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What Is God's Design for Multigenerational Community?

What Is God's Design for Multigenerational Community?

I was in my mid 40's when I heard her speak at a conference. She spoke of how she mentored young women. Her description consisted of welcoming them into her home for overnight visits, waking up late, and treating them to a home-cooked breakfast, pretty tea cups waiting to be filled with hot, flavorful tea, and hours of sitting in her cozy living room and talking about life and answering all the questions a young woman might have. Those attending the conference were left with an idyllic picture of what mentoring younger women should look like, but we also left feeling like we were somehow missing out on something. I was older than many women at this event, so questions about the "older woman" role had been looming over my head for a while. I didn't know if I could match what this speaker described as the job of an older (Titus Two) woman. It felt overwhelming.

Since then, I have been on a journey that I am still on, now in my late 50's. Although the well-meaning speaker did paint a beautiful picture of mentoring, I wanted to know the bottom line of what God wanted from the older generation and how God wanted that to look in my life with my giftings.

As I have studied what the Bible calls the older generation too, I have seen that most of what is there is very simple. Yes, coming alongside someone from the younger generation will include having women in my home and offering hospitality, which is something I love to do. I believe that is one of the reasons God gave me a home. But the way that looks from person to person will be different. The most important part of our calling is not that we are the perfect hostess or that we have all the answers. And although it will include some teaching and instruction when necessary, what we see in the Scriptures is the older generation being called to share the ways God has been faithful in their lives. When we do this, we are making His great name known. We are proclaiming His mighty acts. We are making Him the hero! Not us!

We see this in Psalm 145 and Psalm 71:

"One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts." Psalm 145:4

"So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come." Psalm 71:18

Yes. Hospitality is a significant part of reaching out, and it requires that I be prepared for the time someone might show up at my front door. In the same way that I try to make sure that I have an assortment of coffee, tea, or a cold beverage available in my home so that I can pull them out and serve those that sit at my table, I am called to be prepared in another way. I am called to be tuned in to the Holy Spirit. When I am tuned in, he can remind me of the countless ways that God has been faithful in my life, and I will then be able to draw from these memories of God's faithfulness and offer them to those with whom God allows me to fellowship with.

But why is this so important?

God has been weaving together the stories of each person and generation for His eternal purposes. He views our lives in the context of His big picture perspective, and it continues from generation to generation. We have been called to view all aspects of our lives in a way that will outlive us. God and His Word, and how He has impacted and guided our life, is the one thing that is consistent no matter what changes over the years. It's the one thing that we can count on. It's what has guided God's people even before we were born.

The Bible tells that God has been a part of all of history:

"By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." Hebrews 11:3

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1

"Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether." Psalm 139:4

In Psalm 90, God is seen as the One who is eternal and unchanging, "in all generations." The ESV Study Bible explains that "the awareness of how short human life is leads to earnest prayer for God's help, without which his people can accomplish nothing of lasting value." Psalm 90 ends with hope, asking God to establish His people's work and that it will be a work that endures:

"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" Psalm 90:17 

Why this prayer? Because only what is established by the work of God's hands will last long after I am gone. Most everything else will be forgotten. Those things that God has established, and the countless ways He has been faithful in our lives, will be the examples that we can share to encourage the next generation. It is the rope we can offer them when they can't see what God is doing in the immediate, and they need something to hold on to.

Of course, the temporary comfort I can offer in the form of a hot cup of coffee while sitting at my kitchen table is very important. I love, love, LOVE to serve people in that way. But I don't have all the answers. I can only point you to knowing God better, and I can share how God has been faithful over and over and over again over my lifetime. It is most important that I remember and offer the only thing that will sustain a person long after they have left my table and long after I am gone:

"For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 100:5

"Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD." Psalm 102:18

Related Content:

10 Questions and Answers about Becoming a Mentor

7 Ways Older Adults Can Encourage Young People to Walk with God

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/evgenyatamanenko

Gina Smith is a writer and author. She has been married for 34 years to Brian, a college professor, and athletic trainer. For 25+ years she and her husband served on a Christian college campus as the on-campus parents, where Brian was a professor and dean of students. They reside right outside of Washington DC and are the parents of two grown children, one daughter-in-law, and one son-in-law. She recently authored her first traditionally published book Everyday Prayers for Joy, available everywhere books are sold. You can find Gina at the following:  Website:ginalsmith.com, Instagram, , and at Million Praying Moms, where she is a writer. 

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