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Intergenerational church: let’s show the world how it’s done

Friday Night Theology

Danny Webster is advocacy and media manager at the Evangelical Alliance.

This week the Intergenerational Commission published its full report into fairness between different generations. Most publicised was the organisation’s proposal to grant every 25-year-old a citizen’s inheritance’ of £10,000, to use on housing, education, pensions or starting a business.

According to stats included in the report, millennials, those born between 1980 and 1995, are only half as likely to own their home by the age of 30 as baby boomers (those born in the post-World War II years) were by the same age. Additionally, four times as many millennials are living in private rented accommodation at 30 compared to baby boomers.

The report revealed that pay increased in real terms for successive generations until the 1980s. At the heart of the Commission’s recommendations is the fact that intra-generational income inequalities have been higher for generation X, those born between 1965 and 1979, and the millennials than for the preceding generations at each age, and absolute wealth gaps within cohorts are growing”.

The Commission notes that within families, steps are taken to even out inequalities – the bank of mum and dad’ is increasingly helping children get a foot onto the housing ladder – but as a society we have not responded to the structural challenges, making it harder for millennials to establish the financial security that their predecessors enjoyed.

One of the concerns highlighted in the report was that not only is wealth inequality widening between generations, but inequality is growing between those who have families who can and choose to help and those who do not.

The Bible and the generations

The Bible has much to say about intergenerational relationships. The biblical commandment, as recorded in the Old Testament, to hold a jubilee every 50 years, enabled debts to be cancelled, and evened out the acquisition of wealth or the burden of debt. What’s being proposed this week doesn’t quite stretch that far, but it is an attempt to structure taxes and benefits in a way that encourages greater equity between and across generations.

But improving relationships between generations is not just about cash transfers, or even regulating income inequality. There are problems that aren’t solved with a change to a tax régime, and these are the issues that the Bible addresses in its teaching about what one generation passes to the next.

Psalm 145 says: One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” In Psalm 78 says: We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.“

So what can we do?

Our responsibility to each successive generation is to pass on the faith, to demonstrate God’s wonderful ways and help the next generation pass on truth to the subsequent generation.

Across scripture we see the importance of generations, from Joshua taking over from Moses and leading the people of Israel into the promised land, to Solomon completing the temple instead of David. If we look beyond Solomon to his successor Rehoboam, we have a cautionary tale: Rehoboam rejected the advice of his father’s advisors and the kingdom was divided.

The church is one of the few places where generations mix. We can lead in modelling what one generation can give to the next generation. The church is a place where young men and older women serve together, families spanning generations worship together, and there are those for whom the church is their only family. Many of the challenges that face our society are not just about how much is in our wallets, or whether we can afford to retire; loneliness haunts the old and the young and navigating a world where technological development moves faster than we can keep up is exhausting for even the most adept.

From the X-ers, the millennials, the boomers, the silent generation, to the upcoming generation without a settled label yet, we can model what it means to live together and to love each other. The church can model being parents to children without fathers, being mentors to grandparents overwhelmed by a world that has changed so fast, being friends to the grieving, and sisters to the lonely.

And, in all of it, being ambassadors of the King.

Image: Pexels

About the author

Danny joined the Alliance in 2008 and has held a range of roles in the advocacy team. He currently looks after media relations and oversees our advocacy programmes and projects including public leadership. Before working for the Alliance he worked in parliament for an MP and has degrees in politics and political philosophy. Danny is passionate about encouraging Christians to integrate their faith with all areas of their life, especially when it comes to helping them take on leadership outside the church. He frequently provides comment on current political issues, both in Alliance publications and to the press.

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