The conventional wisdom of the “Church Growth Era” was that people wanted to connect with people like them. These were called homogeneous units and the concept was called the homogeneous principle. But in my work with churches seeking effective ministry in the 21st century, I am finding something else. Younger people are often seeking churches where there is a sizable presence of persons of older generations. They are looking for diversity of generations in the churches to which they connect.
Why is this the case? Mine is not quantitative research, it is anecdotal; but here is what I have been hearing.
1. THEY ARE LOOKING FOR MENTORS AND MODELS. Increasingly I am finding younger adults who have not embraced an arrogance of youth. They know that they have much to learn about life. Older people can teach them very little about technology or cultural engagement, but older people have lived life through some of the most changing of times, sustained by spiritual wisdom that young people are seeking.
2. THEY WANT THEIR CHILDREN TO HAVE INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS. In an age where the extended family may extend across the planet, there is often little daily contact with Grandmas and Grandpas, etc. Being a part of a church where the older people take an almost adoptive attitude towards their children is a welcome resource for the health of their families.
3. THEY RESPECT THE PRAYER WARRIORS THAT OFTEN INHABIT OLDER GENERATIONS. They want such persons “in their corner.”
These may seem self-serving motives to some, but they represent points of contact and relationship that can develop into redemptive relationships that benefit not only these generations, but all generations within the church.
Are the older generations in your church open to creating those relationships, taking the sensitive initiative to provide such ministries to emerging generations?