Six years ago my wife Reagan and I were living in North Carolina while I attended seminary. We were in a great church. We had good jobs (for struggling newly-weds) and loved living out on our own for the first time in our lives. But, in a matter of twenty-four hours, our joy became sorrow. Reagan suffered a miscarriage and her uncle, who was a semi-father figure, died tragically. As a new husband, I had no real concept of how to love my wife through these horrific events.
In that moment, our community group, led by a couple twenty years our senior, rallied around us. They prayed with us, brought us meals, and sat with us while we cried. From that moment, I knew the value of real community. People in our lives knew us well and loved us in spite of us. I also knew that this group of people, while mostly the same age, would not function the same if we did not have older people to guide us, rebuke us, and love us. It became critical to me to have older men in my life who have faced tragedy and faithfully loved Jesus. So as we moved to Phoenix and joined Valley Life, I was thrilled to find our community groups function the same way.
Now, we lead a community group in North Phoenix. Our group has almost every stage of life represented. We’ve got little ones, a young single guy, young families, two families with teenagers, a family with young adult kids, and empty nesters. Every Tuesday, our house is filled with people who love Jesus, love his church, and are facing totally different problems.
Old to Young
Reagan and I are in a great, but tough, season of life. We’ve got three boys, at four, two, and ten months, so our life is chaotically beautiful. With our varied life experiences, my group can (and does) look into our lives to encourage us when we parent well and correct us when we start to go astray. Titus 2 describes this perfectly. Paul encourages older men and women to teach younger men and women how to be Christians. Several families in our community group get to experience this every day.
Young to Old
There is also great value in the love, energy, passion, and new perspectives that some of the younger families give to the older families in the group. We are blessed with older couples in our group that are not set in their ways or unwilling to learn. And their willingness to continue to grow becomes infectious, stirring up greater affections for Jesus and the mission of the local church.
There may be a place for affinity groups; I have been a part of several in my life as a Christian. The comradery and shared experiences are nice, but I have found much more joy sitting with people who are not like me, studying the Bible together and working to serve as ambassadors of the gospel of Jesus.