The average age of church members is getting older (1) by seven years than society in general, and we currently live in a time of segregation where we are divided into bubbles of different age groups. A recent article talks about one church’s revitalization plan that would eventually exclude the older generations. (2) But as faithful followers and stewards of Jesus, we are certain that all age groups can serve one another intergenerationally and thrive together.
Today in our churches there is a tendency to focus more on the younger generations to prevent decline in attendance. The older generation seems to be left out of the equation of church growth. In his book, (3) Marc Freedman emphasizes the importance of engaging the older generation with the younger generation because there is so much wisdom that can be passed on to the younger generation through this intergenerational effort. Wisdom passed on to the younger generation and, in return, vitality is found in their mutual relationship. Freedman writes, “The only resource big enough to help solve the problems facing the next generation is the older one” (p. 14). This shows that the older generation can bring life to church, not just the younger generation. Research studies on the Experience Corps (4) and Judson Manor (5) shows that the older generation can provide mentorship and life experience. Freedman also writes, “Engagement with others that flows down the generational chain will make you healthier, happier, and likely longer-lived. It’s the real fountain of youth” (p. 123).
Moses was 80 years old when he began his ministry. He not only led a whole nation in the journey to the Promised Land, but he also nurtured Joshua to become the next leader. Joshua without Moses, Samuel without Eli, and Elisha without Elijah is hard to imagine.
The prophet writes, Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets ( Zechariah 8:4-5, NKJV).
In recent decades, the society turned into nuclear families. As a result, David Brooks writes in his article (6) that “Americans today have less family than ever before.” This brought dis-integration from each other but, due to the financial crisis in 2008, more than 20 percent of Americans now live in multigenerational homes. This would be a good opportunity to embrace the different generations.
By merging the generations together in functional spiritual development, we gain not only the wisdom of experience from the older generation, but the energy of the youth, a new vitality infusing our Christian witness to our communities and energizing the congregation.
Myoung Kwon pastors in Wisconsin Conference’s Waukesha District. He’s currently in the D. Min Intergenerational Church cohort at the Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.