There seems to be a group in the church for just about every category you can think of: College, senior adults, preschool moms, the dreaded singles group. You name it, the church has it. Generally divided by age, relationship status and stage of life, there are intentional separations between brothers and sisters in the church.
Now don’t get me wrong. There is good in being in community with like-minded people who are walking through the same stage you are. However, there is also incredible wisdom and comfort in relationships with people who already walked through your season of life.
Fortunately, I have been blessed throughout my walk of faith to have older mentors impart wisdom and godliness to me. From my grandma and mom as my first examples of godly women, to church members of different generations taking time to build a relationship with me, to college home group parents inviting me into their house weekly, I have seen the beauty and importance of different generations joining together as one family in Christ.
What good comes out of intergenerational relationships?
First, intergenerational relationships represent and unify the Body of Christ.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19–22).
We may all be different parts of the Body, but we must remember to work together to form the unified Body of Christ. We cannot work together if we do not develop relationships. Establishing these relationships reminds us of the beauty of the Body of Christ while demonstrating what the Church looks like to the world.
Second, these relationships develop wisdom and foster godliness. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1–3).
Scripture advises elders within the church to shepherd and disciple younger members. These relationships provide the opportunity to train the young in godliness and Scripture, leading to stronger relationships with God.
Thirdly, the different perspectives within intergenerational relationships remind us of God’s creativity in our uniqueness. We see the beauty and greatness of God’s creativity in each other’s perspectives and stories. While there may be more differences than similarities in some intergenerational relationships, we are reminded of the Holy Spirit’s power that can unite brothers and sisters in Christ.
How should the church foster intergenerational relationships?
First, churches need to be intentional in forming intergenerational groups and events. Instead of always separating people by life stages in home groups and Sunday School classes, churches can offer groups and events combining people from all stages of life and backgrounds.
Second, churches can encourage members to become mentors. The gospel calls believers to be disciples, meaning older members can disciple younger, newer believers. Encourage members to actively seek relationships with those of different backgrounds. Advise them not to rely solely on church groups and events, but to find opportunities outside the church to build relationships.
Lastly, the church needs to remember the early church, which was open to all and did all together. Instead of dividing up believers within the church, the early church was together (Acts 2:42–47). When we are unified by intergenerational relationships, we are going back to the roots of the early church.
“Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others” (C.S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”).
A glorious aspect of God is that He not only reveals Himself to us, but also grants us a community in Him that points us back to Him. Intergenerational relationships are a way we can continuously be drawn back to the splendor of God.