Do you have any friends in your church who are a great deal younger than you?
I wonder how many people read this question and think it’s absurd. Really, though, I wonder if you have any friends who you are not related to, but who are children or youth or college age. If you do, then how did that happen? Was it intentional, or was it happenstance? If you don’t then why not? Let me give you five reasons why you should find a younger person in your congregation and build a friendship with them.
- You might just have a lot to teach them about life. I certainly do not have all the answers and I doubt you do, but I bet there’s some sort of wisdom you could pass along to a young person in your church that would be unique and of great value in their life.
- You might just learn something about what it means to follow God with fresh eyes. One of the things I love about working with middle-school and high-school students is that they are typically not afraid to ask questions when they are given the chance. Whether it’s about God, or the Bible, church, or life in general they will ask questions. My hunch is that they are the same questions that 90% of adults have too, but are too chicken to ask out loud. It’s a blessing to have someone in your life who will ask you those questions, even if you have to look up the answers.
- You’ll feel younger. Seriously. I can’t explain it, but the friendships I have with people who are younger than me give me energy and keep me from become a stale, crusty version of myself. Like exercise, it might seem unnatural at first, but the long-term benefits are beyond measure.
- Students need people who can model a living faith for them. Here’s the kicker, I don’t think you have to be a super-Christian or a Bible scholar to radically pour into the life of a child or teen. When they see you model a faith that has it’s ups and downs, its questions and triumphs, they believe it’s something that really can happen in this world. The pages of the Bible become real in the lives of people they see really living this stuff out. Which brings us to the fifth point…
- It’s the best way to pass along the faith to the next generation. People are starting to wake up to the reality that age-segregation has created problems in the church. It might not be the tool of the devil, but it looks like it can’t be the way of the future either. The missing-generation in the church has a lot to do with the missing relationships between adults and youth.
Much of the conversation about the direction of church ministry is centered around the reality that healthy, appropriate friendships between people of different ages have lasting, positive effects on both parties and on the life of the church. So how ‘bout it? I know my life was changed by people from my church who befriended me when I was a teen. In my opinion it’s well worth the time.
Imagine you have befriended a child or teen in your church. What are the positive things you think could come out of such a friendship? What pitfalls do you think would need to be avoided?
I am genuinely seeking to build these relationships among people in our congregation and would love people’s feedback on these and other ideas as the staff and leadership of our church seek to imagine what it might look like in the life of a congregation.