Four years ago, I wrote an article called “Quarantining a Generation” (republished as today’s feature article). I was shocked to receive more than 50 emails in response. Most were from 20-something singles like me who resonated with the article’s premise that it is difficult for young adults to find community in churches. But a handful of letters were from pastors and ministry leaders asking how they could make their churches more hospitable to my generation. I was excited to see such a passionate response.
In the article, I talk about the model of the early church, which was obviously successful since thousands were being added to their numbers daily. A main strength I see is intergenerational community:
“The church was established to glorify God and to provide a place for believers to challenge, encourage and support one another. Those who previously had little in common became one unit through belief in Christ. Paul explained it like this: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,” single nor married, young nor old, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). I added those last two, but I believe they are in the spirit of Paul’s intent.
“This unity inspired people to share everything they had, to invite widows and orphans into their homes and to demonstrate a love and cooperation that drew non-believers like a magnet. Spending their time together in each other’s homes, church members operated much like a family.”
During my years as a single young adult, I have felt the power of the church best when this family element is present. Young families who have invited me into their homes for dinner. A pastor and his wife who initiated meeting me for coffee. Older women who stepped in as godly mentors. These people made me feel worthwhile, like I belonged. As much as I enjoy my peers, the deeper acceptance was felt in intergenerational connections. In response to the trend toward young adult services, I write:
“In order for these relationships to take place, all ages must exist in community together. With the growing number of alternative services, young adults are missing out on relationships that provide wise counsel, build spiritual maturity and help bridge the gap to the next stage of life.”
I have discovered that my generation is quick to point out all that is wrong with the church. However, I believe many of our core spiritual needs can be met within that very community. That is why Christ established the church in the first place.
Since I wrote this article, I have pressed on in seeking out intergenerational church fellowship (it has required some hard decisions). My ministry with children and interactions with volunteers who were not my peers ultimately led me into the path of my husband, who shares my heart for intergenerational church. And while I waited for a spouse, those rich relationships diminished loneliness and gave me a place to belong.