‘Old Dogs’ Have Responsibility to Equip and Teach the Next Generations
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but often an old dog can teach a young dog a few new tricks.
Recently I saw a video on social media that showed a woman trying to teach her new dog to sit. As an older dog watched, the young puppy danced eagerly around the woman in anticipation of the reward treat, but wasn’t sitting. Then the next time she commanded “Sit!” the older dog reached out it paw and pushed the new dog’s hind end down into the sitting position. The woman rewarded both the young dog for sitting and the old dog for helping in the training.
Perhaps in a sign that I’m getting older, lately I’ve become more aware of the biblical mandate to act like the old dog in the video. The Bible actually has a lot to say about our responsibilities as teachers, especially in regard to parents teaching their children, but also just in general to be an example to and to instruct the next generations. Here are a few:
Ps. 71:18: Even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me. Then I will proclaim Your power to another generation, Your strength to all who are to come.
Ps. 145:4: One generation will declare Your works to the next and will proclaim Your mighty acts.
Deut. 6:6-7: These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Titus 2:3-5: In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered.
Recent issues have accentuated the fact that this younger generation views the world differently than the older generations.
The Millennial Generation, those born between about 1983 and 2001, are numerous and are bent on changing the world. The oldest of them are moving into positions of influence and power in corporations and in our churches. Even in Generation Z, those born since 2001, we’re seeing a move toward wanting to make a difference in the world.
Recent issues in this country, from politics to gender differences to responses to criminal activity have accentuated the fact that this younger generation views the world differently than the older generations.
People in Generation X, born between 1965 and 1983, seem particularly irritated with these younger generations, dealing with them in the “Get off my lawn, you whippersnappers” vein. Baby Boomers and the last vestiges of the Greatest Generation seem to, by and large, pretend the Millennials and Z’ers don’t exist.
The Bible has a clear mandate for those of us who have more years behind us than in front of us.
Millennials and Z’ers are now populating our churches as well and bringing new ideas with them, often influenced far more by secular ideals than by the Bible. Rather than simply complaining about them, or ignoring their existence, the Bible has a clear mandate for those of us who have more years behind us than in front of us – we are to be the equippers, the instructors and the influencers for the generations coming after us.
That’s an awesome task for those of us on the north side of 50, in both senses of the word awesome – a great privilege and an overwhelming proposition. But it’s important, so here’s what you’ll need to carry out God’s commands.
Knowledge – If we’re going to teach those coming behind us, we have to know what we’re talking about, which means we’ve got to be reading and studying the Bible. Too often we rely on church tradition or what we’ve heard rather than really examining for ourselves what Scripture says. The more we know, the more we can pass on to the next generations.
Relationships – We can’t ignore the younger generations (or yell at them to get off the lawn) and expect them to learn anything from us. We have to get to know the Millennials and Z’ers at a personal level, and let them get to know us. On a positive note, research has shown that Baby Boomers and Millennials often develop a strong connection with each other.
Confidence – Modesty and insecurity often kick in when it comes to teaching others. “Who am I to tell someone else how to live?” is a common question. Well, the answer to that is, “God tells you to.” Unless you’re a very unusual specimen of a human being, you’ve lived a life that has strayed from perfection, sometimes far from it and with more frequency than you’d like. Instead of destroying your credibility, it actually enhances it. We’ve all experienced the mistakes that make life hard and have found the better way to live. We can use our experiences to help others keep from making and experiencing those mistakes.
Kindness and patience – Remember, we’re passing on our knowledge of God’s kindness toward us (Titus 3:3-5), so we need to use kindness when instructing others. It will be tempting to be harsh, or at least roll our eyes, when they don’t “get it” right away. I know I didn’t learn all my lessons in one easy step, and I’m sure you didn’t either. God shows patience with all of us, as He will with those in the next generations. When we pass on God’s Word with patience and kindness, we have a better chance to make a lasting impact on the future generations.
Equipping future generations isn’t an easy task but it can be fun task. And the interesting thing is that as we instruct the next generations we’re going to be learning even more ourselves. Turns out the old saw I quoted at the beginning isn’t quite accurate – even us old dogs can still learn a few new tricks.