I recently talked with an older man at my church and we shared some of the challenges we were facing in our different seasons of life: me with my 3 kids and my job, and him with some career decisions he is facing. I confessed some of my stoical tendencies with regard to my family, my tendencies to “suffer through the difficulties” and just get through it, and he gave me a perspective I am very much thankful for.
He told me that his now grown children are not walking with the Lord and he regrets not spending more time investing in his kids when they were young. He said the time goes by so fast and that he wishes he could go back and do things differently. The child rearing season is such a short moment and before you know it, it’s gone and there’s no getting it back. Implicit in his self-reflection I sensed a challenge to me: “Don’t squander this precious moment, Daniel!
To me, a young dad in the thick of things, this is exactly the perspective I needed to hear. My friend could not go back and change the past, but I in a sense have an opportunity to do exactly that. I am right now in the short window he spoke of. I still have time to make an impact: to implement a deeper spiritual focus in my home, to be intentionally present with them, and enjoy the totality of this season--because as he said, it goes by so quickly.
I reflected on the value of this conversation we had and how essential my local church is to facilitate these kinds of relationships. I needed someone outside my season of life to bring the perspective someone else in a similar season could not bring. I needed someone older, someone who has walked where I now walk to help me in my current station.
The Need for Intergenerational Church
I have come to think it largely a net loss that we segregate ministries based on age, and I am not referring to children’s ministries. For adults it is common to have a college and career group or a singles ministry or a seniors Bible study. Certainly, there is value in likeminded people in similar situations encouraging one another along. The potential comradery is undoubtedly high when I meet with another dad who is going through the same things as me. But on the other side we far too often miss the invaluable outside perspectives, like what my older friend told me. There are life lessons and failures and successes to take notes on; years of knowledge and experience waiting to be mined; and generational emphases and blind spots which each party can speak to in a give and take manner.
Neglecting this places us in a position to be unprepared for the seasons to come: the parenting teenagers, the empty nesting, the preparing for retirement, the old age, and even dealing with grief and death. By not giving ourselves an opportunity to hear those struggles now, we likely will not ready for them when they come for us. I am not sure it is a good trade.
Perhaps some balance is in order, but I am thankful for my church and the inter-generational friendships I have been able to cultivate. It may not be as easy to develop as it is with someone who is the same age, but I doubt that makes it any less valuable.
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25