We Must Be A Church For All Generations
Three years ago I was asked to lead my home church where I grew up. I was a 24 year old stepping into a senior role at a 30 year old church. My parents started the church when they were young and just had their first kid, my older brother Jason. I won’t lie, it was a little odd. Some of the elders had changed my diaper. But I realized something while I pastored there: older generations are not as resistant to change as some would have you think.
Over the next two years I worked with the elders and pastors to systematically change one thing after another. Office systems, Sunday service, procedures, organizational structure, the list goes on.
People kept asking me how it was going with a smirk on their face. They all heard the stories: “Better to start over than try to change old habits,” or, “Older leaders are going to buck against everything you try to change.” Everyone was surprised by my report… the church loved the changes. Old or young. New or seasoned. People not only wanted change, they welcomed it.
My entire understanding of how to become a multi-generational church was shattered. A new concept began to emerge. Adults do actually want their church to stay relevant, and young people needed them to speak into their lives.
DON’T CALL ME OLD
Emotionally healthy adults don’t want to be stuck in the past. That was a huge shocker for me. Everyone I talked to told me about all the resistance I would have when I began to update the church’s methods. The resistance never came. In fact, the seasoned leaders were my biggest cheerleaders.
As long as I didn’t call them old, that is. That’s when the gloves came off.
Truth is, they weren’t old. Old is in the past. Old is yesterday. Old is spoiled. Old isn’t new, fun, or ready. Old has nothing to do with age. I’ve met old people in their 20s that are stuck in the 90s. I’ve met young 80 year olds who have more energy than me.
So if your definition of a multi-generational church is having ‘old people’ like mine used to be, then no, we won’t be multi-generational by your standards. But if it means we will have people who have been through life, tested by the fire, and came out alive on the other side, then yes, we will be a church of all generations.
People inherently know you need to look to the future to survive. That means a church like ours that will intentionally reach young people will not be a turnoff to generations that have come before us. It will be the exact opposite. They will appreciate a place they can call home where their stories can find meaning in the life of another. Someone who hasn’t quite figured out how to navigate the difficulties of the world yet.
PLEASE BE MY FRIEND
Millennials are hungry for people who will love them and guide them through a world that can be cruel when walked alone.
A church that only has young people is destined for disaster. Go read the book of Proverbs. It’s littered with warning to the young who don’t heed the council of the wise. Yes, we will reach millennials, but we need mothers and fathers who will teach them how to raise a family, keep a job, and stay alive in hard times.
When I think of my own story, I know there is no chance I would be who I am without the adults that gave me their time. My parents, my older brother Kristian, my college staff worker Sophia, and my uncle Lenny are just a few. My life is a story of people who have guided me through failure and joy. Who have kept me humble during my highs and sane during my lows. They know my weaknesses and still love me, and encourage me in my strengths.
I cannot imagine my life without them. It’s scary to do so. God works through relationships where the mature guide the young. So if you’re not a millennial and you are wondering if this church may be for you, stop wondering. There are a sea of young people that need to hear your story. Whether you have committed yourself to Jesus or not, each year that has passed has given you a strength that can be lent to a person in need. And that person just may be sitting right across from you at one of our future dinner tables.