Often when I visit with members of older generations about the possibility of connecting them with younger generations they share concerns about not being up to date or relevant enough, an idea that younger generations are uninterested in connecting with them, or a fear that they don’t have anything of value to share or teach. I want to help you and your congregations release these concerns. If you read Growing Young or Sticky Faith (Both can be found on the resources page) you will learn about research and case studies that have proven these ideas false. What young people are drawn to or looking for is authentic Christians who care enough about them to do life and faith together.
1 Peter chapter 3 opens with instruction to husbands and wives that I believe can be translated to mentors and young people. In the first two verses substitute mentors for wives and young people for husbands and we learn that new generations can be won over by the respectful and pure conduct of authentic Christians. In fact, if you are interested in learning about what is relevant to them, just ask. This gives them an opportunity to teach you and share with you the things that make them tick. You don’t have play the video game, or use the social media or participate in whatever it is they do, but you’ll at least be able to understand and respect one another.
Verses 3 and 4 assure us that we don’t have to dress in trendy styles or speak current lingo to attract young people. Instead, we must focus on the condition of our hearts and our personal relationship with Jesus Christ letting the Holy Spirit transform our outward appearance and actions.
Verse 7 reminds us to relate to young people with understanding. Our faith should be recognizable while remaining gracious and forgiving rather than proud and judgmental. Are you willing to be vulnerable? Are you willing to share your mistakes and what you learned from them? Are you willing to admit the ways you have struggled with your own discipleship? These are the qualities that help us to be authentic and connect with the struggles of young people.
Be willing to share your stories as the Spirit leads you. You don’t have to be entertaining, but you might be. They may not say it, but they are interested in knowing you, and knowing Jesus through you. Your stories may have been written before members of new generations were born, but they can still make an impact. And yes, even when you don’t believe you have anything of value to share or teach, remember God has chosen you and has called you valuable! So be you, be real, and graciously allow young people to be real with you.