EP 217 – Multi-generational ministry
JimBo Stewart: Here we are back at the bootcamp back at it again, Bob. I hope you’re ready for the next episode. since our last episode, I have been hitting up a little bit of, travel in the DC DMV, Maryland, Virginia area. it’s been nice. I got to come up here, Maryland and Delaware Baptist convention, and then the SBCV Southern Baptist convention of Virginia.
I got to hang out with Colin Pugh. Replanter of the Year a few years ago, Replant Team Member now, our Urban Renewal Specialist, and got to preach at his church. And, hang out with him. I tried, a D. C. classic, Ben’s Chili Bowl. the original half smoke. You ever had that, Bob?
Bob Bickford: well, what is a half smoke, Jimbo?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I thought that was interesting too. It’s basically just a big hot dog. It’s a, I don’t know why they call it a half smoke. But, they use that term like everyone knows what it is.
Bob Bickford: That sounds to me like a half smoked [00:01:00] cigarette that is in the ashtray and you go get it out and try to smoke it. That’s a half smoke.
JimBo Stewart: yeah, it was, it was really good. It was, you know, Ben Chili Bowl is apparently a famous, location and it’s been there for a long time. There’s pictures of all these famous people that have come through there, all over the walls, and, so it was good, stopped there. We also went to. Jerry’s and had something called a Crab Bomb.
and it’s like the largest crab cake without bread filler. Like, it’s just crab and butter, basically.
Bob Bickford: Oh, wow.
JimBo Stewart: And it’s like they fill a bowl, pack tight, and then turn it, and then smash it onto your plate, and, big old crab bomb. It was pretty good, too.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, that sounds really good. I’ve not done quite as, maybe interesting things, but I’ve done Nashville y kinds of things no less. Nashvilleian
JimBo Stewart: Okay,
Bob Bickford: Nashville, I guess you might say if you’re from here, Nashville. You know, kind of a fun situation. I, I, Barb and I had dinner with Frank and Lori Lewis, a [00:02:00] good friend of the replant team, Frank Lewis. And we ate, uh, Emory Wood-fired on a famous street called 12 South. And, Frank and I had pizzas, and then we talked about church leadership and life, and, and our ladies got to know each other. And that was a lot of fun. And, Jimbo, we’ve got a Airstream coffee trailer that we’re working on for 3 1 3.
And, and I got to swap out a lock on the door on, the Airstream trailer. And I’ve got to, I gotta hire a handyman for our, locations. You know, I’ve had some uneventful times and, I’m not traveling, but Jimbo, here’s what I will tell you. When I moved from St. Louis, I was thinking, I don’t want to ever have to deal with leaves in the backyard.
Well, unfortunately, Jimbo, our backyard appears to be the receptacle of all the neighborhood leaves.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: so on the one side of our house on the rent house that we have, there is probably, I want to say 12 feet of leaves blown into the corner. I mean, it’s just unreal.
JimBo Stewart: Wow. That’s been nice for me being up here in, the DC and Maryland and [00:03:00]Virginia area is seeing fall leaves.
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: that’s not something I get, very much of in Jacksonville, Florida.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I bet not. It’s, they’re just about all gone here in Nashville. And, um, so it was kind of sad. we were super busy unpacking and all that. So we got a chance to, you know, we didn’t get a chance to get out and see them. And then Jimbo my convertible, you know, I did hear from the guy. I’m happy to say that the engine is torn apart.
I am sad to say that he said it was going to cost more than he quoted me. so I will be sending out a QR code on my social media. If you want to, you want to contribute to the give, give Bob’s convertible back a QR code fund. We’ll, uh, we’ll do that. No, I’m just joking about that. So if Kevin is listening to this podcast, which I know he regularly does, sorry, Kevin, I’m just, I’m joking.
JimBo Stewart: I had to, replace plugs and, coil packs on, on the forerunner here recently. And, I was surprised at, 24 years old and 245, [00:04:00] 000 plus miles. Those were the original plugs in coil packs.
Bob Bickford: Ouch. What were you getting like three miles to the gallon? Oh my God. Original plus. Holy cow.
JimBo Stewart: I, I looked, I took the plug out. I was like, that’s. Pretty impressive that they lasted that long.
Bob Bickford: Huh? Well, Toyotas are great. You know, I’m a fan of Toyotas.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. you know, I, I love my runner. I’m glad that it’s still running.
Bob Bickford: That’s good.
JimBo Stewart: Hey man, let’s jump into today. Uh, over the past few days, I’ve been interacting with a lot of people between the Maryland Delaware convention, the, Virginia convention and other conversations and, a conversation I’ve had is the importance of.
multi generational ministry, and how to do that and what that looks like. and so, obviously this ties to, 13 characteristics that we have. One of them is an affinity for multi generational ministry. a replant pastor with an [00:05:00] affinity for multi generational ministry is able to connect. Easily with both the young and old in his congregation.
