Do you ever feel like talking to a teen is like speaking a different language?
Gen Z has a natural talent for keeping up with trends on Tik Tok, posting the best stories to Instagram and navigating social media. While it’s been no easy task, I’ve managed to learn some of the Gen Z lingo and the “coolest” apps to be on. However, there is still a disconnect between the youth and the other adult members of the church. Many times, I’ve been asked by another adult peer to communicate a message to teenagers because they feel unequipped to do so.
Why is this? What makes communicating with another generation so challenging?
We can ask a similar question about the senior adult population.
Many senior adults have been relegated to the small group for senior citizens with little to no other resources or opportunities for them to be involved in the church community. On Sundays, other congregants exchange brief pleasantries with the seniors and move on to more in-depth conversations with their peers. During Covid especially, the senior adult population suffered. Many could not attend church or life group; others could not see family or friends. Yet, congregation members did not seem to notice that we were missing a whole people group from our Sunday line up.
There is an unnoticed divide in our churches.
As churches have tried to create individual programs for every people group within the church, we have inadvertently siloed the church community – limiting interaction between people groups of varied ages. However, churches have done this with the best intentions; for example, we want young adults to create friendships, we want new mothers to exchange advice and we want men to disciple other men. But, this cannot be our sole focus.
We need to recognize the benefits of a multigenerational church community.
Imagine a Sunday morning filled with conversation, laughter and prayer. Imagine scanning the sea of believers and seeing our most seasoned congregants in conversation with high school students. You then see young singles reviewing the projects completed by one of the elementary age kids. Imagine a ministry with various age groups coming together to serve others in a community.
Jesus calls us to “make disciples of all nations” and to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” He never stipulates only those in certain age groups.
As we seek ways to make our churches more unified, let us first examine what is happening in the pews.
Do certain age groups sit together?
Before and after service, are individuals having purposed relationship-building conversations with people of all ages or are they sticking with their own demographics?
Why do our congregants tend to shy away from those of other age groups?
What can we do to tear down the walls between people of various generations?
How do we serve one another in a way that reflects the vibrant diversity of His Kingdom?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions and the answers may not be apparent right away, but acknowledging the unnoticed divide is the first step to bridging the gap.
So, continue to ask the hard questions. Address issues that isolate groups based on age. Choose to be the Church that God has called us to be.
Rebecca Jackson, Church Planter
Rebecca is a church planter in the South Shore region of Massachusetts. She and her husband launched Earthen Vessels Community Church, a micro-church in Westwood, MA in July 2022. She and her husband also serve on the Converge Northeast District Biblical Diversity Team.