No matter where you are today, I bet that just like me, you are bothered by the division and the disconnection in our world today. We see brother against brother, nation against nation, and this side against that side. As followers of Christ, we believe God has placed us here at this place, at this historic moment, to be a voice of unity, to be a source of peace, and to be a force for connection.
The most important connection you can make is a connection between you and God. And then, once you make that connection, you can connect with others around you. This includes unity between younger and older people to walk hand in hand. That’s a hard connection to make because of a condition called “The Generation Gap.” Every generation blames the one before, at least that’s what one song says. We point the finger at each other.
I was talking to my grandmother this week and she said, “When you were born, there were five living generations: you, your mom, your grandparents, and their grands, and their grandparents.” That’s pretty crazy that there were that many generations alive at one time. That’s a lot.
Looking back at the life expectancy over the past 100 years reveals something mindblowing. Back in 1918, the average life expectancy of a man was 36 years, and of a woman was 42 years old. That is a short life. Today, our average life expectancy is 78 years old. Interesting that David writes in the Psalms:
Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10
Life is short, and it’s too short to be divided with each other. Since we have a longer lifespan, we have more people in our churches from different generations.
If you go back 80 years ago, you’ve got the tail end of the Silent Generation. Then in 1946, along came the Boomers. They were part of the Baby Boom that happened after the Great Depression. Then in 1965, along came Generation Xers.1980 was the start of the Millenials. Then the iGen started in 1995, and starting in 2013, you’ve got Gen Alpha.
Now just to simplify all this:
A boomer is anyone older than you that you don’t like and a millenial is anyone younger than you that you don’t like.
It’s easy to criticize the younger generation, but then you have to ask yourself, “Who raised that younger generation?”
But what’s beautiful in the New Testament is that God is all about breaking down all the barriers that exist between people. At the birth of the church in Acts chapter 2, Peter is preaching this powerful message and as he is quoting the Old Testament prophet Joel, here’s what he says:
‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy. Acts 2:17-18
God’s Spirit is expanding the world and starting a New Normal. His Spirit was filling old people and young people. They were both elevated by God’s Spirit and the walls were coming down between men and women.
How can you get old people and young people in the same place at the same time to worship? Some people say the worship music is too new or too old. It’s too loud or it’s too soft. It’s too this or too that. We all have our own favorite style and we assume that whatever we like is also what God likes best. But, God looks at the heart, not at the style. When it comes to our personal preferences, instead of fighting with each other, we should give the Church back to Jesus.
Worship isn’t about you or me. Worship is about God. “Worship” means—worth-ship. We worship God because He’s worth it. Ultimately, worship is about God and what he wants to teach us or do through us each time we come together.
So, instead of worrying about whether you “like” a particular song, try to focus on what it’s saying about God, or what God might be saying to you through it. If a song isn’t working for you, maybe it wasn’t for you. Maybe it was for someone else who needed it, or maybe it was just for God. God is looking at our hearts to see if our worship is honest and true. It doesn’t really matter so much if we like a certain song or style.
What are people looking for in church? Studies show that young people aren’t looking for flashiness, they’re looking for realness. They’re asking, “Do we really love each other? Do we really worship God? Do we really want to know Jesus and follow Him every day?” The style of the worship music isn’t nearly as important as the fact that the people are really wanting to be more like Jesus. It’s not about how cool the leaders are. It’s about staying humble, and honest, and loving each other. People, especially young people, have great detectors of honesty. They want to see the real thing.
For the church to stay effective at reaching people, we have to learn what it means to be forever young by always reaching the next generation for Jesus.
So, let’s look at three truths about what we need to strengthen a multi-generational church. The first one is:
Adults need Kids.
When you walk up to some parents with their kids, how often do we just talk with the parents and totally ignore the kids? How often do we get down on their level and acknowledge their presence? Many times, we either ignore them, or worse, we reject or rebuke them.
That’s what happened with Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 19. Parents were bringing their kids to Jesus so He could bless them. The disciples thought they were doing the right thing by trying to keep the “germy rugrats” away from Jesus. But, Jesus said:
Then people brought little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:13-14
I love that Jesus said, “Let them come,” as in, “don’t stop them.” Kids are naturally drawn to Jesus. They want to be with Him. But well-meaning adults can stop them. When my dad was just a boy, he tried to walk forward at the altar call at his church to pray to receive Jesus. The pastor sent him away and said he wasn’t ready to make that decision. For the rest of his life, my dad never wanted to make that decision again. His heart became bitter about that moment.
