As humans, we tend to prefer the familiar. We want to eat our favorite foods, listen to our favorite music, and wear our favorite clothes. We often treat our relationships the same way. We spend the most time with the people we feel best understand us, whether it’s because we share similar interests or because we’re at the same place in life.
God never meant for us to all be alike, especially within the church. In 1 Corinthians 12, the church is compared to the body of Christ. We shouldn’t all try to be the same body part, like the hands or the eyes. Every person has a place, no matter what their gifts—or their age. When you think about church, don’t forget about the believers who are older or younger than you. God’s plan for His people involves multiple generations working together, and the Bible gives us several good reasons to build intergenerational relationships.
Intergenerational relationships help us remember God’s faithfulness
Psalm 145:4—One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.
God’s work in His people’s lives is not limited to any particular generation. He is honored and glorified when we share stories of what He has done so that none of it goes forgotten. Older generations can pass down stories of grace and hymns of worship that are worth preserving. Younger generations can encourage their elders with accounts of how God is still working. The story of how God continues to work in His people is a great one. Listen. Share. Worship.
Intergenerational relationships allow younger believers to be an example to older ones
1 Timothy 4:12—Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
Paul encouraged Timothy to set an example for believers of all ages even though he was still a young man. If you’re a youth, remind those around you of what it looks like to speak and act with eager service and love. If another generation looks at your life, will they be reminded of what pure, childlike faith is like? Act in a way that honors God and reminds others to do the same.
Intergenerational relationships allow older believers to teach younger ones
Titus 2:1-6—But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
If you’ve been walking with God for some time, you have a valuable perspective to bring to the younger believers: one of dignity and reverence. Show them what you’ve learned about self-control and help them put their actions and relationships in a healthy context. Let them know they’re not the first to walk this road.
Intergenerational relationships allow God’s people to function as a family
1 Timothy 5:1-2—Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
In Christ, we are all part of the same family. Why not act like it? God wants us to love and encourage each other as a family, treating older believers as honored parents and younger believers as cherished siblings. We can only do this when we’re intentionally in relationship with each other.
Intergenerational relationships help each of us serve where others can’t
1 Corinthians 12:17-19—If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
God doesn’t want us to hole up with people who are exactly like us. Just like a physical body isn’t effective without many different parts, the Church won’t be effective unless we are willing to work together. How can we use our different strengths and experiences to serve God and each other? The Body is healthiest when old and young take the time to answer that question and live it out.
Relationship in action
When I first started attending First Free, my sister invited me to join her in the Koinonia mini-Congregation during adult class time. Koinonia is a multi-generational class, and they welcomed me with open arms from day one. Most of the class is old enough to be grandparents to me, but I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong. I appreciate the wisdom of those who have spent more years figuring life out, and my classmates appreciate the new perspective and energy that I bring, even when I’m feeling tired and insignificant.
When I was dealing with driving anxiety after two car accidents, they prayed for me, helped me look for cars and told me their own stories of making it through similar experiences. When they figured out that I had quick, neat handwriting, they recruited me to write down the weekly prayer requests. It feels like such a small thing, but I’m thankful to have found something to give back.
My peers sometimes give me amused looks when I tell them how much I love my class, but I don’t mind—I value the benefits of worshipping with other generations, and I’m thankful for a church that gives me that opportunity. If you have a similar opportunity, don’t pass it up—people who are older or younger than you are still people, and chances are good that they’d love to share the journey with you. We’re all working toward the same goals, so why not learn from each other?
About the author
Elizabeth Buege graduated from the University of Northwestern—St. Paul with a B.A. in English Writing. She works as a freelance book editor, offering writing and editing tips alongside her services at www.elizabethbuege.com. She also teaches weekly writing classes as the secondary writing tutor for the ESCHEL homeschool co-op in Oakdale, MN.
When Elizabeth isn’t working, you can probably find her reading or writing for fun. She also loves gardening, cooking, exploring parks, and hanging out with big dogs and small children. She attends First Free in Maplewood and is thankful to have found such strong fellowship so close to home.