Honoring and Investing: The Key to Intergenerational Relationships

Do you know the Ruth story?
  • Family moves to new country. Two sons get married.
  • Father and both sons die.
  • Mother tells new daughter-in-laws to return to their people and restart life.
  • One does. Ruth stays with her new mother Naomi. They return to the old country.
  • Naomi is bitter about the harsh hand dealt her by life.
  • Ruth works hard to make things work.
  • Ruth meets Boaz.
  • Naomi helps Ruth navigate the customs to get together with Boaz.
  • Ruth and Boaz get together and have baby Obed.
Ruth 3:1-5 serves as the turning point of the story. Prior to chapter three, everything is about survival and recovery from life's bitter turns. Chapter three is the launching point for much more positive things.
One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.""I will do whatever you say," Ruth answered.
I've made three observations from this passage that might serve as a positive guide for intergenerational relationships in churches.
  1. Naomi "got her groove back" when she focused on helping Ruth instead of mourning her losses.
  2. Naomi didn't just encourage Ruth to chase Boaz, she told her exactly how to do it.
  3. Ruth listened, and followed Naomi's advice.
My next thoughts come out of a grid I've already worked significantly on which identifies the key activity for older generations in a church as INVESTMENTand the key activity for younger generations in a church as HONORING. Remember that already in the book of Ruth, Ruth has honored Naomi by choosing to stay with her even after the loss of her husband. So now, based on the above observations, here are some thoughts about intergenerational relationships:
  1. We will be much happier, more energized, and excited about church ministry when we focus on investing in those younger than us, rather than mourning the good old days.
  2. Just throwing money at problems isn't enough, we need to invest in the coming generations by getting down on our hands and knees and showing them how to live like Jesus in the world.
  3. When those older than us model this behavior, it behooves us to listen and follow their advice.
So now this. For those who do read this, I'd love to hear your comments about some specific ways we can INVEST in those younger than us and HONOR those older than us.

(by the way, I really DON'T want you to tell me how those older than you can invest in you, or how those younger than you can honor you. that kind of misses the point.)