I have been teaching ministry to young adults for many years. One thing I always mention is that young adulthood is a time to revisit the big questions of life.
. . . it is my conviction that the central work of young, emerging adulthood in the cycle of human life . . . lie in the experience of the birth of critical awareness and consequently in the dissolution and recomposition of the meaning of self, other, world, and “God.” In the process of human becoming, this task of achieving critical thought and discerning its consequences for one’s sense of meaning and purpose has enormous implications for the years of adulthood to follow. Emerging adulthood is rightfully a time of asking the big questions and crafting worthy dreams. (1)
I have also suggested that the big questions of life should include:
What is the meaning of life? Why should I follow Christ? Is the Christian faith really true?
Who am I? What is my primary identity? How does that impact my other identities?
- Work and vocation
What is the meaning and purpose of work? Is there some work I am specially called to do?
How do I relate to my family of origin? How do I respect my parents while doing what I am convicted to do?
What is church? Why and how should I be part of a church community?
Is humankind really male and female? What about marriage? Singleness?
How do I steward my money? My time?
How do I find the community I need to go through life?
In more recent times Graceworks has also preached an intergenerational vision of life. This is what we mean by intergenerational:
Intergenerational — there is comprehensive mutuality, equality and reciprocity that makes individual or collective transformation more likely. (2)
We are asking, then, if our approach to mentoring can also be intergenerational? The usual understanding of mentoring is more unidirectional, with an older, more-mature person guiding the development of a younger, less-mature person. To some degree, this will always be true of the mentoring experience. However, it has long been recognised that the best mentoring is mutual, with both mentor and mentee growing from walking together. Perhaps it is time to name one approach to mentoring as intergenerational mentoring where both mentor and mentee learn from each other and help each other grow.
A cursory glance at the proposed big questions above leaves us with little doubt that these are the topics young adults need to grapple with as they journey from adolescence to working life. But these are also subjects that older Christians should revisit for continuing clarity in their discipleship. Intergenerational discipleship, then, is when older and younger Christians journey together, all learning from Jesus the primary mentor, and helping each other grow in their discipleship.
Pray for us as we begin to look into what is involved in intergenerational mentoring. Let us know if you have suggestions. We live in a unique point in history where a number of generations are living and serving together. Because of their different formative experiences, each generation tends to have different strengths and weaknesses. This is an ideal time for the different generations to be learning together.
(1) Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams Revised Edition [San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011], 8.
(2) Holly Catterton Allen and Chris Barnett, “Addressing the Two Intergenerational Questions,” in Intergenerate ed. Holly Catterton Allen [Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2018], 17–18.