Bridging the Generational Gap

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“Nisey, what’s an ‘app’?” my 84-year-old grandmother innocently asked me.  I explained to her that an app is short for “application,” which is a kind of mini computer program on smartphones.  I pulled my phone out, showed her how an app works, and invited her to try.  “Oh wow!” she remarked with a smile.  “Wait ‘til I tell my friends I worked an iPhone!”

There are not many people who can say that their grandmother can play Internet games, chat with you on Skype, and like your Facebook post.  But I can!  I love my grandma’s positive attitude, curiosity, and eagerness to stay up-to-date with the latest technology.  She stands out among her peers, because she is not afraid to bridge the generational gap.

Unfortunately, in our society and in our churches, the old and the young mix like oil and water. 

Each side looks to the other as distant, obscure, and un-relatable.  Walk into any church, and it is obvious that there is age-induced segregation. 

My pastor recently told me that he read an article that the younger generation of churchgoers, of which I am a part, is pushing out the older generation.  They regard the seasoned Christians as obsolete and hold no reverence toward their traditions.  Young people, in general, believe in louder music, a softer Gospel, and a theology that borders on universalism.

While that may be true, on the other hand, the older generation seems to be intimated or disinterested in the thoughts, ideas, and lives of the younger.  They often grip their traditions with white knuckles and have a difficult time adapting to things new or fresh that the 21st century brings.  To the teens and twenty-somethings, older adults are often unapproachable, dogmatic, and stern.

Churches are focusing on either young people or older people, and few are successfully integrating the two age groups.

So what do we do?

Like any healthy relationship, connection calls for compromise and communication with the right attitude.  In his book, Winning with People, John Maxwell says, “The truth is that all of us…can learn things in unlikely places – and from unlikely people.  Everybody has something to share, something to teach us.  But that’s true only if we have the right attitude.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

To my fellow young people, I must be stern.  We are not always right.  We are not entitled to have whatever we want whenever we want.  We must honor and respect our parents, grandparents, and those in authority over us.  This is biblical (see Exodus 20:12, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Hebrews 13:17)!  Instead of immediately dismissing the opinions, beliefs, and traditions that “have always been around,” we need to dig deeper to understand the story behind them.  Adopt an attitude of learning.  Inherent with age is wisdom, and we have much to learn from those who wear silver crowns of splendor (Proverbs 4:1-9, 16:31).

To learn and grow from those who have gone before us, we can:

  • Inquire about stories of how those older than us came to know the Lord.
  • Request an invitation to their house for dinner. 
  • Ask them to teach us how to knit, cook, golf, sew, or any other skill. 

Be eager to seek wisdom. 

To the older generation, I would humbly request that you listen to your children and grandchildren.  While our ways may be difficult to understand, young people are longing to be understood.  Take time to ask us about our plans, dreams, ideas, struggles, and hopes.  Even though it may not seem so, we young people do want to listen to and learn from your successes and failures.  Make yourself available and approachable. 

As the older generation reaching out to the younger, you can:

  • Ask how you can pray for us and share ways we can pray for you. 
  • Value us as people and our opinions as valid.  Just as we have something to learn from you, you have something to learn from us. 
  • Be the “old dog” that learns new tricks. 
  • Ask us to teach you about apps, tablets, tweets, and blogs.  

Don’t lose the curiosity of your youth and dare to dream with us!

There are handfuls in each camp that do successfully bridge the gap.  My iPhone-wielding, computer-game playing, Skype-chatting, and Facebook-status-liking grandmother is proof that it can be done. I have purposed to get together with two of the older women in my church. One is an amazing chef, and I want to learn how she cooks! The other is a floral designer and interior decorator. She has experience sewing, as well, which has always been something I've wanted to learn. They both offered to teach me their crafts, but I had to be the one to initiate.

So let us adopt the attitude that we can learn from one another.  Let’s stop the pattern of division that is developing and enter into true relationship.  Let us bridge the generational gap! 

Together, we can revere the past and develop creative ways to bring new life into our relationships for the future.

Comments welcome here.

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A native of New Jersey, Denise Trio is a full-time worship leader, mentor, designer, and blogger based out of Fort Lauderdale, FL. She wants to use her voice to inspire others to seek healing and pursue restoration of broken relationships. Follow on her blog Blond Moment of the Day or on Twitter.  

photo credit: Simon Blackley via photopincc

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

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