There is so much value in multi-generational friendships. Singles tend to gravitate towards our peers. And there is nothing wrong with that; I have many deep friendships with peers. But I’ve also found great value from friendships with those older & younger, both men and women. If you only have peer-friendships, you’re missing out!
Isolation is one of the most common mistakes singles make. Nobody ever makes good decisions in isolation. You don’t grow by having friends that are just like you. There is great benefit to surrounding yourself with godly people and investing deeply in others.
So many singles complain of being alone and feeling lonely. True, even good friendships don’t replace a spouse; marriage is a unique and special relationship. But there are rich blessings in building deep community as a single, and from personal experience, it prevents a lot of that inward-focused loneliness.
Here are 5 benefits of multi-generational friendships.
1. Being Mentored By Older Women
I’ve been blessed to build friendships with older women in many arenas. Some are my mom’s friends, some are various older ladies in our church (not necessarily old, just older than me), and some are coworkers. Not all are intentional “mentoring” relationships (though I highly recommend that!), but all provide a portion of “Titus 2” mentoring.
Building these friendships means I seek out these ladies, I ask questions, and I’m genuinely interested in their lives. As they share about their lives, with anything from cooking to child training to marriage to ministry to career, I get to learn. Most of them have no idea how much wisdom they have to share. Often, they’ll ask me questions too, and it becomes a friendship with advice and encouragement sprinkled in.
2. Getting To Mentor Younger Women
When we’re young, sometimes it can feel like we have nothing to offer to other girls. After all, we don’t have it all figured out! But don’t underestimate what it will mean to a younger girl when you tell her “I’ve been there, in fact, some days I still struggle with the same things. Here’s some things that have helped me.”
It can be asking a 10 year old girl what books she’s reading and what she’s learning from them. It can be advising a 16 year old girl who’s struggling with rebellion. It can be praying with a 18 year girl who doesn’t know what God has for her next. It can be listening to a younger friend’s engagement story, and rejoicing with her and encouraging her with truth even if you’ve never been engaged. You don’t have to know everything to “mentor” them. You just have to love them, listen to them, care about them, ask good questions, and trust that the Holy Spirit will give you the words when you need them.
3. Building Solid Friendships With Men
This is one that we usually ignore. Or, as single girls, we focus on building friendships with eligible men. Let’s face it, that guy we’ve been so interested in talking to, somehow becomes less interesting when he gets a girlfriend. But when we limit our male friendships to single men, we’re missing out. We have much to learn from friendships with younger men and boys, and we can play a big role in their lives when we encourage them, build them up, and respect them. Brothers are a great place to start, and then expand to your brothers’ friends or other young men in your church or circle of influence. And when it comes to the single guys who happen to be eligible, make sure to encourage and respect them all equally, not just the ones you find attractive. 🙂
Friendships with older men are also important. Yes, there are healthy boundaries, and there won’t be the same closeness as with an older woman, but don’t ignore the blessing that is here! Often, these friendships come from knowing a couple and interacting with them both. I’ve enjoying visiting with married friends and their husbands, conversing with a mixed group at a potluck, and even doing ministry with older men. I now have several older, trusted men in my life who have offered to “vet” a potential spouse and whose opinions I value on that topic and many others. As men, they have a unique perspective (different from any woman!), and I can learn a lot from them.
4. Giving and Receiving Encouragement and Advice
When you try to encourage someone, or especially give advice, but you don’t know them well, it’s not always appreciated. And we’ve probably all been the recipient of well-meaning encouragement or advice that just wasn’t very helpful. At the same time, we all need encouragement and advice from others at some point or another.
So this isn’t just about mentoring, but about building genuine friendships and relationships. It’s having people all around that care about you and are invested in you, and so they share advice and encourage you as part of that relationship. It means that you are care about and are invested in people around you, and because of that, you too will encourage and give advice.
5. Learning To Interact With All Ages
All through life, we’re going to have to interact with people of all ages. Having all your friends be peers can actually hamper your development in this area. Learn now how to do life with non-peers. Learn to have conversations that matter with people in all walks of life. Learn to appreciate different seasons of life.
You’re going to need multi-generational friendships all through life. Learn to do them well. They’ll make you a better employee, a better boss, a better spouse, a better friend, a better parent, a better grandparent, a better daughter-in law, a better mother-in-law, the list goes on.
Where Do I Start?
You’ll have to be intentional. These friendships don’t often “just happen”, and many of these people will assume that you’re not interested in being friends just because of the age difference. You will likely have to seek them out, let them know that you value them, and ask good questions. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
- At group events, pick at least 1 younger person & 1 older person to connect with or at least chat with for a short time, before you go greet your friends.
- Find points of connection, like asking an older lady for tips on canning, maybe ask if you could go over and help her can sometime.
- Send little notes or texts of encouragement. Be a blessing. Comment on things about them that you appreciate (like thanking the pastor for his sermon, or noticing how helpful that girl is being to her mother).
- Learn to ask good questions, and learn to be a good listener. Practice showing interest in all kinds of things that matter to someone else, and pretty quickly, it’ll become genuine.
- Join a Bible study that has varying ages in it. Get to know different people in the group.
- Offer to be a mother’s helper for a day! Most busy moms don’t have hours to sit and talk, but if you help her clean and cook and get projects done, you’ll find a golden opportunity for talking and also observing and learning.
- Babysit. And invest in those kids, treat them like real people. It sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget that kids are people with real feelings and dreams and fears, too.
- Travel with different people. I’ve been so blessed by work/ministry trips that offered opportunities for conversation and connection.
- Volunteer to help with everything from a wedding to a church event to a local ministry. Get to know your fellow volunteers. I’ve made tons of friendships from this!
- Go out for coffee. I’d limit this one to women or family, but it’s a great opportunity to hang out with your brothers, build a relationship with a younger girl, catch up with an older lady.
- Be hospitable. If your family is willing, invite different people into your home. Volunteer to help clean and cook for the company, and your family will be more willing. 🙂
What other tips would you add to this list? I would love to hear what’s worked well for you, what’s been a struggle, and what you’re going to work on now!