Intergenerational Generosity

That the passing of the generational baton in the church has been a slow and painful process is no secret to anyone. And even though it is often cited as a source of great conflict among us, it is not something we like to talk about. A clergy friend of mine once described our generational intolerance—the kind that is draped in a thin veil of civility—as a “tempest in a teapot”. It was an apt description.

But what I’ve been wondering about lately is whether or not we could use the generosity lens to help us freshen up our generational perspective as a church. Is it possible that through a more generous pair of eyes, we could spark a new dialogue about our church’s generational landscape? Might we see more clearly the way to build bridges between young and old—strengthening the critical link between past and the future, tradition and innovation?

To prepare to gingerly remove the lid from the pot, we might want to start with a reflection on 1st Corinthians Chapter 12 concerning the variety of spiritual gifts, and unity and diversity in the one body of Christ. There is no better passage to give us the critical insight to see that we are all needed—young, old and middle-aged alike—in order to be the Christian communities that God has called us to be. By extension, we could consider a “gifts inventory”, highlighting the uniqueness and diversity of gifts that each generation brings to the table. From the millennials to the centenarians there is no shortage of gifts in the church. What frequently eludes us however is the ability to recognize and harmonize these gifts for a greater purpose.

This last piece in particular—in addition to helping each generation see the others around it in a new light—might also help us to build trust and mutual respect. If each generation could be made to see that it is valued by all of the others—and understand in practical terms how we are all an essential part of the body—that might alleviate some of the intergenerational strain that causes conflict in the church.

On the strength of trust and mutual respect, the conversation could turn to examining how we may have unfairly judged one another. A fitting passage might be Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1 through 5, which begins with, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” Sometimes I wonder if it’s not genius that skips a generation but understanding—a lack of understanding that is predicated on harsh judgments that impair our ability to recognize the positive characteristics of the generation that either precedes or follows our own.

We could then move to prayer and dialogue about God’s grace and what that means in an intergenerational setting. For example, what would it look like if we were to overcome our false assumptions and extend more grace to one another the way God has extended grace to us?

This could involve looking at grace in ways large and small with the knowledge that every kindness we extend to one another moves us another step forward, helping us to cover the necessary ground on the journey to a brighter future for the church.

How has multi-generational ministry flourished (or not) in your parish? How have you overcome inter-generational judgment to get to a place of renewed understanding? What more could you do in your faith community to nurture inter-generational generosity? Write to me at mhauser@national.anglican.ca and share your perspective.

 

 

 

In this blog, Michelle Hauser, manager of annual giving, tackles the topic of generosity—from small stories of daily inspiration to the overall mission of the church.
 

  • Brian

    time to write again…