I read a few sentences in one of the chapters that jumped off the page at me because they resonated with something I have wondered about for a while. I have often wondered whether our division of the church according to age was a good thing.
"According to Smith's research,* one key indicator of whether or not young people stick with their faith was intergenerational connections. Basically, those young people who had relationships to older Christians, whether their parents or other faithful congregants, were far less likely to abandon their faith in their twenties." (Generation Ex-Christian, pg. 177)I guess having grown up in a church that my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were active members of, I was incredibly blessed to have those intergenerational connections happen naturally. But, I also know of many other people in the church of other generations who took an interest in my life, and still do. Until the last few years I have taken that for granted. I realized how blessed I was in a conversation with a friend who came to follow Christ as a young adult and really only knows other young adults at church well.
It makes me wonder if we have lost some of the richness of the church as the body of Christ by always segregating people by age for church events. I wonder if we need to once again become more intentional about connecting the generations in our church. After all, the body of Christ needs all of us to function as God intended it, but we cannot do that if we never talk to anyone outside of a ten year age span around our age.
There is definitely a place for youth groups and young adults ministries and seniors ministries, but there needs to be a place for ministry that speaks to more than one generation at a time. If we do not do that, we will risk losing young adults in the church. Even with the strong family of faith I come from, I love sitting around a table at the women's Bible studies I am a part of with women of all different ages and walks of life. I learn so much more than if I was to sit at a table doing the same study with all people my own age. We have much to learn from the other generations in the church.
It makes me a bit sad sometimes to sit in a church service and look around to see all the youth sitting in one area, the young adults in another, young families in another, seniors in another. Why the separation? Yes, I know we want to sit with friends or family. But, I have found that my favourite place to sit is with people who have been followers of Christ for more years than I have been alive. There is a richness to their worship that I cannot describe.
So I am left to wonder, how do we develop intergenerational connections better? How do we develop those connections so that young adults have stronger ties to the church as a whole? How do we connect youth and young adults who are not from Christian families with the older generations in the church to help them grow?
*Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2005), pg. 162-163