In reading the latest news updates about Millennials each week, I find plenty of new material and analysis being offered regularly to explain how “young folks like me” think and how we relate to the world. Much of my material for this weekly article series comes from such secular analysis, and this week is no different. Since the beginning of June, the theme in Millennial research is how we don’t get along so well with those born in the Baby Boomer generation or earlier. In the workplace, in politics, in the church, and in society in general the two generations seem to clash and have difficulty relating or seeing eye to eye.

It never ceases to amuse me how American culture creates all kinds of problems and then complains about the effects when they manifest themselves years down the road. Why don’t those college-aged people get along with those in or approaching the senior citizen range? Well, let’s see…
In school we separate children from the family and build their personal pride and sense of achievement on what happens within the walls of the school building rather than who they are within their family (see John Taylor Gatto’s material on that). We show them that learning comes from the school, parents are for providing their material things and maybe discipline, and anyone older than that has no real relation to their lives. “Socialization” and “the real world” mean spending your entire day with people your exact age and maturity level. Additionally, as young people leave schools with the belief that gay marriage should be celebrated, abortion is fine, and there is no difference between males or females, they turn even further from their grandparents’ generation. Why do we complain when young people can’t relate to those older than them?

Media and advertising companies target age demographics, doing their best to fill (almost) every generational niche. Therefore, we have one set of shows, movies, games, etc. aimed at children, another set aimed at teenagers and college-aged people, and another at those in their 30s and 40s. Aside from the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials, there isn’t much aimed at those over 55. How much money does Hollywood throw into producing movies for that age demographic? How many political candidates go out of their way to beg senior citizens to vote? It’s all youth, all the time in this society.

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of churches do everything they can to cater to their young people in one way and their older people in another, making sure their paths never cross save for perhaps one “generations” event each year. We neglect Scriptures like Job 12:12, Proverbs 16:31, and Titus 2:2-3 which teach that there is much to be learned from those who have walked the path for many years. Once someone retires from their job we treat them like they have retired from the church and have nothing left to offer. The Scriptures tell us that nothing could be further from the truth, but young people learn by osmosis that older people have little value to offer.

In Deuteronomy 6, as we saw Moses laying down the guidelines for faithfulness and prosperity in the Promised Land, he gave a multigenerational vision. “…Keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life…” God expects the older not only to relate to and work with the younger, but to guide them and help them along the way. Yet in today’s world we have analysis pouring in on how the two groups can’t get along in the workplace, how they have no respect or use for each other. That must change, starting in our families and the church.

If you are in your 50s or above, America tells you your time of usefulness is winding down and soon you won’t be expected to do anything. God doesn’t see it that way. We need you in the church and in the home, teaching young people from your years of study and experiences. Young people, show respect for those who are older than you. Recognize that you can learn much from them, and honor them in the way God expects you to. Parents, don’t let your children only associate with folks their age in the church building. Help them get to know those with wisdom and experience. Build relationships that will grow their ability to learn and relate. Christianity has always looked weird to the world. Senior citizens working with teenagers hand-in-hand should be just another way we stand out.

By Jack Wilkie