This is our second guest post, from a good friend and fellow millennial blogger, Andrew Miller. Check out his blog!
“My church is old.”
“Our church is catering to the young people too much.”
“That church is kinda dead.”
“They just don’t understand me.”
These are statements I’m sure we’ve all heard. Coming from a church where 50+ year olds make up a majority of the membership and teens and young adults coming and going throughout the years, I have seen firsthand the detrimental effects of the generational gaps.
Now, when I say “gap,” I don’t mean that in a bad way. There will always be gaps in knowledge and experience among and between generations and we can’t help that. What we CAN do is attempt to bridge the generational gaps to have mutually beneficial relationships with one another.
“Easier said than done,” you might say.
I agree. It’s very difficult to understand the mindsets of others when someone is anywhere from 20-40 years younger or older than you. But it is incredibly important to do so.
Why does this intergenerational cooperation within the church matter? Aside from the apostle Paul’s commands for unity and like-mindedness in the church in almost every letter he wrote, there is another pressing problem – the departure of millennials from the faith.
We are facing a time of mass exodus by many young Christians from the church after they graduate from high school. Which then causes even more gaps in years between each generation in church (and the vicious cycle continues).
But what is the reason behind this millennial withdrawal? And whose fault is it?
I believe the problem – and the solution – lies with both parties.
The Problem: Millennials
We all know the stereotypes here. The older generations are “always” complaining about this group – and sometimes rightly so! We can often be lazy, irresponsible, unmotivated, and selfish. We don’t understand the value of real relationships because our faces are buried in fake virtual worlds we create for ourselves.
And furthermore, when the older adults try to give us millennials advice or correct our ways, we feel belittled and often become disrespectful toward those who have greater wisdom.
While this is (unfortunately) often true, the problem doesn’t end with the millennials.
The Problem: Older Generations
We millennials stereotype the older generations as old and outdated.
They don’t attempt to try to get to know us and only berate us with constant nagging about legalistic matters that we tend to deem completely irrational.
Overall, older generations don’t respect millennials because millennials seem immature, inexperienced, and disrespectful, and millennials don’t respect the older generations because they seem legalistic, unsympathetic, and not in tune to the personal problems millennials are facing.
You can see how this can cause divisiveness within churches. This can also explain the lack of diversity you see in the many different “flavors” of church.
But how do we address this problem?
I think back to my freshman year many moons ago – er, just last year. I was a young, wide-eyed lad with great ambitions. But I was soon overcome and overwhelmed by the burdens and attacks of life. Then an older student came along and “rescued” me by whisking me away to the nearest Starbucks once every week. Through every encouraging word and conversation, he helped me by mentoring and advising me through some of the toughest situations of my life.
I think I sometimes learned and grew more through those simple, everyday conversations over a steaming cup of coffee than I did in a week of classes.
Of course coffee is not the TRUE resolution to this intergenerational problem, but it helps contribute to SOLVING the problem. Here’s why.
While sipping your favorite latte, it is much easier and less confrontational to connect through conversation. Discussing topics like politics, relationships, academic problems, church issues, and life hardships is much easier to do when in this relaxed atmosphere.
Simply listening to one another as we talk through life issues does wonders.
Secondly, simply taking the time to get together outside of church (or school) will help nurture a closer relationship. Even if it’s only 20-30 minutes, you’d be surprised how much in-depth conversation you can have in such a short time – with just a little bit of mocha!
Finally, this time can give you the chance to get an outside opinion from someone who may have gone through your situation. It gives you a different perspective on what you may not have considered before.
As we ride on the incredible roller coaster called Life, it’s important that we care for one another. As Christians it’s even more important to invest in each other’s lives as a body of like-minded believers, made up of both millennials and older generations.
“So where do I start?”
It’s simple! If you’re a millennial, ask an older adult you respect out for a coffee
If you’re an older adult, seek out a young person to talk with. You may be surprised at how much you’ll challenge and encourage one another. (And if you’re not a coffee drinker, chai tea or green tea are always awesome options!)
Churches grow the most through the one-on-one conversations of fellow believers challenging one another.
Do you want a more effective church? That’s where you start. Conversation over a cup of coffee.
This is why I am a firm believer that spiritually healthy churches are grounded in coffee, conversations, and above all, Christ-like relationships.