The Biggest Peer Group
Pastors and church leaders make many valid efforts to promote church unity. In any city, there is the church universal. Each of our particular churches is a sub culture of the City Church, and then within each church, there are sub-sub cultures, such as youth groups, 50’s plus groups, college groups, etc.
We are conscious to understand each sub-sub culture, to speak on their terms, and be sensitive to their world. We seek to promote activities that appeal to those sub-sub cultures, and to bring age appropriate blessings to them.
These efforts are good efforts, in that they reach into people’s worlds. We meet them where they are at. We become “all things to all men that we might save (and bless) some”.
Human nature is such that we love our peer groups. Birds of a feather flock together. We all have that tendency. Like attracts like. Little or no effort is needed to mingle with people like ourselves. It is an unconscious human response to seek out peers that understand us, accept us, and approve of us. And so, sub-sub cultures exist within our church.
While recognizing and ministering to sub-sub cultures in our church has its benefits, it can also create problems regarding church unity. The blessing of attending church can revolve around easily fitting into our sub-sub culture peer group. There is almost if not actual immediate gratification in peer groups. Social and cultural mores are understood, and have been previously navigated. People enter into sub-sub cultures, and though the balance of things changes at times, lesser adjustments can be quickly made.
Most people that I know have little time to expand their circle of friends, much less try to break into a different sub-sub culture. The thought of learning another social language, another culture, etc., is not only not natural, but troublesome and too challenging for most people.
Yet this is what must happen if our churches are going to continue past one generation, and if they are going to be trans-generational. Younger people need to learn from older people, and older people need to realize their responsibility to raise up the next generation.
The Apostle Paul teaches that in Christ, we are created as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). There is a new culture called “Christian”. There is a new man called “Christian”. There is a new peer group called “Christian”.
If a man or woman or teen can see that the greatest oneness they have is not the cultural “sameness” of this present fleeting moment, but the eternal oneness of being one in Jesus, then suddenly that person’s “peer group” is no longer a sub-sub culture, but has grown to include the entire Body of Christ.
If a person can capture the idea that they have settled for the ease of living in a sub-sub culture peer group, but have missed the greater blessing of knowing the entire church, they just might be motivated enough to push past present cultural trends, and actually try to understand another Christian from a different sub-sub culture.
We all understand that the best evangelist for a teen is another teen. Kids come to church because their friends convince them to. Like attracts like.
I submit that if a pastor can convince a few teens that their peer group is the entire church, and not just the youth group, that those kids will begin to reach out to older people in the church. They will convince their friends to go with them as they do it. The same is true for every sub-sub culture peer group. All you need is one or two people from a sub-sub culture to break out and be convinced that their true peer group is actually the entire church.
Therefore, whereas understanding and reaching into sub-sub groups can be effective, and ought to be done, I suggest that we never sacrifice the unity of trans-generational fellowship for the sake of reaching out to a slice of society. Both are needed. We may reach people by focusing on a sub-sub culture, but we need to help them mature into seeing the entire Body of Christ as their peer group. Trans-generational love and nurturing must occur. Kids need to know that the old people want them, not that they simply hire a youth leader to reach them. Old people need to know that young people genuinely respect them for their accomplishments, and are willing to sit and listen to them.
Cultural awareness is important, but love always finds a way to navigate through cultural waters, and reach a kid, a single mom, or an elderly person. Cultural relevance is a tool of understanding, but love is the heart of the matter. Oneness in Christ is the banner that every Christian needs to ultimately see as the glue that not only builds the church, but holds it together, and pushes it forward into the future.
Thanks, Bill – how does this work at Cornerstone in Napa?
I am teaching on the subject, sometimes directly, and sometimes including the idea in passing. It is a concept that people will agree with, but probably be slow on doing.
For our church Christmas dinner this year, we are having groups of 10 visit homes, and then gather corporately for dessert. We are purposely calling some of those groups, “Mixer Groups”, as will seek to encourage trans generational fellowship. 4 people over 45, four people 25-45, 2 people under 25. I’ll teach the above message again prior to the Christmas dinner, and try to encourage people to see the truth of this, and exhort them to get stretched.
Ultimately, people just need to believe this, and then it will happen organically.
Great post. How do we distinguish/identify what is rightly apart of what you call “Christian” culture and what is actually just another sub-sub culture of American society that has a “Christisn” ring to it. In other words, is what we identify as “Christian” in our culture actually the culture of the Kingdom?
That is a good question, and I’m not sure that I could rightly answer that. That probably is a discussion for another time.
The trajectory of my post is that which we would probably all call and identify as being Christian, that which is comprised of true Believers.
I will say this, that the need for Trans Generational fellowship is just as true as the need for Trans Generational outreach and evangelism, which is probably just as challenging, if not more so.
Yep… I agree…
I do think that many of the churches being planted today by younger guys tend to be singularly focused when it comes to generation. It’s certainly a bit short sighted.
Great article, pastor! I’ve been reading Philippians over and over lately, and Paul’s exhortation to unity in the Body keeps jumping out to me as something dear to God’s heart.
Deuteronomy 6:4 comes to mind, as well. Within God’s very nature there is an incredible, triune unity! If that doesn’t illustrate how important this issue is, I don’t know what does.
All this talk about the church and trans-generational efforts I find it hard to even see where this works itself out within the secular world. There is not much to say about mentors… Older men and women that reach out to those of younger generations and act as a consistant role modle. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that there are those that definitely give that effort and do make a difference in the world. However, looking at the larger picture I don’t think that the cultural norms within the US lend itself to being super intentional with those younger than themselves, or the younger “asking” for the advice of the older. This may be due to the fact that we as a culture are so caught up within ourselves and our “own life” that we don’t have time to invest into the lives of the younger generation, or we are not humble enough to ask for the counsel of another. I think that it is necessary for the younger generations to have a good grasp on what they can be as well as be encouraged by those that have already walked that path. They need to see it and be pushed to reach it.
What better place for this “Trans Generational” model to start than from within the church. Jesus calls us to be the example to the world, and to let the light shine that he put within us.
Great article and thanks for your perspective on this.
Enjoying the dialog on a good post to remind us all of the great value of the church body being our peer group. As discussed already, the challenge is continuing to encourage the trans-generational relationships, including the need and value of mentoring.
One of the things I find most helpful & useful is just engaging people of another generation, younger or older, by getting them to talk about their own stories. I’m finding the need to do this since we (my wife & I) are involved in a new church plant that has mostly (much) younger people as the nucleus.
But I also find it works well outside the church. Amazing to me how easy it is to get people talking about their own life. It doesn’t always lead into Kingdom talk, but I do think it’s a way to move in that direction.