My husband and I know a Christian couple that we often refer to as our “dinner buddies.”
The four of us love to try new restaurants and new foods. So every month or couple of months, one of us makes a call to the other and we toss a few ideas back and forth and then boom, there we are: four people, one restaurant, and conversation that often goes on over two hours. Somehow we all just connect. We get each other.
Oh, and one other thing. They’re in their sixties. We’re approaching our mid-thirties.
It occurs to me sometimes that in almost every Sunday School class or small group I’m in, I’d never have met these people. Classes and studies are often grouped by age and life station; I’ve been in more “young married” and “young professionals” classes than I can count. The idea, insofar as I can tell, is that people who share an age or career stage are more likely to have things in common, or perhaps to be around the same place spiritually.
Sometimes that’s true and makes sense. I’ll admit, though, that hasn’t been the case for us. My husband and I don’t have children, which keeps us out of the loop with the “young family” groups and the studies that tackle their particular issues. We’re proud dorks who love video games and books and travel and always feel slightly out of step with our own age group. We tend to gravitate toward deeper and denser studies, too, but find a lot of the material for us and our peers lacking in the substance we’d prefer.
As a result, some of our dear friends – and our best spiritual advisors – have been older folks, or people from different walks of life. Sure, we don’t relate on all the issues. Some of our friends and mentors are a few years from retirement, and we’re still in the prime of our careers. They’ve had children; we aren’t having any. They belong to one denomination, we belong to another. Yet somehow it all works out.
It’s an important reminder that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to our own demographic. Even if you do fit in perfectly with your age group, it’s not challenging or enlightening to expose yourself to a set of worldviews that roughly match yours. Strong growth comes from encountering many different sorts of Christians – some older than you, some younger, some similar, some not so much – and finding what you can learn from them through relationship and time together.
Shake up your demographic. As Philip Yancey once said, we shouldn’t go to church to rub shoulders with other people just like us. Reach out to everyone around you, and you’ll be surprised at what comes of it. Some of the best mentors and friends you find might have very little in common with you at all.