My small group at church is considered kind of anomalously radical because we have college students, a newly married couple, a couple with two kids, and a happily single woman. Our age range is all of 12 years, but it's quite unheard of at our church where Sunday fellowship is pretty much segregated by age or life stage. We all think this is quite silly.
We decided to start up a Sunday school class where we actively invite everyone especially if they aren't in our age group or life stage or whatever. As one woman in my small group says, "I don't need people to commiserate with at church; I need people to learn from." Amen. I want the wisdom of people who didn't grow up in my generation (whatever that is) or even my parents' generation. I want to know how people are walking the Christian life even if we don't have "life stage" in common. We need people to learn from.
And people who can learn from us. We admit we're hardly masters of the faith at our ages, but interacting with college students, high schoolers, and anyone younger than us seems like it could be mutually beneficial. There has to be something our experience can teach them, such as, "No, really, don't do that because look what happened to me."
"I want to be part of a chain of discipleship." Isn't that what the family of God is?
Our college student members are enthusiastic about this. They both live not-so-close to where they attend college, so they don't go home all the time. They miss, "things like hanging out with grandparents and playing with animals and tripping over children" and other stuff they don't get to do on campus. They want to belong to a family of believers. But at our church, where The Way Things Are doesn't change very fast, and we don't have a lot of time (they'll both be seniors next year), we're finding it takes a lot of hard work to make a family.
Here's an interesting article I found by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway about age segregation in churches. (If the CT site gets up again soon, you might even be able to read it.) Probably your church isn't as extreme as these examples (and I hope it isn't even as extreme as my church), but the article as a whole did make me think more about the topic.
Anyway, our class starts next Sunday, and we have NO IDEA if anyone is going to show up. So, if you get the chance, please pray with us that the Spirit will move people into getting out there and learning from and having fellowship with Others Unlike Them (maybe at our class, for example :). I kind of want to make a Bible study with O.U.T. as the acronym now . . .
I'm curious about how this has worked at churches you've attended. Is there a natural intermixing of ages/life stages, or do things naturally settle out along ageist lines? Why? How do you make sure you interact with your elders and those younger than you? Do you think this should be a priority? Should it be something natural, or do you think it necessarily requires work? Any other thoughts on the subject? (Extra points if you know where the term in the title came from.)