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Focus on the Next Generation, by Ron Rose

    Church is the only place left in our culture where all generations intersect. And yet congregations in every corner of America are unintentionally, but systematically doing away with our intergenerational times. Let’s stop the rush to age-segregate everything we do. Let’s re-think our efforts at ministry programming—we may be doing unexpected harm to our families.

Consider the following:
Think of your congregation as a spiritual village where the older generation blesses the younger generation. The older generation provides the balance needed to offset our societal focus on individualism and personal rights. For more than a generation, the focus of our societal goals has been on self: self-reliance, self-esteem, self-determination, and self-gratification. The end result of this self-interest is isolation and a distrust of others. The “quick-fix” for society and church has been to separate the generations and meet the needs each group. This way the young married do their thing without having to be concerned about the “older” generation and the “older” generation can do their thing without having to be bothered with uncomfortable changes and the constant patter of little feet.

    However, if all we do is meet the needs of each generation our age groups will get more isolated and suspicious of others. We will unintentionally promote generational distrust, hurt feelings, and fear of each other.

    We must meet the needs of young adults and young families, but we must not forget the basic need for blessing from the older generation. The missing ingredient in church programs is not a quick-fix, it is a long term investment. It is the involvement of our grandparent generation and the “church” blessing of that generation.

The church blessing
The missing ingredient in church programs is not a quick-fix, it is a long term investment.
    The church blessing is much more than a few affirming words, more than a special Sunday once a year; it’s a timeless intergenerational heart connection-linking the older and younger generations. It’s an older person who is willing to look at pictures, listen to stories, tell some stories, and help the younger generation see a future of faith. It’s a younger person who is willing to get to know older people, tell some stories, listen to stories, and discover the interesting world that used to be. It’s meandering conversation at potlucks; it’s working on tasks together, it’s small groups composed of all generations. With the church blessing we are empowered to spend our lives fulfilling our purpose instead of looking for it. Without it, all we have is a collection of wonderful tools, but no reason to use them.

You can do it?
Parents are blessing givers and they will continue to be for life. But, as we grow into adults, we need other adults who know us and see the “blest” in us. When I was in college, Al Ware gave me a church blessing. He prayed for me. He saw good in me and my future, and he told me about it. I discovered my manhood in our talks. I discovered my hopes and dreams because he took time to listen. I learned integrity while living at his house, I took responsibility for my own faults and failures because he expected me to. And, I saw a new vision for my life because he saw it first. He gave me his spirit. He wasn’t trained to be a blessing giver, he just loved me and share his life with me. That’s not hard, is it?

    You can do that. You must! Start with a group of people—all ages who you can get with on a regular basis. Then begin telling your stories. Take your time. Let young ones ask questions. We really do need each other. That’s family—that’s church.

Before you take action
The future of church and family depends on the revival of an intergenerational spirit in our congregations. And our foundation of this revival is prayer. Pray for a church that blesses all ages. Pray for young and old alike. Pray by name. Send a note to those you are praying for.


HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-98, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
Article copyright © 1998, Ron Rose. Used by permission.
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