Last Saturday, I got to spend a day doing what I love with a beloved friend. Marv Penner and I were able to indulge our life-long ministry passions at CPYU’s first-ever day-long “Tackling the Tough Stuff” seminar, an event that at least one young attendee thought might be an irrelevant and ill-informed day of listening to ignorance. At least that’s what I think the person was thinking based on their written post-seminar evaluation.
While I haven’t been able to carefully read all the responses to the day, there was one comment that jumped out as I quickly flipped through the evaluations. There was a question on the evaluation form that read, “How well did this seminar meet your expectations?” People could circle “did not meet expectations”, “met expectations”, or “exceeded expectations”. The person circled “exceeded expectations” and then wrote this . . . “I thought CPYU was a conservative, not relevant organization and the presenters were too old. I was wrong. :)”
I love it. On the one hand, the comment affirms our diligent efforts to know the culture, pursue excellence, and present what we know in an engaging manner.
But there’s another side to the story. . . the side that reveals our faulty expectations that are both fueled and feed by our stereotypes. Specifically, our growing tendency to discount people, their knowledge, and their ability to provide us with valuable help and resources based on their age. And lest you fear that I see this tendency only going one way (i.e., young people labeling older people as being unable to be knowledgeable and relevant), this is truly a two-way street. You see, when those of us on the right side of the age spectrum discount those on the left based solely on the fact that they are two our left. . . well. . . we’re guilty as well.
I think that this growing trend has been fueled by a marketing machine that creates and celebrates short shelf-life and planned obsolescence. Marketing’s effectiveness can’t be denied when we so easily discount the potential contribution of those who are either older or younger, or when we spend more time cultivating our outward image and brand over and against feeding our bank of knowledge and wisdom. Sadly, the fallout can be absolutely deadly as it serves to cut us off from the richness of our history, and divides the body of Christ. I’m guessing that the enemy couldn’t be more pleased than when this happens.
The evaluation comment reminded me of a couple of important principles from Scripture. First, there’s I Timothy 4:12 – “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Second, there’s Proverbs 20:29 – “The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.”
It’s in the full width, depth, and breadth of the body of Christ that we find that sweet, sweet balance of idealism, realism, optimism, and wisdom. That’s why we are committed to continuing to bring the generations together to listen and to learn. . . one from another!