Our relationships are enriched and encouraged when we get to know people outside our own generational and relational box. Today’s show brings encouragement in abundance from a Millennial and her Generation Z sister.

The last two episodes, 17 and 18, about the relationship between two sisters, has triggered some thinking in me that I want to share with you today. There’s been quite a bit written about Millennials, and increasingly more about the generation coming up behind them, Generation Z.

But what I liked about talking with Hannah and Abby Barbeau the last two shows is that there was nothing academic or sociological about it. No theories or research studies. No abstractions. It was all about real-life relationships in day-to-day living. I’m grateful to them for giving us all a concrete picture of how people their age view relationships, and what we can learn from them.

As I mentioned at the end of last week’s episode. I walked away encouraged by what I heard from this younger generation. Today I want to explain why – so that hopefully you will be encouraged too.

To put my encouragement in context, I want to share several observations about Abby and Hannah’s comments about relationships we discussed over the last 2 weeks.

Last week for example, in talking about their generation’s relationship to the church, Hannah echoed what I’ve read and heard from other millennials about the Church, namely, We’re interested in Jesus; but the church? Not so much.

She talked about sin is happening in the church and how people have been hurt by the church. That the church contributed to broken relationships. Hannah’s comments surprised me a bit with how strongly she felt.

But I can identify with her feelings – even as a baby boomer. There’s a church in our area where Janet and I used to be members that had the same problem Hannah identified. We ultimately left that church, because in a nutshell, they didn’t treat people very well. Programs were more important than people. Some of my friends were hurt by the leadership of the church, and it was hard to watch this pattern of neglect. We just couldn't be part of it anymore. Their mistreatment of people was not intentional, I’m sure. To borrow a term from episode 11, they were unconsciously unskilled in loving and ministering to people.

But we didn’t leave THE church, instead we found another congregation, another expression of the church of Jesus Christ we could feel part of with integrity.

I was glad to hear that Abby and Hannah were not giving up on the church, that they view it as a necessary part of their lives. I liked what Abby said about what her Generation Z is looking for in a church: “good teaching that speaks to my soul.”

I love that phrase, good teaching that speak to my soul. Not self-help tips you can pick up at a Kiwanis club meeting, but good teaching that speaks to my soul.

Hannah went on to say Millennials want authenticity and vulnerability in the church, where one’s faith is integrated into all of life. Where people’s brokenness doesn’t need to be hidden. She said her generation wants to see people in the 30’s, 40’s, and older living out their faith.

Abby said Generation Z wants older people in their life, people who could walk through life with them. They want to be mentored by those who have gone ahead of them. Here is where I would push back on this a bit.

My experience is that younger generations will often say this, but it seems like it’s more an IDEA they embrace, rather than a reality. When younger generations need help, when they want guidance, they turn first to their peers, not to someone who dealt with what they’re dealing with years before.

They trust their inexperienced friends more than experienced older people they don’t know as well.

This lack of trust and confidence in what older people think may be the fault of older generations. Millennials and Gen Z may see such a short supply of older people with wisdom that it doesn’t occur to them to think beyond the box of their own age group.

This is all of course, based on general observations and not true of everyone. And you have to remember, I don’t get out much, so maybe I’m all wrong. But I would be interested in what you as listeners think about this. I’d appreciate some feedback on this issue. Let me know your thoughts in the comment box of the show notes or in an email, john [at]caringforothers [dot]org.

Another observation about the interview with Abby and Hannah was their positive view of missionaries overseas and their young adult children back in the States. I loved how encouraging they were to both parties in the relationship. To college student MK’s here in the US, I think it was Abby who said “Stay curious; keep your heart open. College is tough, but you’ll make it.”

Then to parents, Hannah said “If God has called you overseas, stay there. He’ll watch over your kids.” It’s not about the physical distance that separates you, it’s the emotional distance. Keep the emotional distance short and you’ll remain close, regardless of the distance.

I love the example she gave of her 27-year-old roommate, an adult missionary kid whose parents are serving in France. Hannah spoke about how this physical separation from her parents is one means of God developing character. She talked about her roommate finding family in a church, and how incredibly important a church family is to young adult MK’s with parents living abroad.

