Bridging the Generation Gap
Traveling on the London tube, you are audibly and visually bombarded with the phrase, “Mind the gap.” That continual repetition brings to mind a gap found in the assemblies: the generation gap.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!Psalm 133:1 (ESV)
Isn’t it a beautiful thing when the church is unified? Working as one, through bonds of love and faithfulness, regardless of age differences.
When the church includes all age groups, faith grows and the church grows, both spiritually and numerically.
Each age group has its unique traits and strengths. By themselves, these traits are amazing. But when blended, these traits can move mountains.
For the sake of this article we will delineate the three distinct age groups or generations as:
- youth (14-40)
- middle-aged (40-60)
- elderly (60+)
The youth tend to have large amounts of energy and enthusiasm. Youth can be very argumentative and stubborn, but they also stand firm on what they believe to be true. They prefer action to thought and love doing things. The youth can sometimes have trouble receiving teaching, but when they apply their energy and enthusiasm into learning, they can learn anything.
The middle-aged have been around the block a couple of times. Their chief characteristic is prudence and discretion. They share some of the enthusiasm and energy of the youth, but they tend to show restraint and caution when making decisions. They’re usually the parents of the youth. The middle-aged make good organizers and directors. They have the experience needed to get things done.
The single most important trait of the elderly is wisdom. The elderly know the pitfalls that the other two generations will hit, and they know what to do to avoid them or bounce back. They have been in the others’ shoes. They have experience of the Lord’s goodness and grace. They know the power of God and the power of prayer. When our youth group visited a rest home, one of the middle-aged brothers exhorted the elder generation to pray. More than anything else, the elder generation can pray.
6 ways for intergenerational interaction
- Bible Studies— Bible studies are a fantastic way to bridge the generational gap. Young people can feel intimidated by older generations. When they are expected to participate in an open-format Bible study, however, some of their fear dissipates. They begin sharing their thoughts in the Bible study, and for young men, sharing in the Bible study translates into sharing in the weekly Breaking of Bread meeting. Additionally, the older generations can give the younger generations pointers and tips.
- Sunday School and Bible Clubs— Learning to teach children is a powerful tool in bringing the generations together. ‘Tag-teams’, where a young person and an older person work together in teaching the lesson, give the youth a feeling of belonging. There’s an old saying that goes something like: “The best way to learn is to teach”. The responsibility of teaching children forces young people to understand and apply Scripture. They have an opportunity to learn from watching methods and hearing the knowledge of the older brother or sister, growing spiritually and in skill as a result.
- Work Days— In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to “work with your hands”. Working together on a project gives the workers a special bond, be it painting walls, cooking meals, or moving furniture. Directing youthful enthusiasm and energy towards church projects helps young people learn the value of hard work. Work is a gift and a means of glorifying God; how much more when the generations work together!
- Music— Music tends to be very generational with each generation enjoying different types of music. But even with our differences, across all generations we share a love of doctrinal depth, singing in harmony, and appreciation of musicality. The assemblies have a rich tradition of doctrinally sound and beautifully composed hymns. The younger generations have the responsibility of carrying on that tradition, while being free to add new hymns of the same caliber to that tradition. Musical young men can take part in leading the singing. Both musical young men and women can take part in playing various instruments. This is a great way to help young believers grow.
- Discipleship— I can’t say how encouraging it is when an older man takes time away from his daily life to disciple me! The middle-aged and elder generations have such a wealth of wisdom. When they share their wisdom with the youth it’s an amazing blessing. Who knows Scripture and the goodness of God better than mature believers? They have a great opportunity of passing on an understanding of Scripture to the youth, as it says in 2 Timothy 2:1-2. The youth have an equally great opportunity of receiving and applying that understanding.
- Prayer— Young people are tremendously encouraged when they hear an older brother or sister pray for them. The youth look up to the older believers. Hearing them pray for younger generations gives the youth a desire to continue. It also makes the youth want to pray. They see the older believers’ closeness with Christ and desire the same level of intimacy with him. Prayer brings the generations together better than anything else.
The youth in the assemblies love when the older generations entrust them with responsibility. From teaching Sunday School to planning meals, responsibility helps a young person grow in maturity. Though young men and women may seem apprehensive of a task, they love the feeling of having finished a job.
More than anything else, we must rely on the Lord to build us up and strengthen our unity. “
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.Psalm 127:1 (ESV)