
- Helping serve at fellowship dinners
- Participating in Church-wide service projects and work projects at the church building
- Sending letters to children of missionaries serving around the world
- Actively participating in Sunday school, youth group programs, and VBS for the purpose of growing in their relationship with the LORD
- Taking part in regular worship services with the adults instead of children’s church
Teenagers and college-age students
Our youth are of great importance to the Church and the local congregation needs to be especially mindful of making sure this generation is plugged in, poured into (shepherded), challenged, and made to feel valued. Otherwise, they’re going to be lost to the world.
You have undoubtedly heard or read the statistics claiming that over 80% of young people this age leave the Church as soon as they leave home (if not before). These stats aren’t lying or over-inflated. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight to turn them around, though. But in order to get that done, the older generations have to step up and invest themselves into the lives of their teens and college-age students.
The best way to make that investment is to come alongside them to teach them and to let them know how valuable they are to God and the Church and how valuable He is to them. Here’s how:
- Use their talents and abilities in the worship service (music, speaking, tech-savvy-ness)
- Let them serve communion, take up the offering, give communion meditations, and pray publically
- Use them as teachers and teacher’s aides for the younger children
- Let the college-age young adults serve as chaperones and helpers with teen events
- Include them in ministry groups, service projects, and fellowship events with the older people in the church
- Take them on mission trips
- Give them responsibilities and leadership roles whenever possible and appropriate
Young parents and singles (20s-30s)
This generations is both the neediest and busiest generation in the local congregation.
They are desperate for the mentoring of older people (even though they don’t always realize it) and desperate for spiritual truth and the strength to ‘do’ family. But they are also the ones that are usually so busy doing ministry in the local church that they don’t get what they need. They are spiritually lean but service fat.
These two facts make it essential for the other generations—both younger and older—do their part to make sure these people don’t get burned out.
That being said, the 20s and 30s have a great deal to offer the Church; they can:
- Have a genuine presence and commitment to bringing their family up in the church to know the LORD in a personal way. This is their number one duty
- Participate in worship services by using their talents and abilities where appropriate
- Help with cleaning and maintenance of the building
- Organize and lead church ministry teams, classes, Bible studies, fellowship events
- Mentor younger people
- Be mentored by the older people of the congregation by purposefully partnering with them for ministry and fellowship, study and accountability
- Reach out to the older people, offering assistance with household and personal duties
- Open their homes to others for fellowship and Bible study
- Serve as deacons, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders
- Be respectful of the leadership and not demand change only for the sake of change
- Tithe to the local church and missions
The middle generation
Those in their 40s and 50s have much to offer in the way of time, talents, wisdom, and knowledge. This generation is experiencing the empty nest, giving them more time to devote to the local church. Their experiences in life thus far coupled with years of Bible study make them a true asset in many ways. They can:
- Lead and participate in worship services by sharing their music, technology, and speaking talents
- Serve communion, offering communion meditations and public prayer, and taking up the offering
- Greet people as they come in the door
- Serve as elders and deacons
- Mentor younger adults and youth through teaching, Bible study, chaperoning events, and opening their home as a place to meet for study and fellowship
- Work alongside people of all ages in ministry, fellowship, accountability, small-group studies, and community service
- Put themselves under the discipleship and mentoring of older church members
- Seek accountability from their peers and those who are older
- Tithe to the local congregation and missions
- Be willing to evaluate suggested changes to make sure they are doctrinally sound and beneficial to the local church
The oldest generation of church members.
Last but definitely not least, the members of your congregation who are age 60 and over are the rock of the congregation. They have invested years of time, energy, money, and heart into their church family. Their wisdom, knowledge, and commitment cannot and should not be overlooked or disregarded by anyone.
And on the flip-side of that coin, this generation of people shouldn’t be allowed to sit back and let the young people do it all. As Mark Moore once said, “Christianity is one ride that isn’t over until the hearse pulls up to the door.”
The oldest members of a congregation should:
- Serve as elders
- Mentor younger people by teaching, leading Bible studies and small discipleship groups
- Open their homes to small groups for study and fellowship
- Continue their commitment to being present and active in the local congregation
- Engage with the children and young people in the congregation to let them know they are interested in them and care about their lives
- Tithe to the local congregation and missions
- Be willing to change their ways of service as they age and are no longer capable or enthusiastic about what they are doing
- Be willing to listen to younger people regarding the changes they think should be made to check them for doctrinal soundness, but not rejecting them because they are new
Regardless of age, we all have the responsibility to be the Church the way God intends the Church to be—to be serve our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to point non-believers to the love, care and compassion of our Lord and Savior.
~ By Darla Noble
- Raising the Next Generation of Children in Today’s World
- 7 Pieces of Advice for Young Men
- Advice to a Younger Me