Intergenerational Mentoring: One of the most important relationships in ministry

I’m back in the office, sitting in a chair, staring at a computer and as much as I love my job there is nothing better than being outside.  Last week during my break I went hiking in the Shenandoah Valley up Mt Robertson with a few guys.  It was awesome, snow on the peak (about 4 inches), good laughs and great conversation.  It was one of those moments that turn into memories.  What made it really special is that all of us guys represented a different generation and a different stage of life.  The conversations were filled with wisdom, truth and encouragement.

With it being a new year, I’ve realized that I want to start passing onto people the many blessings that I have received from God over the years, mentorship is one of those things.  But mentoring (whether one on one or small groups) is something every church (not just student ministry) should have.  In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say intergenerational mentoring is probably one of the most important relationships that churches should encourage.  This is how you can get started:
To The Older Generation:
  • Give someone younger than you wisdom.  You can have accountability with someone your own age; however, wisdom from someone older than you is priceless.  If you have lived for a few decades, you have wisdom. Wisdom is a gift from God and He wants you to share that with others.  As someone who is on the younger end, I really appreciate when someone older than me shares with me some wisdom.  A few of my ministers have even taken me under their wings and shown me all that they know.  I can’t put a price on it.  What someone in their 80s can give someone in their teens is priceless and should not be hidden.
  • Give someone younger an experience.  Take them on an adventure, whether it’s to the museum or out into the wilderness.  I have a group of guys who take me hiking and camping.  I know how to hike and camp, but these guys are good at pushing me to limits that expose what’s going on inside of me.  I’m not sure if they are sharing it with me because it’s what helped them grow or if it’s just something that they love, but when I go hiking and camping I know I’m being shown something new.
  • Give someone younger your investment.  Take them out for coffee or lunch and listen to them.  Spend time with them fixing some drywall, changing oil on a car…it doesn’t matter, but when you can listen to someone younger or share with them a skill, you are showing them value.  And that’s an investment of something God has given to you.  
To The Younger Generation:
  • Give someone older honor.  Honor isn’t just for our parents, but it’s for everyone older than us.  I heard Craig Groeschel give an amazing message about how part of the tension caused between generations is the sense of entitlement my generation (and future ones) seem to have.  The way to break that entitlement is to accept and embrace the wisdom, experiences and investment the older generations want to make in us.  When we honor them, we honor God because we honor the authority of those wiser than us.
  • Give someone older your dreams.  I’m not saying the older generation can’t dream, but the younger you are the bigger the dreams.  The younger we are the less likely our dreams have hit reality.  You share those dreams with someone older than you they have the ability to invest in you; however, you need to show them that you are worth investing.
I can’t stress enough the importance of intergenerational relationships.  It’s so important for any young man or woman to have someone older than them pour into them, the way God pours into us.  Not only that it’s important for us to honor those who have paved the way and traveled the path.  In student ministry I tell people that I don’t need just young, 20 somethings to lead small groups, I need men and women of any age who want to pour into the next generation.  Not only that but I don’t want my teenagers thinking that they can only look to their peers and parents for all the answers.  I want them to know that there are generations upon generations of people who get the hurt, the heartbreak, the confusion and the darkness that can come with growing up.  My encouragement to all church workers this 2011 is to work on mentoring between the generations.  Invest in the youth and honor those who have come before you, because when we do that we strengthen the church.
Who has invested in you and how has it been effective?
What is something you would like to share to future generations?