So each group knows, not just feels, but knows they’re loved, valued, and heard. And so all ages are pastored well, I wanted to break this down a little bit and go deeper into this characteristic and the importance of multi-generational ministry just based on some of the conversations I’ve had recently.
Uh, I think it’s an important conversation for us to have.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I mean, I love this topic and I have to confess though, Jimbo. I struggled with this in ministry for a long time, particularly because I think I felt like the older generations were unreceptive to change and my thought was, man, if they would just get with it, then things would be awesome. and so I think a lot of guys out there think that, and that can lead to that thought.
Every thought always leads to an action.
JimBo Stewart: Hmm.
Bob Bickford: Uh, every action has a consequence. And so I think you [00:06:00] just have to really understand the fact that scripture is pretty clear that multi generational ministry is, is a thing and it’s important. And you know, Paul writes to Timothy, Titus about generational ministry.
And I think we, we do well to look at what the scriptures say and then think about the implications and the application of those principles in scripture.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think one of the important distinctions I want to make is we’re not just talking about having multiple generations under one roof. It goes beyond just assembling diverse age groups under one roof on Sunday mornings and them all being in the same building. It’s really about allowing the gospel to reshape our priorities, fostering a community where every individual is loved, valued, and heard.
and where we practice the idea of dying to self. I mean, Scripture, not only just multi generational, but Scripture exhorts us to go beyond ourselves. Outdo one another in showing honor in Romans 12 10, and this is kind of the idea I really think behind I I would say the idea is of you know die to [00:07:00]yourself the idea of outdo one another in showing honor the idea in Philippians 2 of Putting the interest of others above yourself, having the mind of Christ in humility, and so many other passages I think can reemphasize that idea and reinforce that idea that, I think multi generational ministry is a opportunity to practice those scriptures in how we love and, and treat others that we’re around.
Bob Bickford: the value of multi generational ministry is it’s hard to, speak about it in just one or two ways, right? You have to think holistically of the value of society or particularly The value of multiple generations in a church, right? Cause you get the wisdom and the humility of the seasoned saints, and you’ve got the vitality and the vigor and the enthusiasm of the younger folks.
And then you’ve got the joy of the especially young children. And I think all of that [00:08:00] can function together to really be a blessing to the
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think one of the dangers we have to watch for, and we’ve said this before, I think we had an episode called, uh, Growing Your Church Younger, where we talked about this a little bit of if you yield on preferential matters to only one generation, then you risk tethering your church’s life cycle solely to that group, meaning however long that group.
it’s going to be a life cycle. They’re going to die. They’re going to move on. and so there’s some consequences to the vitality of the church. And this is true even like if you’re planting a church and just catering to the younger crowd. Or even as you’re replanting, revitalizing, if you are ignoring the aging, Parts of your congregation just to go to the younger, you’re leading yourself just into a cycle where you’re going to end up back where you started.
And I think it’s one of the issues is there’s a challenge for how you, the challenge can go one of two ways, some in some [00:09:00] churches and need. There is a strong love and affection for the legacy members of the church. And so you don’t really want to shake the apple cart. and so you really just cater to the preferences of the older generation that’s been there longer.
And they have some fears and challenges of releasing preferences. but we have to get them to embrace the call to serve and love the younger generation. And, so we’ve got to work to overcome the obstacles. for effective ministry by not viewing the senior adults as an obstacle, or the younger people.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. One of the things to we’ve talked a lot about this in our presentations in the field that, we often equate longevity to spiritual maturity. Like, so the longer I’ve been a follower of Christ, the longer I’ve been a part of this church. The more likely I would normally be expected to, to have, a level of spiritual maturity that is high, right?
That is, that is defined, that is exhibiting the fruit of the spirit and all those sorts of things. [00:10:00]But I think one of the things you mentioned here is the fear and challenge of, releasing preferences, but also following Jesus in faith. Right. He calls us to have to, we have to die to self to change and all those sorts of things.
And so, I’ve seen this cripple of church where a group of younger folks out of respect and deference to the older folks just don’t, ask them to change. Right. Or just. submit and surrender that forward progress of the church just out of respect. And so what that does is it creates a scenario where you stop seeing transformation that should occur in the church and transformation stops at the point of preferential pain.
