college travels

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More needed than just teaching hobbies

An article in this morning’s The Australian caught my attention (‘Debnam falls of old hobby horse’) reporting on the election promise from the NSW opposition leader that, if elected, he will set up a program that will see the elderly teach new hobbies to troubled teenagers. All we need is a database of old people’s homes and local schools that can match people according to their interests!

It’s fairly clear that the reporter thinks it’s a dumb idea – ‘Yes, the troubled young of today—the disenfranchised and the unemployed—may think life has nothing to offer but the Xbox. But they could be building sea-worthy crafts from ice-cream buckets, or drilling holes in tin cans and walking around on them, using string to steer’! And, I must admit, reading that Mr Debnam said, “I’ve always enjoyed a bit of boat-making and wood-working… Lots of kids would enjoy that” it doesn’t sound like a leader in touch with the concerns or needs of today’s youth.

The article points out all the problems involved – the need to screen elderly people for working with youth, the need to screen the youth involved (“What if they turned up for cross-stitching and stole from an old duck’s handbag?” the reporter asks!). Adding a quote from a nursing home resident saying that he moved to the retirement village to get away from the young people who used to throw pebbles at his house and it’s clear that the idea is fraught with difficulties and will probably vanish into history as a well meant idea thrown around at election time that never had much chance of making real difference.

Perhaps I’m cynical.


What caught my attention? Our community wants to overcome the division that exists between young and old; our community needs to overcome the division that exists between young and old. Teenagers who are ‘troubled’ need older, wiser heads to show them some attention and care, guidance and support. Elderly people ought not need to (or want to) escape to a walled enclosure to get away from pebble throwers. Elderly people ought not be ‘filed away’ into retirement homes, out of sight and out of mind of the rest of the community.

There are all sorts of problems that exist relating to the age divisions in our community and at the very least we ought to be praying for our elected representatives (and political candidates in an upcoming election) that God would be gracious to them (and to us) and give them His wisdom so that they’d be able to govern with justice and righteousness ‘for the tranqulity and good of all.’

The point of this rave is, how much are we in the church, and those in youth ministry in particular replicating / contributing to / acquiescing to this age divide?

I’m not suggesting we get the retirees in the congregations to come to youth group and teach the kiddes crochet and whittling! We need more than a program; something that will take more investment than a new database. We need older people to take a genuine interest in the lives and concerns and challenges of young people. And yes, we need young people to respond to the leadership offered by adults with respect and honour. Those who are mature in Christ will need to lead – whether it’s mature older people who can initiate gracious investment in the lives of young people for their benefit and the glory of Christ; or whether it’s mature younger people who can initiate gracious respect for older people for their benefit and the glory of Christ. It’s called love; more particularly it’s called family.

It’s a theme we keep coming back to at College… the family is church and the church is family. What will our youth and children’s ministries look like if we took this seriously? What would the relationships between old and young look like if we took this seriously? A lot different to a state government run database at least!


  • Thats so true, I often feel concerned about the seperation of age groups in church, like having a youth bible study fir the youth to go to while their parents are at Church, and such.
    We are having youth group run morning church the week before Christmas, and my minister has told me I can preach on whichever passage I like.
    After reading this post I'm thinking about doing something on Church as family.
    Iv'e learnt so much about living the christian life from older christians, I would love to see that happening in the lives of my youth group kid's and also them being an encouragement to the older members of our church.

    Dave Morgan

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:13 pm  

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