Communicating Across Ages

by Melinda Wenner Bradley
Youth Religious Life Coordinator, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting


A first step is recognizing the power and beauty of connecting and sharing across generations. It could not be more vital to the moment we are living in! Elise Boulding wrote:


“If we want to rediscover human joy and wholeness and creativity, and to learn to care for our planetary household as one earth family, we cannot continue to insulate adults and children from each other. Children need to be present to us, and we to them […]”


Intergenerationality is marked by mutuality (we all participate and benefit); reciprocity (we all give and receive) and equality (we are all valued equally). How can we use this as a guide, when planning gatherings with Friends?


When you meet someone new, particularly if they are from a different generation, don’t ask questions with embedded assumptions based on their age (What grade are you in school? What is your work? Do you have children? Are you retired?), instead ask questions that indicate your interest in them as a person:

              – What do you like to do?

              –How do you spend your days?

              – What gives you hope?

              –What are you looking forward to right now?

              –What’s something interesting that’s happened to you lately?


Consider hosting “Friendly Gatherings” as an expanded version of “Friendly 8s” so that families with children in the meeting can gather with other Friends across generations. (Groups should be intentionally multigenerational and can be more than eight people.) Share choices for relaxed, optional programming with the groups (see “Home Groups Fall 2021”).


Everyone needs stories, and activism can be a shared interest across ages of Friends. Books like “Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints” offer short biographies of really cool people of faith — share how their stories connect with the witness of adult Friends during their lives, and the hopes of younger Friends for their world.


Worship and Play together! Creating spaces to be together in joy and spiritual community nurtures opportunities to know each other in new ways. Sometimes we speak most eloquently and connect deeply simply through being present to one another. Host a game night, make a community meal, plan a time for all-ages to worship together. Invite people of all ages to help make these plans!