During our previous Saturday’s Church Retreat, I was heartened to see representatives of our younger and older generations come together on a panel to give their views on Christian discipleship in our church. While we all honestly acknowledged that much more can be done in ORPC for intergenerational ministry, we must also understand that the generation divide is not as wide as many think it to be.
In a TODAY article written in partnership with the National Youth Council published on 28 May 2022 (The Big Read: Generational gap—a bridge too far or are we making too much of it?), Dr Mathew Mathews, a principal research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) pointed out that “the difference between generations is certainly real but there are many areas where aspirations are similar.” He further elaborated that results from the World Values Survey conducted by the IPS in 2021 inform Singaporeans that the difference in opinion between generations here is actually “fairly small”. Moreover, majority of the younger and older generations see value in the other, especially in “bringing fresh perspectives—the older generation with their life experiences, and the younger generation with their creativity.”
Christian scholars David Setran and Chris Kiesling would agree. In Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood: A Practical Theology for College and Young Adult Ministry, they write, “The vitality and idealism of the younger generation is detached from the wisdom and experience of the older generation, a separation that hurts both groups and blunts the power of the united church body for personal and cultural influence. … To avoid this trap, individuals on both sides of the generation gap must commit to the hard work of true fellowship.”
The right way forward for any church community is for its young people (as well as its adults) to be taken deep into the shared space and centre of the church where we accept and love one another as distinct but equal members joined in one body, and where Christ is present in our midst. Ministry to the younger generation is not about strategies to produce “Christian youth” who commit their allegiance to the denomination and stay loyal to it. Instead, it seeks to invite young people into the shared space where the cruciform pattern of the Gospel is concretely lived out by the body of Christ. In this shared space of church, young and old encounter the living Christ. Let us come together in true fellowship to enjoy our sacred space.