This week we return to Drew Dyck’s book Generation EX-Christian, a discussion about why young adults are leaving the faith. (See Newsletter # 419). One paragraph from the book has been on my mind for several days. It has implications that extend far beyond people who abandon Christianity. Citing a book by researcher Christian Smith, Dyck writes that a “key indicator of whether or not people stick with their faith was intergenerational connections…. Young people who had relationships to older Christians were far less likely to abandon their faith in their twenties….One of the major reasons they drifted away is because the relational bonds to committed Christians were weak or nonexistent..” Many lacked any connection with Christians apart from their youth groups where there were fun activities but little in-depth teaching. Kids who want to impact the world and commit to a cause greater than themselves instead experience a watered-down, emasculated Gospel. Dyck writes that “they don’t want pizza and video games. They want revolution and dynamism.”
I asked some of my twenty-something friends why their generation and mine so rarely connect. Among the answers:
- We are rarely in the same place. We hang out with our friends and so do they.
- We are afraid of each other or not interested. We think they are old and outdated. They are afraid of our technology and lifestyles. So it’s easier to stick with our friends.
- Neither side knows how to approach or talk to the other.
- There’s an attitude that we’ll never understand each other so why bother.
One 23-year-old commented that he is an active follower of Christ because he had seen two examples of older people who had a faith that clearly works.
If we want to be good teachers, counselors, coaches or leaders, shouldn’t we learn to reach across cultures, including across generations? It starts with showing interest in those who are not like us, asking about their lives, demonstrating respect. With effort and determination we can build healthy, cross-generational friendships. These can lead to informal mentoring and connections that benefit those on both sides of the generational gap.
Please share your comments and experiences with building cross-generational relationships.