Here’s a headline that grabbed my attention recently: “Multigenerational Families Make It Work Under One Roof.” It seems that families who choose to share a washing machine, a dining room table, and a mortgage payment are on the rise. In a culture that puts a premium on having a car and a television set for each member of the family (and tends to relegate extended family to holiday dinners and Christmas cards), this trend has some sociologists scratching their heads.
Here’s a quick look at the stats:
- Prior to WWII, twenty-five percent of the American population lived with extended family.
- By 1988, only twelve percent did.
- Today, that number is back up to sixteen percent, representing 51million Americans.
And here’s the kicker: all that shared space is working out beautifully! A whopping eighty-two percent of members in multigenerational homes reported enhanced family bonds. Researchers have found that being in close quarters with extended family actually wards off depression and the predictable routines of family life, and that even large and extended families experience reduced stress. In other words, being closely connected with people from different stages of life is a good thing. A really, really good thing.
I’m not advocating that you call your children and grandchildren and announce you are adding a wing on to your house just for them. But, I do think it is wise for all of us to take note that multigenerational living, mentoring, and connection is part of God’s plan for the family. And that all of the separateness (separate homes, separate schedules, separate lives) that has become so common may not be benefiting us as much as we’d like to think.
Titus 2:3-5 says,
“Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
In the days when Paul wrote these words to Pastor Titus, this formula of older men and women mentoring their younger counterparts was happening more naturally then it does for us now. Extended family still lived in close proximity and often in the same house. Paul’s curriculum was most likely to be taught around the dining room table or in a fishing boat. Generational mentoring isn’t happening as easily as it once did, but that doesn’t mean Paul’s words aren’t still applicable. It’s a principle that those living in “unconventional” multigenerational homes are finding out first hand.
Read that passage again. Respect, self-control, sound faith, strong love, kindness, and a busy and fulfilling home life. These are things we need an extra dose of. Who does the Bible suggest we learn them from? Other Christians. But not strictly men and women who are just like you and living in the exact same stage of life. Nope. The Bible urges you to learn from individuals who are older, who have a few more years of life under their belts and a few more kernels of wisdom to share. A logical place to look for these teachers is in your own family. The flip side is that you are the best teacher of these principles to the men and women in your family who are younger than you.
Connecting with others from different generations is good for everyone. That’s especially true when generations work together to build a heritage of faith and to minister together.
So, here’s a homework assignment for you. Find a way to connect with an older family member this week. Start small with a card or email, or go big and make plans to spend an extended amount of time together. Do the same thing with a younger member of your family. Play hide and go seek; attend a basketball game; or go to the park with your grandchildren, nieces, or nephews.
You don’t have to share a roof to reap the benefits of Titus 2 living in your own life, but be on the lookout for ways to live out God’s plan by connecting often across the years.