Who Must Build the Bridge? The Older or the Younger?

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There is a huge gap in many churches between the youth group and the rest of the church. Some have said most churches have two or three churches meeting under their roof on Sunday, as different demographics and age groups often spend their time and have ministry focused exclusive to their needs.

One of the things that has happened, really on accident and from lack of awareness and intentionality more than anything, is that the youth are expected to build a bridge for themselves into the congregation. We build a little island for them off the mainland where they can be with people their age and when it comes time to graduate, if we are generous, we hand them the nails and boards and expect them to build a bridge back to us. There is often little intergenerational connection made before they graduate so that their transition to “big church” goes more smoothly. Instead, we just expect them to make the leap with little to no assistance from those they are merging into.

I suggest that we begin to consider how the older generation can intentionally reach out to those younger than themselves before crucial transition periods. I believe this is the responsibility of the older to the younger, not the other way around and that too often we have gotten this backwards just expecting them to jump right in. Ministry should be done (seniors, youth, etc) with these connection points in mind, planning some events purposefully as intergenerational events. That is a start.

Part of our issue is that the older generations often don’t think the younger want to connect. I don’t believe that is the case. I think they want to I just don’t think they know how and often can’t make the uncomfortable leap intentionally connecting with people 20-50 years older than themselves. But the older generations are capable. They just need to be encouraged to try. Ministries need to cross-pollinate the generations in their activities, fellowship and mission.

If anyone is going to build the bridge it is the person who has the nails and the boards and that is the older generations not the younger. Ideally, though the older would hand some material to the younger and work on it from both ends to meet in the middle. That is what intergenerational ministry does. Let us encourage each other and by each other I don’t just mean people of the same age in the same stage…I mean everyone else in the church regardless of age, race, etc. The burden is on the mature. To miss this one is to miss a generation. We see it happening already and it won’t get better unless we change the way we see each other and the way we see our ministries.

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