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bridging the church generation gap

Senior High and Senior Citizens: the day we bridged the church generation gap

Traditional service vs. contemporary. Youth group and 65+. The church can segregate itself unintentionally, but with division, the Body suffers.

My arena was youth but the rich heritage of the older generation was often on my mind. Then the Lord gave me an idea to have the youth host a luncheon after church for the senior citizens.

I announced it after Sunday school one morning to our group of about 30 high schoolers. “Who’s in?” I asked. Two hands went up. Later, I cornered a couple of the alphas and they consented to persuade the others.

The day before the luncheon, I had cold feet. It had been tough wrangling commitment from our youth. The retirees had all signed up in droves, well in advance. What if this turned out to be a one-sided disaster?

Praying, I sensed an almost tangible pleasure from the Lord. He said not to worry. He was delighted that His people were coming together this way. “Just like a parent feels when his children are all home together, having fun, this is how I feel,” I sensed Him saying. He gave me a scripture to declare over our time: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”

The next day, I prepared soup and sandwiches in the church kitchen, butterflies in my stomach. Nearly twice as many youth were there than had RSVP’d – practically the entire group. A buzz was in the air.

Amazingly, the food stretched. The numbers were optimal to ensure every youth was seated next to a senior. I opened with a small speech, declaring “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.” We prayed. Everyone lined up to eat.

There was a sweet grace over that time. The atmosphere was relaxed, friendly, joyful. Everyone sat in youth-senior order around the tables. Questionnaires were there for the youth to interview the person next to him. There was easy conversation and a great deal of laughing.

Answers to the questionnaires were shared with the whole group, and I can’t remember a time when we laughed so hard at church. Gray heads weren’t too horrified by the term “atomic wedgie” after one elderly builder shared about a fellow senior citizen having his pants ripped on the roof of one of their construction projects, and the gent (who was present) just happened to be wearing his “Valentine love-machine” undies that someone had given him as a gag gift.

The questions that spurred this time were:

1. What was the make and model of your first vehicle?

2. When did you first come to know Jesus?

3. How would you describe relations between the older generation and the youth in the church when you were a teenager?

4. Did your parents ever disapprove of the music you listened to as a youth? Way you dressed?

5. What were the challenges you remember as a teen?

6. What difference has Jesus Christ made in your life? What is the most important thing you want others to know about Him?

7. When you think of Heaven, what comes to mind? What do you most look forward to about Heaven?

8. Describe an embarrassing moment, funny story, or a time you got in trouble as a youth. (this is optional, but prizes will be awarded for the best stories)

That was a wonderful afternoon, and while I wouldn’t say that the youth and the seniors were perfectly mingled after that, there was a new understanding among them, and inroads had been paved for relationships. One girl admitted to me that she hadn’t felt like coming, but her parents had urged her. “I had such a good time, I can’t wait to do this again,” she exclaimed.

About Emily Tomko

Emily Tomko's radical encounter with the Lord while at a nightclub changed her life forever and inspired her first novel, College Bound: A Pursuit of Freedom. She is the author of seven books, including 31 Thoughts on Prophecy and Leaving the Shallows: igniting the faith that overcomes the world. Her tastes tend toward vintage and she's a Germanophile, having spent a year in Bremen and Nuremberg. Emily loves the scriptures and writes with fierce compassion and a deep desire to see people freed from the miry clay of this world and walking in the truth.

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  1. It just goes to show what can happen in our churches when someone puts their mind to do it. We have to intentionally plan things with a purpose. The same goes for other areas of ministry. Thanks for a beautiful story.

  2. Emily,

    Sounds like an awesome experience. Ive found that if God leads you to something, it usually ends up being bigger than you had imagined. Glad to hear the experience worked out for you and thanks for sharing. God bless.

  3. Joel, so true! We think it’s a simple act of obedience, but it opens all these other doors in the spirit realm.

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