by Ana Batts
Something happened to me when I hit my 30’s. My “littles” started elementary school. My middle schoolers started high school. Gone were the days of playgroups and ready-made relationships that formed while we watched our toddlers play.
Suddenly building new relationships got hard.
That’s when I realized it. I was a tween. Too old to be “cool” (I don’t think that is even the word anymore) but not exactly middle age. After spending the last 10 years working to build relationships across generational lines with older women, it is time to shift my focus to something that seems much more daunting. Building relationships with a younger generation.
But where do you start?
- Be willing to be uncomfortable.
How is it that younger people can be so intimidating? All of the insecurities of high school seem to be flooding back. What if they don’t like me? What if I sound like an idiot? What if I look ridiculous? The reality is new relationships feel awkward. You will say the wrong thing. You will do the wrong thing. You will look ridiculous. Learn to listen well and apologize quickly. Time together is the best way to get beyond the awkward.
2. Find a common space
Relationships require a common interest and shared space to grow. When you spend time with someone from a different generation, you will often find you aren’t as different as you think. A shared space can be a hobby, background, or interest. Do you love to cook? Travel? Read? Take awesome photos? Use those interests to build your relationship. If you can’t find a common interest, then get out of your comfort zone and ask them for a recommendation. You might find something new that you really love.
3. Know your biases.
Okay, you probably can’t know all of your biases, but you need to know that you have them. We all do. Each of us come into relationships with our own set of pre-judgements, our own baggage. In other words, each of us comes to a relationship with biases for and against people, age groups, and ideas. Those biases are often based on our personal preferences.
I don’t do middle schoolers.
High schoolers are lazy.
College students aren’t serious about digging into the Word. They aren’t serious about anything.
Each of these statements reveal a personal bias that shapes the way we think toward the younger generation. They often reveal more about us than it does about them. Expectations can ruin relationships. Biases can build walls that make relationship impossible. Be aware of your biases and be willing to change the way you think about those in your life.
4. Be genuinely interested and truly present.
Remember that having a relationship is the point. It is easy to get so focused on being able to influence those in our circles that we miss the relationship. Be available. Be genuine. Listen a lot. Don’t look at the younger generation as only a ministry, but as a relationship.
I want to guide all those in my life toward the Savior, but without a genuine relationship, that will never be a possibility. Will you join me?