Reaching Out Across the Age Gap

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I was in my early 30’s, a stay-at-home mom with school-aged kids, actively involved as a lay leader in our church, with more time and energy than I had enjoyed since the babies started coming. A woman who was a mentor to me called one day with an idea: “My sister and I would really like to see something happen for the young moms in our congregation and we thought maybe you’d be willing to head it up for us.”

“Interesting idea,” I thought. “And I’ve got some time these days.”

So we met together and made plans. From that meeting, a semi-monthly morning gathering began in the church basement. For the first two years we met, the older women in the church provided childcare and snacks. Can you imagine? Lovely women, who had walked the road of mothering babies years before, gave of themselves to the younger women, helping us to start something new and life-giving for all of us. For me, it was a chance to stretch my leadership muscles; for the women who gathered, it was three hours of freedom and fellowship every other Thursday.

That group was called The M & Ms—for Mary and Martha, of course. This was a long time ago—the late 70s and early 80s—when about 90% of young moms could (and did) choose to stay home. I led them for about five years, then moved sideways into leading Bible studies for both women and men in the evenings, before finding the courage to enter seminary in 1989. The group continued to meet for about a dozen more years, with other slightly-further-along-moms stepping into leadership, until the need for a day-time getaway-for-moms largely disappeared.

It was the right idea at the right time, and it started with older women “paying it forward.” They saw a need, got creative about how they might meet it, and then stepped right into the middle of it with their own loving presence. What a gift!

This is just one story, one picture of intergenerational connection, about learning from and leaning into one another across the age gap. Even though sociological evolution has changed the dynamic of many families today, the principles that undergird this example are still valid.

We need connections to our past in order to move forward with wisdom and integrity. And we need connections with our future in order to be open to the Wind of God at work in the church. We need each other.

Forty years later, I’m at the other end of the age spectrum. And as I continue to creak my way into these ever-advancing years, I remember the beauty of cross-generational friendships from my past as I endeavor to build a few into the future. Daytime gatherings for young moms are not on the agenda right now, but one-on-one time is. Programmatic innovation is no longer in my wheelhouse, but conversation most definitely is. As are prayer, counsel, and time. Email correspondence, even Facebook messaging, is another way for me to reach out to those coming up behind me. Reading books/essays/articles across the spectrum also helps and it is a primary reason for my gratitude for this space we share here at SheLoves.

I still do an occasional wedding and am sometimes invited to do pre-marital counseling; I trained for and offer spiritual direction. All of my directees are 20-30 years younger than I; my husband and I are the oldest couple in our current Life Group. (And we were the oldest in the last one, too, come to think of it!) If I’m invited to serve on a committee at church, I always ask if the generations are represented well in that group before I say “yes.” Why?

Because we need each other.

No generation has a corner on the answers to anything. Those of us with white hair need to hear from those who are living life in the trenches now; we need to be conversant with both the plusses and the minuses of building a life, a family, a career, a ministry, a church in this time.

And you who are younger need to hear from us, too. We are living witnesses to the faithfulness of God over time, visual aids for the powerful truth that all of it— struggle, suffering, loss, heartache—all of it can and will be redeemed.

God is weaving a spectacular tapestry, most of which we cannot see. The threads from my long life are being woven with those who came before me and those coming after me, and the occasional glimpses of the bigger picture are glorious, glorious!

How are you paying it forward? Where are you connecting across the age gap? What are you learning?

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 50 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, spread over a 19 year age range. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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