OK, so I borrowed those words from an insightful 29 year old single woman. She was describing the relationship between Elizabeth and Mary in the Bible. This classic biblical life story typically used to encourage mentoring relationships between older and younger women.
But is that even possible today?
It seems in our culture, in the year 2012, there are so many differences between the younger and older generations (between multiple generations all alive at the same time: the Millennials, Busters, Boomers and Builders), how can we possibly relate to one another? This is especially critical, and at times painful, in parent-child relationships. Moms and dads often express this as one of the deepest points of pain in their lives—adult children who seem so disconnected from them.
And certainly the church feels that gap.
It seems churches largely populated with “older” people (I leave the definition of “older” and “younger” to you, the reader), typically provide what they prefer, but are challenged to draw younger people. On the reverse side, churches started and attended mostly by younger people acknowledge their desire for people with experience and life wisdom (“older” people).
So is there a solution? Is it even possible to bridge this gaping disconnect?
This was the topic on Saturday’s Women’s Center for Ministry’s ENGAGE: the call to bridge the generation gap. Phyllis Bennett and our planning team did a fabulous job of addressing this critical concern by specifically choosing to invite women in the Millennial generation to be our key note speakers. Alongside them, two seasoned women who have bridged the gap successfully, Jean Milliken and Deborah Loyd, served on a panel of four to engage dialogue on this topic. What fascinating questions and responses! And the afternoon provided more in depth considerations during lab sessions.
The life story of 29 year old Courtney Veasey, our first main session speaker, includes many “spiritual mothers” who are making a profound impact in her personal journey, including giving needed encouragement to embrace her passion to teach the Scriptures. Courtney is a very engaging woman finishing her Th.M. with plans to go on for a Ph.D. She, like many Millennial’s, has already experienced more than her share of painful life experiences, and is compelled to come alongside women younger than she, to develop relationships. So when the crises in life suddenly invade these younger women, the relationship is already in place.
This was a valuable observation Courtney made in speaking about Elizabeth and Mary. Her careful exegesis revealed a prior relationship that was in place when both unexpected pregnancies occurred. Granted, they were related, but that doesn’t necessarily presume a good relationship. There are no recorded hesitations or resistances when young Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s, during Elizabeth’s intentional seclusion in the later days of her pregnancy. In fact, Mary received quite the welcome. Elizabeth understood for only too long the cultural shame in her day of having no children; Mary was entering the experience of cultural shame for being pregnant and not married. Although the specific experiences of these women were unique to them, there were many facets of life that could be understood and shared. Each brought something to the relationship which enabled them to move forward in the challenging experiences that confronted them.
Bethany Allen, our second main speaker and graduate of Western Seminary, passionately pleaded, “If you remember nothing else from today, you must remember this: WE NEED YOU! My generation desperately needs women older than we are to be our ‘spiritual mothers, to walk alongside us in relationship.” Bethany knows that value of that in her own life. She too is ardent in her own pursuit of relationships with younger women, as well as older women in her life. Her words were potent in motivating us to indeed be intentional about bridging the gap.
Are there understandings that would help bridge the generational gap in our homes and churches?
Courtney’s concise listing is helpful.
Younger understanding older
- Get to know their world – Respect their world
- Reach out to them
- Be willing to learn
- Show commitment and be consistent
- Pray and encourage
- Prepare to “take the baton”
Older understanding younger
- Get into their world (music, movies, games, missions, etc.)
- Show genuine interest
- Take a risk
- Pray and encourage
- Be a good advice giver, but a better LISTENER
- Prepare to “pass the baton”
Bethany gave us some penetrating questions to discuss and pray about.
- What are the barriers that keep us separate?
- How do we teach holy living? To love?
- What can I do on a personal level?
- What can we do on the church level?
- God, what are you already doing?
We need to continue the dialog that followed these sessions. I know the stimulating conversations I had have increased my desire to ENGAGE: to bridge the generational gap in families, churches and our community at large.
What have you found helpful in bridging the generational gap?
You will want to hear the complete talk of these women, plus lab sessions. They could be a great catalyst for strategic discussions and possible implementation. Please contact the Women’s Center for Ministry. CD’s are available through Sounds X Design.