This past summer when I was asked to lead a Bible Study, I wanted to say “yes.” There was just one small catch: The majority of the guys in the group are roughly three times my age. THREE TIMES! I like being around older people, but leading a Bible Study with men who could easily be my grandfather felt intimidating.
Even so, I prayed about it and decided to accept the invitation to teach. I’m so glad I did! It has been one of the biggest blessings of my life as well as a tremendous growing experience. As part of our month-long focus on mentoring here on the blog, I want to challenge you to develop relationships with individuals who have walked down life’s path long before you (and have the gray hair to prove it!).
In our churches, schools, and activities, age groups don’t often intermingle, and it’s a problem. Why? Because we grow and mature mentally and spiritually when we interact with older, wiser, people. As I’ve developed relationships with individuals ten, twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty years older than I am, three things have happened:
- Our relationships with each other grow and mature as I see wisdom modeled by godly lifestyles.
- My relationships with older people help step me out of my young adult world. When we are only around kids our age, our view of the world can become distorted. Friendship with someone decades older can expand our horizons.
- Relationships fostered with older individuals enable me to learn from their mess-ups. Often they want to share what mistakes they made so that we don’t make those same blunders!
Let’s head to the Bible to see some practical examples of these younger/older relationships.
Paul and Timothy
In Acts 16:1 we read about Paul recruiting Timothy into his ministry. Paul goes on to dedicate two entire letters to him as well (1 and 2 Timothy). Paul calls Timothy “my true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2). You can read more about them in Philippians 2:19–24 and 1 Thessalonians 3:1–6.
The Titus 2 Woman
The Titus 2 woman is to “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children” (vv. 3–4). To use the word “teach” implies that there is some sort of relationship between the older and younger women.
I was recently talking to a friend about marriage, and he mentioned the fact that, when looking for a potential spouse, you want to find a girl who has friendships with older women. (Or in your case, a guy who has developed or is developing friendships with older men.) This shows that the person is willing to learn and has someone to go to for counsel and advice. Great advice!
This is one case where we see how a lack of relationship with and respect for older, wiser, individuals made a mess of things. You can read Samson’s sad story in Judges 16.
A Cheat Sheet to Get You Started
It is wise (and fun!) to develop relationships with people older than you. Not only will this challenge you and help you grow, but it will encourage the other person as well. Many older Christians would love to share advice/wisdom with you. Remember that life really gets exciting when we step out of our comfort zones. So I challenge you to take that step. (One side note: It’s a good idea to stick to your same gender in developing relationships with older folks. Enough said.)
I understand that developing a relationship with someone ten plus years older than you can be uncomfortable. Here’s a cheat sheet of questions I’ve used to get the conversation rolling.
- What is God teaching you right now?
- What is a major life lesson that God has taught you through the years?
- I am ____ years old (insert age). What would you tell your ___ year-old self? (Insert same age as before.)
- Looking back at your life, what’s one thing you wish you have done differently?
- Is there anything I can do for you right now? (This will get you involved in their life through service, which is a great way to get to know someone.)
With your cheat sheet at the ready, I’d like to give you two challenges.
- This month, find one person who is significantly older than you. Ask them at least two of these questions, and then come back and let us know how it went.
- Read all you can about Paul and Timothy. Now go read about Samson. Compare and contrast. What do you observe in each man’s story?
PS: For more about mentoring, don’t miss a single post this month including Freebie Fridays. We’ll be giving away a copy of Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together each week. Score!