Singles and Older | Part 2
Aidan: Well we are doing a two-part series on life stages…the first one we did was on Singles (which you can read here) and today we are going to look at Older people within the church.
Mike: You realize, of course, that “Older” is a pretty relative term.
Aidan: Definitely. Obviously from my perspective, with a community made up primarily of young families of 25-40 year olds, our definition of “Older” is probably slightly different from yours, as a 50-year-old.
Mike: Right. But I think we want to take this issue from two different directions; from the angle of the younger community desiring older generations in the community, as well as the older generation engaging and wanting to be involved with the younger generations.
I think just like some of the issues pertaining to Singles we addressed in the last post, this is another issue that is pretty important within the church, but often isn’t addressed. Obviously at 3DM we have always seen this as crucial and we are starting a whole community track called “Legacy” that will work specifically with people 50+ years old.
But why don’t we start with the first angle: Younger generations wanting to be involved with people a generation or even two older than they are.
What’s interesting to see is that there is a deep connectedness that has happened between Gen Y (also called Millennials) and the parental/grandparental age group. And here’s why: They didn’t grow up in the aftershock of the cultural earthquake that really began in the late 50’s and 60’s. It wasn’t their parents getting divorced en mass for the first time in Western history. They didn’t see generations before them staying together and suddenly the earthquake hit their house for the first time. That was Gen X.
And what you find is that Gen Y doesn’t, by-in-large, do the massive deconstruction that Gen X did. What Gen X did is reject, almost wholesale, the modern family structures of the nuclear family (but at least as importantly, the extended family as well).
Because Gen Y grew up in a world where fragmented families had already become commonplace, they never sunk into hyper-deconstruction mode. And interestingly enough, have approached the family with far more hope than either of the past two generations. They’ve seen the carnage of the cultural earthquake, but they don’t forsake that marriage, parenting and grandparenting can still happen well.
Aidan: So if Gen Y is far more open and even desiring relationships with people in the parental or grandparental age range, what does this look like for the church where there probably has never been more age segmentation?
Mike: You know in England, when the Celts came into Britain after the Romans had left they would see town after town with the giant arches of Roman buildings still in tact. And despite the fact there was a deep seeded resentment with the Roman occupation of Britain, instead of destroying the remaining arches, they said, “that arch that is still standing, we could build a church out of that.” And they did.
And that’s how a lot of the younger generations are approaching older ones: “If that person is still standing after all this time maybe there’s something worth building around there.” You see, these people are looking for replacement parents or grandparents (many never had adequate ones), mentors or wiser, older friends. We need communities that embrace ways where this can happen. As you saw in the Singles post, I think Missional Communities are a good place for that.
Aidan: So if you’re part of an older generation, what does this look like from their perspective?
Mike: Don’t lose confidence just because they look surly and uninterested in you.
We talked about this a lot at Sheffield…if you read the Bible, “the doors of history hang on old hinges.”
Just think about it.
The Covenant of God hangs on the hinges of Abram and Sarai…a couple that is far past able to have kids and God’s plan of salvation for the whole world hangs in the womb of a barren woman.
In the New Testament, again, a couple unable to have children, Zachariah and Elizabeth, end up producing the forbearer, the announcer, the road-paver of Jesus himself in John the Baptist.
These people were barren, felt fruitless and were in a place where only through God’s working could they be used.
This is the way many in the older generations feel. It’s over. They have no more fruit to give to younger generations. But this simply isn’t the case. Your life can be just like one of these old hinges in scripture. These young people are desperate to have what you have.
One of the things we did at Sheffield is have all of the older folks come to the front at the end of the service and had everyone else look at them and said, “These can be your mothers and fathers, these can be your grandparents.” And we could never satisfy the demands of the hunger found in these young people for those relationships.
Aidan: So suppose you’re in a community that is primarily made up of younger people…how do you begin to engage with people in older generations? In other words: If you don’t have older people, how do you get them?! 😉
Mike: It’s really like anything else. If you feel God has put that on your heart, pray for Persons of Peace to show themselves to you that are older. How will you know? These people are prepared by God, by Jesus, who are ready for your message of intergenerational community. They will hear your message and they will want to serve and bless what you are doing.
And here it is: If you are faithful with the few that God give, he will give you more. They will tell all their friends! They will open up the gate to the wider community of their friends!