And so if. You’re asking me to do something and I don’t want to do it because it causes me emotional pain or it causes me, you know, we might even say logistical. Like I just don’t want to change. I don’t want to do that differently. That sort of thing. Then your congregation really stuck. And then the younger generation.
feels stuck as well. And they’re frustrated where the older generation feels at peace [00:11:00] perhaps. And so what happens is you have congregational wars that break out or you just have a lot of strife that goes underground, right? and it’s goes unspoken. And so if you’ve ever been in a relationship with somebody and you know that there’s tension there, but nobody’s talking about it, you know, that you just, you’re stuck until you get that out in the open and you address
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think so. You can err towards the preferences of the older generation, but there’s another way we can err as well. and that’s towards the preferences of the younger
and, you know, you see, hey, we’ve gotta have younger people in order to have a future in this church. And that’s true. but if you’re not careful, you’ll spend all of your energy.
Trying to pastor the people that you want in your congregation rather than the ones that God has given you and When I when I moved to Jacksonville, Florida Before I did, I took my pastor in New Orleans to lunch several times and just asked for him to download as much wisdom into me as he could. And one of the things he reinforced to me a couple of times was, pastor the [00:12:00] people that God has given you, not the ones that you want. You just got to trust that the Lord is going to add who he wants there. And you got to do, do the ministry. You know, God’s called you to do be proactive, be, you know, engage the community, love the community well. But you may have a picture in your mind of the kind of church you’re wanting to pastor. And this isn’t it. Don’t pastor the church that you’re wanting to pastor, pastor the church that God has given you. and if you are seeing your, if you’re always seeing your senior adults. as an obstacle. then you’re, you’re going down the wrong path. Mm-Hmm.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I think one of the things that we probably should think about how to nuance in this discussion is when we say pastor the people that you have, not the people that you want. One of the things that I often equated with pastoring the people is comforting them, right? And um, placating that, you know, be placating them or pacifying them, [00:13:00] that sort of thing.
But a pastor… is a lead, a leader, a shepherd. He’s moving them towards something. He’s moving them towards the good shepherd, right? He’s moving them towards new fields and new pastures. And so I don’t want those who are listening here to equate pastoring with being passive. Or not trying to lead your people somewhere.
but when you are leading senior adult folks somewhere, they just move slow. Right. And you’ve got to understand that that it’s a generational thing and it’s a fear thing. So perfect example. Um, I was walking with, Brandon, the founder of our company, we were doing a walk and talk meeting, which was a lot of fun.
And, you know, we’re just talking through some things. And, as we’re coming back into the, church facility, we live in an urban area and a lot of our campuses, that we’re affiliated with, they get a lot of trash. So. so it’s just, it’s not uncommon for us to be walking through the parking lot around the building and pick up trash, right?[00:14:00]
Just that’s, you know, we want this to look good. So I can tell you this, he’s 31 and a 31 year old bends down to the ground and picks up trash different than a 56 year old.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: And so, so I was noticing, after a while, like I would see a piece and attraction, I would go to, to bend out and pick it up and he would like beat me to it.
Right. And so I looked at him and he’s like, he goes, is your back hurting? You’re moving kind of slow. Right. And I’m like, dude, I’m 56 years old. I’ve been over to pick up trash a lot different than you. You’re 31 years old. It’s just part of age, you know, and I can say in the last year I have to take like vitamins and supplements and I have to take this anti arthritis medicine, you know, and, and if I’m working outside and lifting and, you know, cleaning and Running the blower and all this kind of stuff.
Jimbo. I just can tell you like even sleeping Jimbo, I get [00:15:00] sore sleeping. I don’t know how I do it, but I do it.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: So my age and stage means I move at a different pace.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: But if you just let me only do what I want to do, it will lead me not to push myself to a point of pain. Same thing with older folks in the church. We’re not just saying, let them do whatever they want to do, but you’ve got to realize that as you lead them to do what God has called you as a church body to do in your geographical context, they’re going to, they’re going to participate in a different way than if they were much younger. Right. And so it, it takes them a while to do stuff now.
it didn’t take them a long time to do. and so if you can get them to pray and participate and give your, and give their permission and then celebrate and affirm the work of the Lord, what’s going on there, that’s probably you’re winning. And the church will win in mission rather than expecting them to get out and, you know, knock on [00:16:00] doors or, you know, Do heavy lifting on a cleanup day or all those sorts of things.
You just got to let them serve how they’re, they’re wired to serve. And then you also have to cast vision for the younger folks among you to serve in ways that they’re uniquely called and qualified and enabled to serve.
JimBo Stewart: I like the emphasis you put on like longevity doesn’t mean maturity because part of this shepherding the people God has given you is discipling them and don’t assume that just because they are older that they have that they have been discipled. I mean, likely, a lot of times they have not. And, as part of your responsibility, shepherd them.
