I remember going fishing with my grandparents when I was a child in the Georgia mountains. The smell of pipe smoke rekindles the creekside image. We used to play checkers on the porch of his trailer as the sun went down, and he remembers a morning where I woke up and said, “Granddad, let’s go get pancakes and not tell Grandma!” Grandma later said it was all she could do to suppress her giggling when she heard it from the next room.
Now my son is the age I was then, and my parents have moved nearby. My dad does not look to me the way my grandfather looked to me when I was 8. If the four of us could stand side by side today, it would appear to be something like a time-lapsed picture. Seeing my dad and my son helps me orient my childhood memories from the perspective of what my grandfather might have been thinking and feeling. Today, instead of fishing, my son is explaining to my dad how to play Minecraft on Xbox.
There are a few activities we like to do together, mostly eating. When it comes time to go to the movies, we usually let the kids choose. Or if the kids go swimming, we’ll sit on the deck chairs and just talk. There’s a pleasant harmony of togetherness, even though our interests and energy levels are not the same.
As a pastor, I would say that one of the best things about the Church is that it is intergenerational. In fact, the church is a great place to adopt a family. For those who never knew their grandparents, it’s a great place to adopt a grandparent. For those who don’t have grandkids, it’s a great place to adopt a grandkid. There are sometimes big activities at our church that all generations come to, and you can tell that not all interests and energy levels are the same. For our Halloween festival this month, the kids will run around, trick-or-treat, and play carnival games. I’ll watch parents and grandparents mill around together as children immerse themselves in the games. We get to swap stories and meet some new friends. It takes dozens of volunteers of all ages to make it an engaging event that welcomes people to our church who have never been before. And for a brief moment, we’re united across generations for a purpose and as a family.
Since the kids tend to have the most energy, and in most families tend to garner a lot of attention, there’s a challenge to doing things together. A woman from my church who is in her 70s asked me, “Where do I fit?” I told her that we need seniors to greet people at the door, to lead Bible studies, to teach classes, to teach Sunday school, to volunteer at VBS, to pray for the church, and to support the church financially. We need every generation to walk along side people who are hurting, counsel, coach, lead, preach, teach, go on mission, and reach the people who live next door. We need everyone, and we’re strongest intergenerationally.
We’ll have to realize as we gather that we won’t all have the same energy level. Some will be in the pool splashing. Some prefer to sit on the side. But without a family that spans the generations, we miss out on the richness of perspective and personality that best suits the family of God.