Relating With Mckeown & Nyamekye: Confronting & Carefronting The Gap In Intergenerational Interactions

The answer to the question of ‘how do we address this situation to ensure all generations come to the feast of the Lord?’ is answered in two ways: It is about a deliberate and intentional attitude to ‘live together in unity’ (Psalm 133:1). The spirit that makes this possible is referred to as ‘as much as depends on you’ (Romans 12:18). Every one of us must work at our prejudices and stereotyping of others and accommodate them in the spirit of Christlikeness.

Intergenerational interaction has become a melting pot of different generations with diverse beliefs, values, and ethics. The clash of these different generations can lead to misunderstandings, lack of productivity, conflicts, and lack of cooperation. However, it is possible to confront and carefront these differences to bring about a harmonious fellowship environment. It must first begin with leadership. By leadership, reference is made to leaders of the church at every level, from the Home Cell to Area.

From the inception of the Church, the old and the young had coexisted, cooperated, and succeeded. The story of Paul and Timothy is one case in point where the old and young worked side by side. Paul did not intimidate Timothy but encouraged him to be his best (1 Timothy 4:12) and to also respect the old (1 Timothy 5:1). He then calls on fathers (the old) in the church in Ephesus not to provoke their children (the young) to anger (Ephesians 6:4). To borrow Ephraim Amu’s words, the old and young are like the white and black keys of the piano. The best melody is produced when we carefully combine both keys.

To get the best of all the generations, the first thing I believe must be done is to discard all forms of mistrust of the young and disrespect of the old. It is worrying when you hear some older folk speaking with so much mistrust of the young. Some do not believe any young person can live a holy life. They are so suspicious of every move of the young person, and it leaves me wondering if they are haunted by their own youthful years. Sometimes, I cringe hearing such mistrust displayed when those being condemned are my age mates. I would usually ask, ‘Then I am also like them?’ They will quickly respond, ‘You are osofo.’ This hurts because many of these young people are living like the Daniels and Esthers in our time. They require all the support Mordecai can give, not condemnation.

On the other hand, some young folks also have a gross disregard for the old. They speak of them in such derogatory terms. Others have even written off the old as having nothing to offer. They will walk out of the church or do their own thing once they know it is an older person going to preach. They consider their sermons dated and nothing new in them. Such outright disregard ruins development and Christian maturity. Priscilla and Aquila have much to share with Apollos if only he will listen (Acts 18:24-26).

The solution to bridging the gap is creating a leveled playing field for all generations in the church. All must be allowed to come as they are; the strict Veteran and Boomer have a place just as the liberal and playful Millennial and Gen Zed. That strictness has its place just as that playfulness. Both can learn from each other the best way to apply those traits when they relate and learn from each other. Everyone must have just as enough access as the others in the church. It should not be a place with opportunities only for the old or just for the young. Some leaders decide to do away with all the old folks in the affairs of the church and give opportunities only to the young or vice versa. This tilted scale always breeds contempt and apathy. Opportunities and roles must be one and equal for all.

Then, we must encourage deep and honest conversations, allowing for the free expression of views at the table. ‘The young are to be seen and not heard’ must not have room in the church. Neither should it be a place of ‘the old should have their say, the young will have their way’. Creating harmony requires honesty and free expression. If the young are right, the old must endorse that. When the young want to speak, the old should encourage that. Truth should be at the table when the young and old speak. Mutual respect must drive conversations in church. Intentional efforts should be made to ensure that at church, people of all ages are allowed to sit and mingle. A class situation at church based on age or any other form is deadly. It hurts transition.

We have to innovate and integrate how we do church. Adopting various and valid forms of doing church will bring all generations together. If all meetings are held online, you are sure to lose a generation. Conversely, if all church activities are done in-house, another generation will be lost. A careful balance is required. Innovation is not just about introducing new things but enhancing the old ones. Can the seating arrangement be varied during special days like ministry meetings, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day? Can the lighting be adjusted briefly during some occasions? Will a social activity not bring us closer together? When drawing up programmes for conventions, weddings, funerals, and other huge gatherings, can we make room for members of the Children’s Ministry, Teens, Young adults, and Adults all to feature on the programme? This can be done during a particular day’s programme having all on board and not just specific days for each. If the conductor is ten and the one sitting next to her is fifty, they will get to interact, and that helps to break down the wall and bridge the gap.

Committees in the church should be filled with intergenerational thoughts in mind. Institutional memory is just as good as the infusion of new ideas. Collaboration and teamwork among generations on the same committee will promote a sense of belongingness. It will bring acceptability of proposals when inputs from various generations are considered. When it is a technical committee that requires some expertise and the one with that knowledge is a Millennial or Gen Zed, will it hurt anything if they chair instead of making them a member, where their views may still be filtered by a Boomer or Veteran chairing the committee? I believe if that person qualifies to be a member of the committee and is the most qualified or experienced, their age should not render them incapable of chairing. Tactical and implicit knowledge transfer is better achieved this way.

Inasmuch as mixing the generations up offers us great privileges, unique generational platforms should at times be created to drive bonding. We used to host married and singles conferences in the early 2000s where singles met separately from the married. We soon discovered that both within the singles and the married, age was becoming a hindrance to some of the sensitive issues that needed to be addressed. When I came into ministry, I learned to create further division based on the age brackets when it came to addressing some sensitive issues. Last year, the singles conference had segments for children aged 8 to 12, 13-19, and those above 20. The attendance and openness were amazing. Such platforms help in identifying the generational issues to inform the Church’s intergenerational missiology.

Each of the generations has its specific diction. For the veteran, the word ‘gay’ means something to the Veteran and means a different thing to the Millennial. The church leader must learn to use communication forms and types that resonate with various generations. Chipping in the diction and style of one generation or the other once in a while is a great attention-gainer. The preacher must learn the diction and style of the generations in their congregations. This can be achieved through interactions, reading about the various generation brackets, and being intentional to meet their needs during sermon preparations. With the Holy Spirit as the Master Teacher, this is achievable.

Creating mentoring platforms where the old mentor the young is a wonderful avenue for intergenerational cooperation. However, we must also consider co-mentoring and mutual learning (reverse monitoring). Reverse monitoring is a two-way non-traditional way of mentoring where the role of mentor and mentee keeps alternating. It gives the opportunity to encourage and honour one another instead of the instructional nature of traditional mentoring.

The various generations have their strengths and weaknesses. Human as we all are, we falter in one way or the other. As we interrelate with other generations, such weaknesses will manifest. Some of these weaknesses are subjective or perception just as the generational activities are. Such weaknesses should not be overlooked. They must be confronted, but the perpetrators of the weakness trait must be carefronted. This is the Christlike attitude; he hates (confronts) sin but loves (carefronts) the sinner. No one who wants to please God ignores or rejects rebuke or correction of any form. It may not be palatable, but rebuking in love and accepting it with a contrite spirit builds in us harmony and for the sojourn here. No one should wink over weakness or wrong for fear of losing a generation or honouring them. The weakness must be confronted swiftly, but the person must be carefronted sweetly. In all we do, McKeown or Nyamekye must focus on the strengths of the other generation and aim at inclusivity rather than exclusivity. We should aim at building a godly church where all generations coexist in godly fun, and meaningful connections in our secular and spiritual relationships. There should be no dichotomy. Matthew 7:12 should guide all generations in the church.

Written by Pastor George Osei-Asiedu

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