And what I don’t want, what I don’t want you to do is just work around them. you know, it’s easier to work around a stump than plow around a stump and go through it. That can be true of one or two people. but that can’t be the whole congregation.
if it’s the whole congregation, then you got to sit there and figure out how to till that soil. and you know, they’re gonna, they’re gonna be some people you just won’t win over. They’re going to be some people who will just not [00:17:00] buy in. you’re not going to be able to disciple them. You’re not going to be able to lead them.
and they’re just gonna be against what you do and they may leave, or they may just stay and be in grumble the whole time. and They’re those that sometimes you’re going to end up having to just plow around. but that is not the congregation as a whole, as a whole, you have a responsibility to shepherd those people well, embrace the challenge of leading the whole congregation and to, coming together because I think honestly, Bob, there’s a lot of wins that can.
Come from this if you’ll embrace this mentality of multi generational ministry being important being mission critical for church revitalization And again, not just that we have them all in the same room, but they love each other they care about each other They serve each other sacrificially they give deference towards each other in an outdoing honor, outdoing one another in honor type way There’s some there’s some blessings If you can really encourage sacrificial love, from this, that you’ll see happen some sweet [00:18:00] things happen within your congregation.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, one of my favorite pictures from the time I was replanting our church was between our oldest member and one of our youngest, and they, they had become just the dearest of friends. And so during worship, uh, there’s a photo that I showed some of the slideshows that I talk about our, our church family.
And so we have the oldest member and the youngest member and the oldest member has, she has her arm around. This little girl in worship and this little girl has her armor on the back of a older lady in worship and they’re just singing. Right. And it’s at Christmas time. And the mom put that on Facebook and she said, this is one of my favorite things about my church.
And you know, that her daughter has a friend who is this, you know, old, but one of the oldest members in our church and that they were, they were loving and close together. And I think that’s a beautiful picture of what God’s, what God does inside the church to bring us together under the unity of Christ.
We don’t, we don’t celebrate, well, sometimes we do celebrate Jimbo. We celebrate that everybody’s on board with the mission [00:19:00] and vision and they’ve signed a membership covenant and they’re contributing towards the vision and mission, you know, whatever that, you know, all this kind of stuff. They love the style and this and that and the other, right?
Those are, those are great things when they occur and there’s nothing wrong with them. But I think what’s even a better thing is when you walk into a church and you see a collection of people who you’re like, I have no earthly understanding of why these people are together and why they are all here because they are so different, right?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Then you walk into that church and there’s a unity and a sweet spirit and there’s a. There’s a deference to one another. There’s a loving one another above your, yourself and not seeking your own interests. There’s something about that community that can only exist because it’s shaped by the gospel and the unity that’s in Christ.
And that’s a beautiful picture when you’ve got a collection of dissimilar folks who are worshiping together with great joy and unified in purpose.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And this is, I mean, this is what the world is [00:20:00] looking for right now. I mean, the world is is wondering where could we see something like this happen? there’s no reason other than our pride in our sin that they shouldn’t see this in the local body of Christ. and it’s such an opportunity to experience beautiful and biblical community as well as to demonstrate that to the world.
Through the love, unity, and service that this brings, and so, man, I just, I wanted to emphasize for this episode, multi generational is not a accidental. Or, you know, you know, you have to do it. Part of revitalization. It’s a beautiful part of revitalization. It’s one of the best parts in my opinion,
Bob Bickford: Mm-Hmm.
JimBo Stewart: because it really does create an opportunity for everybody to practice being who God has called us to be by dying to self and honoring each other and serving each other.
And there’s so much wisdom to learn from each other. And, you can [00:21:00] soften hard hearts when they start to have true unity and biblical community with other people.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. If we’re all the same, from the same generation, with the same life experience, we’re mi, we’re missing out on the rich history of what it means to walk with God over the entire season of one’s life. And we’re missing out on the wisdom and the insight that come from experiencing hard things, and also seeing that God is faithful and a young person can go through hard times and, and know that God’s faithful, older person.
Um, obviously has more, more, uh, you know, years, more life experience to, to experience those sorts of things. But I think we need, we need the young and the old. We need the optimism and the enthusiasm. We need the grace and the wisdom. And we need the assurance from both that regardless of what season you find yourself in, God is faithful and God is, is evident in all generations.
and we learn from one another and I think we, we miss the [00:22:00] richness of, the multi generational church when we focus just on a mono generational church where people are exactly like us in the same phase of life.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, it’s, I mean, it really is such an opportunity. and so pastor, here’s what I would ask, man. Do you truly love and have deep affection and care? For older people. Do you, I mean, or do old people bother you and annoy you because you feel like they just grumble and complain? Or do young people bother you because they just want to change everything. And I just want to do everything so different.
And why can’t they just do things the way that we’ve been doing this for a long time? both directions are an error. and so my encouragement to you is find the beauty in multi generational ministry and shepherd the people that God has given you to be who God has called them to be.