My last observation is about the quote of the week Hannah left us with last time, Your job as a parent is not over when your child turns 18. I still need my parents, even though I’m 26. That view is so contrary to the prevailing view of parenting that baby boomers like me grew up under. In the 50’s and ’60’s when I was growing up, most parents really did feel their job was done. That was the norm. Age 18 marked more of a passage of freedom for parents than their children in those days.

I’m really glad that notion has changed and that Millennials and Gen Z’ers do want involvement from their parents.

My final observation, which differs from my “last observation,” is that my interview with Hannah and Abby raises two questions. The first is “What if I have a sibling and want a closer relationship with him or her than I currently have. What should I do?”

My answer would be to take the first step. You be the initiator. Be the one who goes first. If your overtures aren’t received well, don’t give up. Try again later, give it some time. Your sibling may not be ready for a closer relationship yet. It may even be years before they are ready, but keep in mind, no one knows your early history like your sibling. It’s worth keeping the relationship door open. And it’s worth venturing out every now and then to close the relational distance between you.

The second question is “As a parent, what if my adult kids are distant from each other and I would like them to have a closer relationship? What if I wasn’t the best parent in the world when my kids were growing up and failed to create a loving home life that Hannah and Abby talked about?”

To this I would say as before, initiate. Be the first one to step forward. Apologize. Ask for forgiveness. Tell your adult kids if you had to do it over again, what you would have done differently. Walk the fine line between creating a loving family environment now, without over-engineering circumstances to bring people together.

All this is a start at least.

Now for the encouragement piece. I was encouraged by our conversation with Hannah and Abby in five areas. Five areas I hope you are encouraged in, too. Here we go:

1.) I was encouraged that Millennials and Gen Z’rs are not giving up on the church. They don’t want to be part of the sin they see in the church, but they want to work to make it better. They’re way of doing church and getting closer to Jesus may be different than the way I would do it, but they still place a high value in the role of the church. That encourages me.

2.) I’m encouraged by their comment that “sermons still matter, and that they want something to feed their soul. It’s not about ear drum busting music, broadway stage productions, or even good coffee in the foyer. It’s about feeding their souls. That encourages me.

3.)I’m encouraged by the priority they place on authenticity and vulnerability in relationships. They don’t want anything pretentious or phony. They want real relationships where struggles can be admitted. Where the messiness of life can draw people together rather than pulling people apart. This encourages me. It encourages me to be more like this.

4.)I’m encouraged that at least in what they say, their generation values the experience and wisdom of older generations. That they want to learn from them, that they don’t want to stay confined to the relational box of their own generation. That encourages me to reach out to them a little more than I do, and see what happens.

5.) And finally, I’m encouraged they still want an emotional closeness with their parents. That just because a parent’s nest is empty, doesn’t mean the job of parenting is done. I’m encouraged by their high view of parenting no matter what stage of life the child is in. I love being a parent, and now a grandparent. It keeps me young.

Before I close, here’s the he main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence

There’s encouragement to be found in getting to know people from different generations outside our own relational box.

Here’s a way you can respond to today’s show

Let’s take to heart advice from my breakfast buddy, Mike – my retired pastor friend I mentioned in last week’s episode. Mike said

“I encourage people my age to adopt a millennial.”

Janet and I are taking a step in that direction later this week when we have a millennial couple and their baby over for dinner. They initiated with us months ago by inviting us to dinner at their place and we’re finally getting around to returning the favor.

Coming up next week

We’ll be talking about a relationship topic brought up to me by a listener recently: Relating with people who talk too much.

Our Relationship Quote of the Week

It’s never too late to be what you might have been. ~George Eliot

Mary Anne Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She wrote Silas Marner which I had to read in 10th grade.


What an encouraging quote, It’s never too late to be what you might have been. There’s still time to change. Still time to become the best version of our self.

Thanks for listening in today. And one last time, be sure to check out Hannah and Abby’s blog, Shifting Shadows at shiftingshadowsblog.com. I’ll have a link to it in the show notes. May you be encouraging in all your relationships, and may you find encouragement yourself in doing so. Goodbye for now,

Resources mentioned in today’s show

Shifting Shadows Blog

017_Two Sisters – Part 1

018_Two Sisters – Part 2