Bringing the Age Groups Together

February 3rd, 2013

Not long ago I stood with my feet in the clear water of the Caribbean. It was a quiet morning as I lingered and listened to the natural rhythm of the waves that was interrupted only by an occasional boat passing in the distance.

From the corner of my eye, I could see a silver-haired couple wearing tropical cover-ups and hats. I noticed that they walked unevenly, most likely due to arthritic knees, I thought. The older man put his arm under the crook of the woman’s elbow and steadied her as they slowly strolled along the beach. At times, they paused to let the foam curl around their bare feet.

Though I couldn’t hear the conversation, I saw them stop to speak to a young couple as they passed by. The twenty-somethings had fit, tanned bodies and teeny swimsuits. They smiled as they greeted the older couple, then turned back to the water and jumped the turquoise waves. I imagined that they were honeymooners beginning a new journey in life. Not far away, a middle-aged grandmother reached down to brush the sand from her granddaughter’s legs while the grandfather slathered sunscreen on the arms of a toddler.

I reflected on the scene for a while. It was a snapshot of what I wish the church to be. What we are called to be. A place where people of all ages come together and plunge into the life-giving water.
With that image planted firmly in my mind, I watched people of all ages interact at the water’s edge over the next few days. There was an older man leaning on a cane who found joy in watching a preschooler hunt for seashells. A balding father who gently encouraged a self-conscious teenager to give sea kayaking a try. A young family who grabbed hands as they waded into the shallow water to snorkel.

I noticed how the some folks actively pursued water sports while others preferred to walk quietly on the beach. They had come from different backgrounds and had had different life experiences. Some were just beginning the journey of life. Others were nearing the end. But they had all come to the seashore to be refreshed and renewed.

I couldn’t help but think about the things that seem to cause a division between age groups in church. Things like upbringings and traditions. Theological understandings and social issues. Politics and perspectives on history.

Let’s face it. The church has also unintentionally promoted divisions between generations by overemphasizing age-related ministries. In trying to meet the specific needs of children, youth, adults and senior adults, we have created an aura of exclusivity among age groups. Unless we are intentional about efforts to bring the age groups together in ministry, the church will never be truly healthy.

Oh, how I wish that every church was a place where generations would stop and listen to each other and care for one another. It is my prayer that we all gather at the seashore and together stand in awe of the Creator.

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