We should never dismiss or hold a child back from coming to Jesus. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
When God wants to do something important, He uses a child.
If you look back in the Old Testament at the story of Samuel and Eli in 1 Samuel 3, you’ll see that God wanted to give an important message to Eli, but he sent that message through a young boy named Samuel.
As a parent, I have learned so much about who God is through my children. So adults need to remember that we need kids, maybe more than they need us.
Kids need Adults.
The Christian Church is always only one generation away from extinction.
We know that’s not going to happen, because God’s church is going to stand no matter what happens. But at the same time, we have the responsibility to pass on our faith and the truth of Jesus to our kids.
We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Psalm 78:4-7
From the time of Jesus to the time of Jesus’ return, we have a responsibility to pass on our faith from one generation to the next. This is the main responsibility of parents. The church is available to partner with parents and provide resources, but ultimately, and especially now, parents have this responsibility.
Many parents ask, when should we start teaching our kids about Jesus? How young is too young?
If you look back at what happened with Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist in Luke 1:41, it says,
At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:41
John jumped in his mother’s womb when he was in the presence of Jesus. Even in-utero, babies can sense the presence of Jesus. Expectant moms can place their hands on their tummies and pray for their baby and pray life over them. And, when they’re born, they can start reading Bible stories to them and living out a real faith in front of them.
“Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.” -Jesuit maxim, widely attributed to Ignatius Loyola
You don’t wait until they’re older. There’s something called the 4-14 Window where studies have shown that kids are more open to the message of Jesus between the ages of 4 and 14 years old than any other age. That is a mission field that we can’t forget about.
Chances are good that if you’re a Christian, you would say you received Jesus as a child. It’s such an important time before our hearts start getting harder.
Think about this, the Christian church is not growing as fast as we are having children. In other words, we are not even leading our own children to faith in Christ. That should never be! It starts with us.
When we lose one child to the faith, that leads to future family without faith, and not many generations later a whole community of unbelief is set in motion because of losing just one child. Why are we having such trouble? Maybe it’s because our kids know whether or not we’re serious about our own walk with Jesus. I challenge you to be a living example of what it means to follow Jesus for your family.
A pastor was asked how many baptisms he had? He said, “I baptized 2 and a half people.” They said, “You mean you baptized two adults and one child?” He said, “No, I baptized 2 kids and 1 adult.” The kids had their whole lives ahead of them to live for Jesus, and the adult had already lived half of their life.
That’s why kids ministry is so vital in the church. At The Connection Church, KonnectionKidz isn’t babysitting. It’s not just there to support the other ministries. KonnectionKidz is about growing godly leaders to worship, reach, grow, learn, give, and live for Jesus!
Nearly half of teenagers today say they have no positive role models in their lives. It’s so sad, but we can do something about that. There is a place for you to serve and come alongside our kids and student ministries to pour into future generations.
Young adults and older adults need each other.
Millennials need boomers need each other and vice versa.
Younger adults keep us young and vital. They also need wisdom because they haven’t experienced all that older people have experienced. The world did not start spinning on the day you were born. You can learn important lessons from people who are older and, I dare say, wiser than you.
Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. Proverbs 13:20
Who you associate with will determine your future. So it’s important that you find some caring, older adults who love Jesus and ask questions, and listen.
Older adults need young people in their livese to stay young. Young adults give us life, so that you don’t stop living, so you keep taking risks and staying passionate. Concrete gets hard over time. That’s what will happen to us if we don’t intentionally surround ourselves with some younger people. We need younger adults to show us how to use our phones and important things like that. We need younger people in the church to help us see with young eyes.
You can grow older without growing old. We need to keep growing young. Our culture can be so youth focused that you may wonder if you are too old or if God can still use you to make a difference. Never forget:
If you still have a pulse, God still has a purpose for your life!
You still have so much to give. You don’t retire from serving God!
Jesus said it’s important that we stay young and keep a childlike faith. That’s how He wants us to come to him.
Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:2-4
Why does Jesus say we need to have the faith of a child? Well, a childlike faith totally trusts in their Father. Childlike faith is simple, it’s not complicated. Childlike faith is dependent on God and not on ourselves.
I came to faith in Christ as a child. I was only 7 years old. At that time, I didn’t understand everything. But I know that God got a hold of my heart and my life and He held onto me through it all until I grew to understand better.
You may be in a time and place where you don’t understand everything about the Bible or about Jesus. That’s okay. Neither does a child. Jesus wants you to come to Him with simple faith. You can trust in Him today.