By Asst Ps Patrick Chan Yin
As we just had Youth Weekend a few weekends ago, I thought of sharing with you some ways we could bridge the generational gap between the young and old in our community of faith, without ending in frustration and conflict.
Deal with your prejudices. In today’s context, we are super sensitive about confronting racism and sexism. Yet somehow, we still think it is alright to judge others because of age. When Jesus commanded us to "love one another" (John 13:34b), He did not mean you should love only the people who are in the same age demographic as you. It would be good for Facebook users, Instagram users and now, TikTok users to get together instead of avoiding each other. He wants us to spend time with one another and get to know and understand each other.
Stop writing people off. The New Testament also calls us to "accept one another" (Rom. 15:7a) – which means that we are called to be tolerant and patient towards those who are not like us. That means older Christians should not be offended by technology or the clothing styles of Millennials and Gen Zers. It also means younger people should try to learn something from an older person's "old-fashioned" attitudes instead of just rolling their eyes at them.
There is a place for us to learn to interact with people of other age groups and try to be more empathetic towards each other. By imagining ourselves in each other’s shoes, we would be able to think about how other people react and gain a greater understanding of other people's actions.
Learn to show honor. I recently spent a lot of time talking to my mum and older aunties and uncles due to the pandemic and they have taught me a lot about resilience. They shared with me what they went through in their younger days, when times were much more difficult and challenging and how to be resilient despite the circumstances. They have also showed me how to be compassionate. Their bodies and minds are worn out, but they are still precious in God’s sight. We should honour the older generation, knowing that one day we will also be in their situation.
Do not get stuck in your "era." I sometimes do not understand why some people insist on "my way or the highway" when it comes to certain church styles. Yes, God does not change but we need to recognize that the styles of worship and the way we do church do change with time. If we want our church to reach to the younger people, and not just the older generation, we need to learn to be flexible and be willing to adapt and change. Yes, it does require much more effort and brain cells (as you need to learn new things and technology) but it is all worth it at the end of the day.
Encourage mentoring and be open to “reverse mentoring.” I spend most of my time shepherding and discipling young people and even though I am old enough to be their dad (to some), there are always opportunities for us to learn from each other’s experiences and stretch each other to achieve what God has called us to do. There are times I encourage them to achieve far more than I ever did because they are much more gifted and talented and have the capacity and energy to achieve great things for God. There are also times, where they would teach me about new technology, introduced me to new music and books, helped me adjust my attitudes and even challenged my physical fitness. I am better today because of the input I receive from younger people.
Embrace God's generational mindset. God is ageless, and He is not locked into one generation's viewpoint. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He transcends time. He wants one generation to declare His praises to the next. He wants the mantle that rested on Elijah to be transferred to Elisha. Why is this concept so difficult for us to embrace?
When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, Peter declared: "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams (Acts 2:17). The Holy Spirit wants to move across generations. He wants to speak through the young and the old. He wants to connect us, blend us and use us together as one united body of Christ. Let us be humble and learn and accept each other, with the help of the Holy Spirit!