Intergenerational Mentorship: the Time is Now

by Carson Pue

The time for intergenerational mentoring is now.

When Gen Z began to reach the legal age for adulthood in 2017, it became the first time in history that we have five generations in our churches. We have The Silent Generation/Traditionalists (born before 1946), Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y or Millennials, and now Gen Z (those born after 1996).

“Mentoring is not just a good idea but essential.”

Each generation has a different set of skills, ideas and goals. What an opportunity as each generation has something unique to offer to the others and creating environments for intergenerational mentoring is the answer. Mentoring is not just a good idea but essential.

In the last four years, I have lived and worked with young adults and know firsthand of their longing to have an older generation speaking into their lives. They seem to be skipping over their parents’ generation and seeking wisdom from those more like grandparents. Having young and the old learning from each other, enjoying and assisting one another creates an interaction that goes a long way to not only overcoming the social isolation felt by both generations but the reciprocal learning that takes place.

“…each generation has something unique to offer to the others…”

In a study by The MacArthur Foundation, they noted two common conditions that are closely aligned with successful ageing. These are:

  1. Productive engagement – doing something meaningful, and
  2. Having secure social network

When we engage in mentoring those younger, we can achieve both of these.

I’m a Boomer, and we are retiring in waves right now. Within our churches, many of us are looking for substance and meaning in this new season. So, what is keeping us from stepping into a mentoring role? Let me share three reasons and then suggestions of what one can do to start building a mentoring relationship with younger adults.

  • We tend to make into a program, but mentoring is much more organic than that. Churches have not modelled or mastered, creating mentoring relationships well.
  • We don’t know what to do. Most Boomers and Traditionalists have not experienced mentoring themselves.
  • We don’t know how to connect with someone younger. Communication between generations can be challenging.

If you would like to reach out and build a relationship with a young adult or teenager, here are four suggestions that have proved to be effective.

  1. Ask questions – take an interest in them, the things they like, their friends, their school or work.
  2. Bless them – speak a blessing over them with respect and love.
  3. Prayer – pray for them. At first, just let them know that you are praying for them and pray on your own. As the relationship grows, ask them, “May I pray for you?” and then pray aloud. Do so not to cause embarrassment for them.
  4. Tell God Stories – let them know of times in your life when God has done amazing things in your life and assure them that God is faithful and will do things in their lives as well.

Let me encourage you to make space in your life to engage and care for young adults. The value of having another adult in their lives is such a blessing.

About the author

Carson Pue is a veteran of leadership and mentoring to build organizations and individuals. Carson is the author of bestseller Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Calling, Character and Competency (Baker Books) and other books. He is the CEO of Quadrant Leadership; a Facebook influencer, a keynote speaker, grandfather and is passionate about intergenerational mentoring.

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