This is our third blog in the series looking at the important role of the most senior members of the church. In the first blog, championing the oldest church, we looked at some core principles of the oldest generation.
In the second blog we looked at this from the perspective of grandparents. In this blog we are going to look at it from the perspective of the church.
God is a God of generations and every generation has an important part to play within the church community. What can we, as leaders, do to intentionally connect the generations and help each generation find their place in the community?
1. Celebrate the ages
Give space for each generation to celebrate. When it comes to the older generations make a special note of anniversaries that you can celebrate which will encourage and bless the rest of the congregation too.
For example: i) The birthday of the oldest member of the congregation. ii) Longest wedding anniversaries. iii) Longest serving volunteer. iv) Following Christ for the most years.
Each of these celebrations not only honours the elders for their stand but also encourages younger generations to aspire to live active lives for the Lord and maintain their marriages.
Break out the cake, sign a huge card and celebrate with them.
You can also call on people to share testimonies on significant dates. For example, on the anniversary of the second world war ending ask someone to share a story of how God was faithful to them during the time of rationing. Though these may not be the challenges of today, they encourage us that whatever challenges the future may hold, Jesus will carry us through, even if they seem like something that no one has ever had to face before.
2. Intentionally mix the generations
Many of the oldest age do not want to work weekly in the children’s ministry, their physical health and the energy required as well as the noise in the room is not easy for them to manage. But this does not mean that they should never see the children!
Introduce a segment into the kids church called grill a grandparent and invite someone to share their testimony and stories of God’s faithfulness in their life. Connect older family members, who may live apart from their biological families, with a family in the church. Adopt-a-grandparent scheme. This can be a win-win for every generation when it works.
Develop mentorship programmes where the older can train the younger and pour their lives into those in the generation or generations below them. This may be as simple as allowing children to serve the refreshments alongside adults, where they get to become part of the team or it may be a more formal programme that you establish. When this becomes the culture of the church it is not long before even the teenagers are pouring themselves into the children of the church.
3. Teach the value of each generation
Take time to teach from God’s word the value of each generation, the role of each generation and how the generations should interact with each other.
You may want to bestow on the older generation the mantle of encouragement. That they become the greatest cheerleaders of the church. Challenge them to find one person to encourage each week they meet with the community. For many people they will do this naturally, but when you teach it, model it and make space for it, it honours and elevates this role as something of great importance, which of course it is. We are told to encourage one another and all the more as we see the Day of the Lord approaching.
It is impossible for the pastor of a church to look out for and notice every member of the congregation every week, but if every member of the congregation understands that their role is to look out for each other then the kingdom of God will be built.
As we model something in our church communities this will overflow into the life of individual families. This kind of cross generational love will be part of what makes us stand out as a community in the world: by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.