Young adults aged 18 to 30 and women in every other generation participated in an interactive workshop on intergenerational space, Café groups and openness to the needs and experiences of younger women. They may have been surprised by what happened.
Modeling the discussion process of Café discussion groups, the conversation quickly deepened when presenter Rozella White, ELCA director of young adult ministry, invited participants to think of young women aged 18-30 and pray for each them. Then participants shared current or remembered stories of that 12-year period in their own lives.
White, 33, shared her own experiences of marital difficulties, divorce and a lack of knowledge of her own needs. When one marital therapist asked what the couple’s needs were, White said, “I couldn’t think of a single thing to write down.” She left her sheet of paper blank.
Later, when White’s story ended, women began to respond:
“Your story is very much like mine at those ages.”
“I’m too busy taking care of everybody else.”
“What is it inside of me that would motivate me to try to do everything, knowing my limitations?”
“We wear so many hats, the word ‘No’ doesn’t come easily.”
“As Bishop Eaton said, we’re good at giving grace but not so good at accepting grace.”
“I never was led to believe I had any needs.”
“Thank you for bravely telling your story. Our women’s group (of women aged 50 and up) just used your story (available as a Café podcast at boldcafe.org) in our group.”
The discussion revealed similarities across generations, cultures and ethnicities. Participants discussed messages from previous generations and more, sharing pains, joys and God-given grace in their lives.
White said existing women’s groups should consider two tough questions: Why do you want younger people in the church? Are you willing to be vulnerable in seeking younger people out?
She asked co-presenter Jessica Gill, who has started two Café groups in as many congregations in Ohio, to share ideas for creating intergenerational spaces. Among those ideas: invite and listen to younger women, offer service projects and retreats, consider holding an intergenerational Bible study, and remember that real relationships must be reciprocal.
All the generations can benefit from each other’s wisdom, White said. “But you can’t share the wisdom if you’re not in relationship. …It’s about life-changing relationships.”
Rozella White is pictured above.
Elizabeth Hunter/The Lutheran