One night I asked a friend to meet me at a yogurt place in town. Over our sweet treats, I began to talk about my struggle with being single, especially my struggle with loneliness—both struggles I didn't think I'd ever encounter. Luckily, my 50-year-old friend had much hope to offer me.
Our friendship began through a small group I led. The group members ranged in age from women late 20s to early 60s. We understood that loneliness and brokenness were no respecters of age, so we came together to build meaningful relationships.
Whether male or female, and regardless of age, we all crave the opportunity to laugh, cry, share hope, and develop relationships. Through the practical steps below, multiple generations can join together to find fulfillment personally and spiritually.
The way you present small groups to your church is the deciding factor for whether multiple generations will come together or not. At our church, we have a catalog that introduces the hosts, topics, locations, and times for small groups. At the beginning of the catalog, we explain what life groups are, emphasizing their purpose to help us meet new people, build relationships, and grow in Christ. Age is not mentioned in our catalog—it's simply not a factor. Instead, we encourage people of different ages to join together in groups.
We also present this value to our small-group leaders. When we train leaders, we discuss the value of having multiple generations in a group. We encourage them to invite people of all ages to their groups because one generation can speak truth and hope into another generation.
Justin Haigler, pastor of The Simple Church, leads a group that manifested not due to ages, but due to struggles. One of the group members, a 65-year-old man recently out of prison, looked at a 40-year-old group member struggling with alcoholism and gave him hope by sharing his own struggles with alcohol. It was a reality check for the young alcoholic. And this wasn't a small group focused on addiction. This conversation spun from watching an Andy Stanley video on wise decision making.
Outside the Box
It is natural for us to gravitate to what we know. To go outside the box is more difficult and can leave us a little uneasy. But bringing multiple generations together will require us to think outside the box.
Julie and Chip Mitchell have led a life group since the start of our church five years ago. Julie and Chip are married 30-somethings with children, and their group members consist of singles, older couples with grown children, and other young married couples.
While it's natural as leaders to invite people who are around our age, we must be willing to reach outside our comfort zones. Purposefully invite and reach out to people regardless of age. Julie and Chip admit they had to make a conscious effort to reach out to people of different ages and life situations. They and their group members, though, have reaped the benefits. Young singles enjoy being part of a family environment. Older couples have offered great advice to couples with younger children. Each generation has spoken into others' lives, offering wisdom for numerous topics including dating, finances, and relationships.
The First Meeting
As a leader, you want to present an environment that is welcoming to all. A great way to say "welcome" is through a cookout. The smell of burgers, hot dogs, or whatever else you throw on the grill can soothe a multitude of fears—and a cookout appeals to all generations. As host, this event gives you an opportunity to chat and get to know your group members in a fun and light environment. New group members have a chance to feel at ease and relaxed while getting to know others.