Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. ~Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)
We need one another. We need people who are older than us, younger than us, and who don’t look like us. We need people who can do things we can’t, people who are wiser than we are to teach us, and those who are willing to listen and learn from us. We need people to laugh with us, cry with us, encourage us, hold us accountable, cheer us on, keep us humble, and to just to love us.
There are no age barriers for getting what we need from others and giving to them what they need from us. In fact, the more varied our circles of fellowship, the richer and fuller our hearts and minds are with love and experiences. An excellent example of this can be seen in one of my daughters and her husband and son.
When Olivia, Matthew, and Reuben moved back to Missouri, near the town we had recently relocated to, it was only natural for them to come to the same church we had chosen as our new church home. The first Sunday they were there they decided to go to our Sunday school class with us because the ones that were geared more toward people their age didn’t meet until after the second church service.
Their presence in the class made John and I the second-youngest people in the class. The majority of the class, you see is in their seventies and even eighties, but we didn’t care. We quickly came to love each and every one of them. So did Matthew and Olivia. In fact, they decided that if the others didn’t have a problem with them being so young, they would like to be a part of the class, too. Of course no one minded and they were welcomed with open arms.
Part of the reason Olivia feels so comfortable in the class is because she was raised to respect and enjoy the fellowship of those older than her as well as those her own age. Our home church was small and close-knit. The older ladies in the church loved on my kids, mentored them, and led by example from the day they were born.
Their investments in my children have paid off, so to speak, in countless ways over the years—including three weeks ago when Olivia volunteered to organize the meal for a member of our class and her family following her husband’s funeral. On the day of the funeral as people brought in the food they had volunteered to provide, they all commented to me and to Olivia that it was obvious she had done this sort of thing before.
“No,” she said, “this is the first time I’ve actually been the one to organize the whole thing, but I’ve watched and helped Mom, my Granny, and the other ladies from home since I was old enough to walk.”
Do you see what happened in Olivia’s life? Serving together, across the generations, as a child prepared her to minister to others throughout her lifetime.
So when thinking about ways your church can bridge the generation gap and come together in service and fellowship, I encourage you to offer the following opportunities and encourage everyone to participate:
1. Have an old-fashioned box supper…with a twist
Have each family decorate and fill a picnic basket with enough food for their family. Label the baskets with the number of people it will serve, but don’t put any names on the baskets and place them in a central location. Once everyone has arrived, assign someone to randomly hand out baskets in pairs.
For example: basket one that serves three people should be given to a family of three and basket two that serves one should be given to a single person in the group. Those two families will then sit down together and share a meal together. Continue this process until everyone has a basket and is paired or grouped with two or three other families to enjoy a time of fellowship and food.
2. Have a church birthday party
Ask for volunteers (12 or 24 depending on the size of your church) to make a birthday cake for an assigned month of the year. Decorate tables for each month and place the appropriate cake(s) on the tables with paper plates, napkins, forks, and even party hats. When everyone arrives ask them to be seated at the table of their birth month.
Sing happy birthday and enjoy cake with your brothers and sisters of all ages who share your birthday month. Play traditional party games afterwards.
3. Have an all-ages work day at your church
Prepare a list of jobs that need to be done around the building and grounds. Pair up people of all different ages to work together to help keep your building in tip-top condition.
4. Make this year’s Christmas pageant/program a multi-generational one
There are lots of resources available for programs that use both children and adults. Choose one and work together to celebrate our Savior’s birth.
5. Visit older people
Make nursing home visits a regular activity with the youth group, along with making regular visits to the homes of older church members just to say “hi”, do yard work, spring clean, sit and listen to them talk about their life as a young person (while enjoying cookies and ice cream you supply).
6. Encourage people to share and teach younger people
Ask older people to serve as teacher’s aides, chaperones, etc. for youth functions and/or invite them to be a guest at your weekly youth meeting to share their testimony or words of encouragement or teach the young people a skill such as baking a pie, fixing a leaky faucet or flat tire.
7. Prepare boxes to send to soldiers overseas
Come together to prepare boxes to send to soldiers overseas and ask the older people to share their experiences as a soldier or soldier’s wife.
We are all members of one body, so let’s work together to be one strong body!
~ By Darla Noble