Intergenerational community helps you to avoid becoming stagnant.
Before joining a more diverse small group, I gathered mostly with people who looked just like me. Initially, this sort of community feels rewarding because there is so much commonality and the early connections are easy. Conversation comes easily. We share many experiences and life situations.
After a few months, groups which are so similar can stagnate so that the conversation and insights stop feeling fresh. Suddenly all the examples feel similar in a way that makes nothing feel original. Participants realize that they could be sharing exactly what the person on their right or left just shared, and the time starts to fall flat. There are only so many ways, after all, to talk about the same things.
Insert some people who are not a mirror of your own age and stage, and the group immediately feels more dynamic. There are always things to talk about because individuals around the circle experience life and perceive faith differently. Experience is a great teacher, and often older members bring a level of wisdom to the table that the group would not experience without them.
If, on our first visit to an intergenerational group, I had judged the seniors in the room instead of getting to know them, I would not have these insights. I would not have been shaped by the friendships of an older generation because I would not have been wise enough to seek out these meaningful relationships. Because of this intergenerational experience, though, I am now drawn to the older population when I enter a room. I realize that seniors have so much to offer in a community of faith. In my experience, intergenerational community is multifaceted and deep. Like mining for a gem, this community takes time and a steady hand, and the stunning result of a commitment to intergenerational community is worth the effort.
* The names in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of those whose stories I am sharing.
Christy Foldenauer is a preacher, Bible-teacher, and writer. She serves as discipleship pastor at Gayton Church in Richmond, Virginia, and holds a master's degree in Theological Studies from Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond.