“One of my favorite memories of my niece was from years ago when we were on a family vacation at the beach. She was about three years old and discovering the joys of the pool for the first time. We were all in the water, calling out an invitation for her to join us, when she turned to us and yelled, “Hold on a minute! I’m acclimating!!”
We all started laughing! She absolutely used the word in the right way but hearing it from a three year old was just too much. Kids do that a lot! They use really big words in accurate ways or, more frequently, really big words in inaccurate ways, and it’s hilarious.
But, let’s be honest, we adults do it too. Especially with buzz words. These words show up in social media posts, newscasts, and daily conversations, but are often vague and act as a catch all, making it very easy for us to say the word with a certain thing in mind and have the person listening take a very different meaning from what we’ve said.
The solution to this “problem” is simple. We just need to clearly define the words we use. But that takes time and it takes intentionality, both things that are not often used in our busy lives.
Last week I had the chance to speak with a church about two such phrases: age segregation and generational gap. Most had heard of the two phrases, but many had not really taken time to consider what it meant. The first was less familiar and conjured up thoughts of nursing homes and retirement communities. The second was more familiar and most people applied it to politics and clothing.
For the sake of clarity, we took some time and intentionality and looked at these two phrases.
Age Segregation is defined as the separation of people based on their ages. This can be intentional liked nursing homes and graded classrooms or unintentional like social media and clothing trends.
Intentional age segregation is a relatively new phenomenon. Graded classrooms didn’t really get their start until the last 1800s/early 1900s and didn’t spread to the whole country for decades after that.
Similarly, before the 19th century, no age restricted institutions designed for long term care existed . Nursing homes and retirement communities gained steam in 1954 when the federal government created a grant that would fund such institutions and in the 1960s when Medicare and Medicaid began and provided payment for those services.
Generational gap is the perceived difference of opinions between one generation and another regarding beliefs, politics, or values. The most important word here is “perceived.” That means that we think there is a difference of opinion but we don’t know that for sure. That perception fuels a lot of our interactions and the way we approach issues ranging from political agendas to our preferred cell phone plan.
Why are these things important to the church?
Well, just like with society, age segregation is a relatively new thing for the church as well. You can trace the rise of separating the church community based on age back to about the 1950s when we see the start of youth groups. Over time, the church became more and more focused on age specific ministries and creating both classes and services aimed at meeting the developmental and felt needs of different generations.
It’s not unusual for generations within a church to spend little if any time with one another.
As a result, just like in society, there is a perception within the church that there are significant differences of opinion on everything from sermon topics to worship styles. The generational gap within churches can often be seen by taking a look at who attends the “traditional” service and who attends the “contemporary” one.
Since the separation of ages and the perception of differences mirrors that of our society, it’s easy for us to think “that’s just the way it is.” But it’s important to note that it wasn’t that way for centuries. And equally as important to note that the impact on the church is a substantial one. Why?
Because our faith is primarily passed from one generation to another.
That means in order for “one generation to praise Your works to another” the generations must interact; they must be in the same geographical space, speaking to each other and building relationships with one another if generational discipleship is to occur (Ps. 145:4).”
Click here to read more.