This generation wants to honor its elders and be mentored by them.
That may not feel like it’s true – especially if you, like me, are old enough to qualify for AARP membership. But I assure you it is.
I know this because I see it all the time. Youth, both in and outside the church walls are looking for genuine relationships with their elders.
They want to learn, connect and grow. They want to be mentored and discipled.
No, not all of them. Most of us didn’t consciously want that when we were their age, either. But in my experience, more of today’s youth want godly older men and women in their lives than we did when we were their age.
Becoming The Elders They Need Us To Be
A couple weeks ago, I wrote, Hey, Boomers! Let’s Step Up And Be The Elders The Church Desperately Needs Right Now, and got a lot of feedback – most of it very encouraging.
But there was some pushback as well. All of the criticism expressed the same viewpoint: today’s youth may need to have elders in their lives, but it’s impossible to find any who are truly willing to be discipled.
So why is there such a difference in the experiences some older believers have with younger ones? And how can we do this better?
I think it comes down to three primary factors, all of which have more to do with how we, as elders, approach our role than how the youth behave or how they feel.
1. Meet Them Where They Are
Elders need to be willing to meet today’s youth on their turf instead of demanding that they come to ours.
Start by serving, not demanding.
Living and walking along with them, not just talking at them.
This means listening before speaking. Really hearing what they are going through.
When we do that, we’ll discover that they have three types of challenges.
First, they have challenges that are obviously universal. How to negotiate relationships and make wise decisions for instance. On those, we can offer wisdom from our own experience in Christ.
Second, they will express ideas and desires that will seem strange at first (like their choice of entertainment or wanting tattoos), but the more we listen, the more we’ll find common ground. Underneath most of those choices is a desire to both fit in and stand out. When we were younger we felt the same confusion, but expressed it in different ways. (Remember how our parents reacted to our hairstyles and choice of music?) In those situations, we can share wisdom from our common underlying needs, even if we don’t share their tastes.