“How can we get the next generation more engaged in service?”
“Are there ways to encourage the generations to work together?”
“What is the best way to ensure that all age groups feel included and important to the mission of the church?”
These are some of the questions we’ve been hearing lately…and discussing as a team. I don’t think there is any “magic” one-size-fits-all answer. However, I think there are some simple things a church can do to create a church that welcomes and equips believers of every age!
1. Talk to them
It’s surprising how much time we can spend trying to figure out how to engage a certain group, young parents, “senior saints” and especially the younger generation…all without actually talking to them. It’s amazing what you can learn when you ask questions and let them have input.
2. Include them
To segue from point one, including a variety of age groups on your planning committees, worship committees, or any other committee will create a deeper bond and investment on their part, which is really what you are after.
3. Invite them
Make it a point to personally invite people of every age group to your events. Don’t assume because they read it in the bulletin or see it on the big screen they will feel welcome. However, if you actually tell them you would love to have them at your next event, and even ask them to help; you may be surprised at the response.
4. Connect them
Consider this the buddy system for your church. When you invite someone new to help or attend an event, plan ahead and connect them with someone of a similar age group, season of life, or interest level. This may sound like a lot of effort on your part, but it will be worth it. A simple introduction can get people talking and feeling like they belong.
5. Affirm them
No matter how old or young we are, we need affirmation that our contributions are valuable. Be sure each person you talk to knows how important they are to your ministry and why you would love to see them get more involved. Say things like, “Your wisdom will be a special blessing to the young families.” OR “I appreciate the passion and energy you bring!” Being specific and personal lets them know you are sincere.
6. Train them
Training communicates value to your volunteers. It shows them you value their gifts enough to help them grow; and it shows you value their role in the church. Don’t make the mistake of assuming the older generation knows what they are doing, or that the younger one doesn’t.
7. Release them
Let each person serve from their own unique gifts, experience, and style. Recognize that you may approach things differently than someone from a different generation. That does not mean you are right and they are wrong! Have grace toward them, certainly correcting when necessary, but allow for generational differences and welcome the fresh, unique flair they bring to your ministry.