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  • Writer's pictureMartin Wickens

Generations: Appreciating the Younger (2/2)

The glory of young men is their strength: And the beauty of old men is the gray head.
Proverbs 20:29

In my last post (Appreciating Our Elders) I noted 5 ways in which a younger generation can appreciate a younger generation. However, the responsibility to avoid division and bring about unity between the generations does not just fall on the shoulders of those who are younger. In fact, the older generation must take the lead in creating an atmosphere of unity.

Our theme verse, Proverbs 20:29, reveals that both old and young have value. In this post, I want to suggest 5 ways in which an older generation can appreciate the younger.

(1) Your Battle May Not Necessarily be Theirs’

Just as the younger generation must look back on those who preceded them and realise their battles are different, the older generation must do the same.

You may set a battle line where a battle no longer exists or where the focus no longer lies. If the US went to war against Iran tomorrow and then deployed their forces in western Europe it would make no sense. As fierce as the battle may have once been there, it is not where the battle currently exists.

As you look to a younger group and see them focusing their energies somewhere different, understand it may be with good reason. They need to value your wisdom, but you need to value their day-to-day lives.

It may be that they only perceive the battle to be different, but still you can deal with them in grace and with patience.

(2) Guide Their Impulsiveness, Don’t Squash It

Younger people usually have more energy and less fear. They don’t have the long list of failures or hurts that guide your decision making. They don’t have the long list of successes that have demonstrated to you that waiting a day, or a week, or a year, can sometimes be the right thing to do.

They have the impulse to jump into the unknown. They have the fearlessness to try something new without hesitation. They think they’ve waited all their lives to be 18 and there’s no time to lose, so everything has to be done right now!

While impulsiveness can sometimes be foolish, it can sometimes be the quick reaction that prevents an issue or corrects a problem. You may hesitate because you’ve learned to fear failure, and so you miss an opportunity.

Someone younger than you may be making a mistake, sometimes that’s okay. Or they may be about to make the best move of their lifetime.

Guide, yes, but don’t crush.

(3) They Exist in the World You Created

No toddler ever planned the curriculum they would later study. No child ever planned the work experience they would later experience. No teenager ever created the economy they would later need to work in. Nor did they create the church they would later worship and serve through.

They have the curriculum, economy, and church they inherited…from YOU. Maybe not you as an individual, but you as a generation.

Recognize where you have handed the next generation a poisoned chalice and do what you can to put things right.

(4) Give Them Space and Time to Grow

As we get older it is natural to become more set in our ways. Our thoughts and habits become established and we don’t keep up with things the way we used to.

Understand that young people will jump on more bandwagons as they try to figure out who they are and the world in which they live.

Accept that where we may be set, they are more fluid. Again, guide them, but give them room to grow. It does not mean that we let them toy with sin or flirt with heresy. But let them ask questions. And answer graciously. Be patient. Give them time to wrestle with their thoughts and come to conclusions.

As tomato plants grow they send out tendrils in all directions, striving to grab hold of something, anything. If you hinder that process it weakens them and ultimately can do more harm than good. But what you can do is put support near by. The plants find the support, they pull themselves up, and they eventually bear fruit.

Approach young people in the same way. Don’t snap their arm off as you try to force them to grow a particular way. But do provide support nearby, and eventually they will bear fruit.

(5) Don’t Let Secondary Issues Be Primary Issues (Divide your faith from your culture)

Realize that while doctrine does not change, everything else might. Understand what is merely a generational preference and be prepared to let some things change. It does not always mean you have to change yourself, but don’t hinder the change around you.

Both the old and the young have a place in the church.

As an old person, you can create an environment where the younger ones can grow and mature.

You can provide an environment in which unity can thrive.

Why not take up the challenge to be a source of harmony between generations?

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