Gareth: What does ‘church family’ mean to you?
Emma: I think it means the people that are able to support me with general life, and religion and stuff. They’ll make sure that everything’s OK with pretty much everyone. And we all come together as a group.
G: Does the word ‘family’ have particular meaning to you?
E: I feel like ‘family’ is closer than just a ‘group’. A family makes sure that everyone’s well and everyone’s doing OK. You’d make sure your sisters are OK and that’s what a family is like. I feel like most people would stand by other people in the church.
G: Why do you think people stick to their own ages?
E: They don’t know how to talk to the other ages. They don’t know what’s going on for that age category. I feel like people think they’re too old to ask about technology and everything. I feel like they’re left out and they don’t know about new technology or apps. I don’t like talking to old people because I have to speak in a certain way, like quite formal. I might say a slang word but they don’t know what it means!
G: Do you think you understand the world of retired people?
E: Not completely, but I have a sense of an idea. I feel like we’re both a bit unsure about each other’s worlds. I’ve grown up with technology, but in those days you just had to write emails, well not emails, just letters. And you’d have to go and speak to people and talk face to face, or call them.
G: That was my day! So sometimes those worlds feel far apart?
E: Yeah, there’s nothing like a bridge connecting them. There’s people in the middle of those two ages, but it’s not a very strong connection.
G: That’s a really interesting concept, the idea of a bridge. How do you think we could bridge the gap?
E: Tell them about what’s going on nowadays, and technology and stuff. And they could tell us memories and what they were like growing up. Like, how they used to play outside and people now just play on iPads inside all day. Sometimes I show my grandparents my technology and they seem really interested in it, so I feel like people at church would find it interesting. Some people are not accepting of the new world. They want technology to go away. And I don’t know how to not come across ‘this is the right way’, like rude.
G: Any other ideas about how we could get people mixing together to make those conversations easier?
E: ‘Bring and share’ lunches, or the lunches where we go to each other’s houses. I feel like most people like food. If the food’s good, I’m sure they’ll enjoy it and stay. I feel like the older people would like the younger people around. My grandparents like having us around, but I can’t always hop on a two-hour train!
G: What sort of things do you think young people can bring to the rest of the church?
E: Some energy? I feel like the younger ones have too much and the older ones don’t have enough, so we’ll balance it out. We can show them how technology works and teach them slang words! Most of the older people teach the younger people, but the younger people do have something to teach the older people. I’d like to talk to people with a range of different experiences about Christ. I don’t hear many people’s stories actually relating to real life - in sermons and in chatting.
I don’t tell many people at school that I’m Christian because I don’t know how they’d react, but some help with knowing what to tell them and how to say it would be useful. Some questions I have no idea how to answer, so I avoid putting myself into the position that I have those questions asked.
Becca: It’s interesting thinking about how the world of technology, which is so integrated with young people’s experiences and identity, feels so far removed from Church culture. I can see how that would happen, partly because it takes a while for church communities to catch up with changing culture, but I can understand a hesitancy on the Church’s part to blur the lines between faith and technology. There is a certain line of thinking about being ‘pure’ or ‘free’ from technology. I think that makes it hard for church ministries to know what to do with technology, especially when young people know so much more than most adults do about it all!
I wonder if conversations like this help both younger and older people make sense of it. Emma suggests lunches as a way of getting generations together and sharing stories. I wonder if there are more ways of developing this dialogue. In my research, we’ve looked at bringing dialogue into church meetings and it’s been an amazing way of having older people share stories of their faith.
Do young people have much opportunity to talk about technology in your churches? How might there be more? Likewise, do young people get opportunities to hear from older people about how they’ve lived out their faith with friends, work and real life? It’s challenging, but it seems there is room to encourage different generations to nurture one another in our church communities, which may require a bit of creativity and more shared meals!