The point here is really simple. You ignore the younger people in your organization at your own peril. Let me give you a real-life example from another quadrant of my life. Many of my ideas have come from something which has occurred at the Colts Neck Reformed Church. I love my church. It is a living, vibrant group of committed Christians. It also has created an organizational model which provides active membership activities for all age groups.
Our children begin singing in the Cherub's Choir when they are about three years old. Not too long after that, they begin to learn how to play the bells in the youngest of our five bell choirs. They are then given opportunities to be active in church all the way up through high school. In my ten years at the church, I have literally seen a generation of young people grow up and pass through the many stages of the worship experience. Additionally, our children travel to other congregations to share their musical talents. They are also provided with mission opportunities to travel and help others who are in need of some form of assistance.
Activities exist for every age group right on up through the senior Bible study group. Recently , our consistory (leadership team of elders and deacons) identified a gap in the area of our young people who leave for college and then return to live in our area. This has been addressed through the creation of what we call a "Twenty Something's" group. My daughter and her husband have become active with this group. This is so important to us that we altered the responsibilities of one of our elders in order to provide active supervision in this critical area. The elder who was appointed is herself in her 20's.
There is a lesson her for the fire service. We need to consciously embrace each group within our fire department. For all to soon, each of us will find ourselves among the last generation. During our annual Labor Day picnic here in Adelphia, at one point during the festivities, I looked around and made a startling discovery. I was the oldest guy at the party. I suddenly felt every moment of my 40 years of service to the fire company. However, I shook off that thought and plunged back into a discussion with a number of our Twenty-Something members.
Long ago I learned a really critical lesson. Do not force yourself and your beliefs on others. Share with others when you can and hold back when the time is not right. However, be there when folks have a question or need some advice. Inject your experience when needed and do your job. At this stage of my life, I have learned to leave the active, physical aspects of firefighting to the younger folks. My job is to drive the pumper and be sure the firefighting troops have what they need to get the job done.
Let me tell you something really important to me. It is extremely helpful to have a relative in the fire department who comes from a different generation. Let me assure you that it makes you listen, because, quite frankly, how is a dad not going to listen to his own child? Well, I guess there may be some who do not, but I could not do that in good conscience.
So my advice to you is simple. Welcome the new members into your organization. Train them, socialize with them, interact with them in the firefighting environment, and most importantly, listen to them. You ignore the next generation at your own peril.