“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”Plato in The Republic
That’s right. This statement did not occur yesterday, last week, or even in the last century. No, this characterization of the “youth” comes to us from the 4th century from Plato himself. It was basically his version of, “Kids these days” while despondently shaking his head at their absolute lack of understanding and decorum. You can almost hear the sigh.
He certainly wasn’t alone in his commentary. Good old Aristotle chirps ups stating, ““[Young people] are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances. They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.”
I mean, I’m pretty sure I heard someone say that last sentence yesterday…oh wait, that was me.
But at least Aristotle was evenhanded, dishing it out to the oldest generation, stating, “[Elderly men] have lived many years; they have often been taken in, and often made mistakes; and life on the whole is a bad business….They are cynical; that is, they tend to put the worse construction on everything. Further, their experience makes them distrustful and therefore suspicious of evil. Consequently they neither love warmly nor hate bitterly….They are small-minded, because they have been humbled by life.”
It’s basically an Aristotelian “Okay, Boomer.”
So there you have it. This familiar story where the older look upon the younger and sighs and the younger looks to the older and groans. It’s not new. In fact, it’s kinda how we are built.
Well according to research (yes, they’ve done studies on this), it’s because we genuinely forget what it is like to be a young person. As we grow and develop, we begin to change how we see ourselves and the world around us. “People use their present self as a proxy for their past self as well as projecting onto past others.” (Source)
In other words, as adults, we can use our frontal lobe to make distinctions about life we couldn’t do as a youth and we tend to project that onto youth and expect them to see the world like we do…but they don’t. And vice versa, youth cannot understand why in the world old people can’t see what is in front of their face because it is so obvious to them .
Why does this matter?
Well, it helps us to understand why it is often so difficult for older and younger people to engage in meaningful conversations that lead to ongoing relationships. It’s hard. We are naturally biased against each other. We have to willingly fight our own bias in order to make space for the other.
But, why does it matter to us?
The primary way our faith is carried into the future is by passing it from “one generation to another” (Ps. 145:4). In the church, we call it generational discipleship. And, in order for this to happen, it is absolutely necessary that these old people and these young people are able to find spaces where they can talk, listen, and engage with one another in meaningful ways that lead to ongoing relationship.
But, boy, can that be difficult. In addition to a natural bias away from one another, our current society has many structures in place that actually perpetuate the distance. Things like…
- architecture, building that have spaces specifically set aside for certain ages.
- spaces, designed intentionally to be mostly accessible to one age group.
- communication and technology, where information is obtained in different ways often leading to different perspectives.
- relationship opportunities which tend to be fostered among similarly-aged individuals.
And yes, every one of these constructs can be found in most of our churches. Buildings with wings, spaces that aren’t kid-friendly, information offered in specific ways that may unintentionally exclude a generation, and community groups, Sunday schools, and church-related activities aimed at a certain age group or life situation.
It’s a quadruple-whammy plus an already innate bias against one another.
So, what do we do about it?
The first thing is to recognize, age segregation is an actual issue. That not only does it exist in our society, it also exists in our churches.Tweet
Next, it behooves us to consider if our church structures are such that it exacerbates the division or offers ways for generations to come together for the purpose of relationship, discipleship, and mentorship.
Finally, it makes sense that if we find that we are lacking in those opportunities, to begin looking at our faith community and start making in-roads and bridges between the generations so that generational discipleship can happen.
I mean, it’s likely that there will still be some head-shaking and eye-rolling BUT hopefully there will also be more hands held in prayer, hearts knitted in love and lives joined in relationship. Because, that is how our faith gets passed on and written in our hearts.
Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?
ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes.
Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings. There are now TWO options for attending the webinar:
- One Day, Full Webinar – Saturday, October 10
- Four Day, Four Session Webinar – Thursdays in October, 9:30 am
Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.
Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.
Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.
Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.
Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!
Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.
To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-121384392987. Questions? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to journey with you!
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.
With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.