I walked into a large church several years ago and I saw a large directional map that helped each age group find their connecting place within the church. The kids went down the hall to the left and were then divided up into their age group rooms. Older adults went down the hall to the right while teens went to the gym. College students went upstairs but the young adults were gathering in a separate area.
Everyone had their own place.
I understand the importance of gathering with similar people… however, I found myself wondering that day- do these age groups ever get together and overlap with one another? When are retirees in a place that they could interact with teenagers? When do college students hand out with middle school students?
Some would argue that this kind of overlap is not important, I would respectfully disagree. In our culture and in our churches today- we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation. Haydn Shaw writes explains the situation in his book Generational IQ,
What is generational intelligence? It means that we learn about a person’s perspective, reactions, emotions, fears, struggles, and dreams based upon the generation they grew up in. Shaw writes,
“When you were born colors and affects your perspective of everything. The era you grew up fills your head with ideas and images that tell you what you can do with your emotions, how you should enter a conversation, what it means to be a male or female, how you respond to others, and you thing about God, family, and country.”
We can read great books like Shaw’s (which I highly recommend) but we also need real life experiences where we are engaging with people outside of our own generation. We need to be put in situations where we interact across generational lines and we are challenged to confront stereotypes and get to know people for who they are… not just how we perceive them.
Church gives us an inherent opportunity to do this week in and week out; however, many churches have gone the way of the church that I described in the beginning of this post and segmented groups of people by age groups, life stages, generations, and interests. In fact, we can worship in the same building with people for years and never even cross paths with them in this model. The problem is when we do this… we are all missing out.
I believe that every generation has something special and unique that they bring to the table and every generation can benefit from all of the others. Traditionalists (born before 1945) can share stories and experiences that Millennials (Born 1981-2001) have only read about in books. But at the same time, Millennials can energize Traditionalists and teach them new ideas and perspectives as well.
We all have something to learn from one another but we must be intentional to connect with people that are different from us. I understand that spending time with people of our age is easier because we have inherent common ground in shared experiences or interests; however, we shortchange ourselves when spend all of our time with people who look like us, sound like us, think like us, vote like us, spend their time like us, and have had the same upbringing as us. How diverse are the ages people that you are spending time with? How many generations are represented in the people that you have interacted with this week?
If the answer is small… step outside of your comfort zone and strive to meet new people and place yourself in places that are intentional to bring people together from different ages and different perspectives. You may be surprised and amazed at how God uses someone older than you or younger than you to bless you and challenge you to grow!
This past week at TCG we did our first “Next Generation Service” where we had all of our kids, teenagers, and adults in one service together. It was amazing to watch even the smallest of babies raise their hands in worship, dance, and sing without any restraint. This is something that we will do here once a quarter. Why? Because we want to be intentional to carve out inter-generational experiences and give people of all ages a chance to come together and build relationships across generational lines that often separate us.
You can listen to this week’s message here and we would love to invite you to join us at TCG for an upcoming worship experience on either Sunday morning at 9:30 AM or Tuesday night at 6:30 PM.