Intergenerational is not something churches do—it’s something they become.
—Brad M. Griffin, Intergenerational Ministry: Beyond the Rhetoric
Look around. Are there two or more generations in your congregation? Congratulations—you’re an intergenerational family! (If you are a one-generation church, look around again—this time around your community. With whom might you partner locally to connect with another generation?)
Look in. Just as it’s possible for a family or roommates to share a dwelling but never actually interact in meaningful ways with one another, it’s possible for a multigenerational church family to learn, serve, and worship together without developing meaningful relationships with one another. Becoming an intergenerational church requires intentionality. It involves cultivating a church culture in which faith is nurtured and relationships are fostered as all ages learn and grow, serve, and worship together.
Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross describe an intentionally intergenerational community this way: Truly intergenerational communities welcome children, emerging adults, recovering addicts, single adults, widows, single parents, teens whose parents are not around, the elderly, those in crisis, empty nesters and struggling parents of young children into a safe but challenging place to be formed into the image of Christ.
—The Benefits of Intergenerationality, p. 22
Micah, a child from First CRC in Denver, Colorado, describes it like this: “[It’s] when I teach the old people and the old people teach me.”
Consider the following:
- At what times and places do two or more generations from your church family already gather together? How might you be more intentional about providing opportunities to interact with each other in ways that build relationships and nurture faith?
- What small steps might you take toward trying something new?
- How might you cast a vision within your church for becoming even more intentional about fostering intergenerational faith-building relationships among church family members as you learn and grow, serve, and worship together?
The following resources have been selected to support you in doing all of the above.
- The Intergenerational Ministry Planning Guide from the Evangelical Covenant Church can be used to evaluate and grow intergenerational discipleship practices in your church.
- GenOn Ministries has designed a Visioning Tool for use in a two-hour Visioning Gathering with adults and youth.
- In our Building Blocks of Faith toolkit you’ll find an assessment tool that evaluates existing programs and ministries to ensure that the faith formation needs of all ages are being met.
- The Reimagining Faith Formation tool provides a way for your congregation to examine how it is forming faith through congregational life, family faith formation, group faith formation, and leadership.
- Get started with this foundational article: Intergenerational Ministry Beyond the Rhetoric.
- Grapple with the 4 Perceived Obstacles in Moving Towards an Intergenerational Culture.
- Discover the Benefits of Intergenerationality.
- Use the ideas in Becoming Intentionally Intergenerational: Models and Strategies (page 33) to build on what you’re already doing.
- Read Why Churches Tend to Separate the Generations and Intergenerational Ministry: An Oxymoron or the Future? to find out why the generations have been separated, what research and Scripture have to say about that, and how to cast a vision for intergenerational ministry in your congregation.
- Click here to access excellent downloadable articles from the Lifelong Faith Journal such as Best Practices in Intergenerational Faith Formation and Bringing the Generations Together: Support from Learning Theory.
- If the intergenerational church were a road race, this book would be the starting line: Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship.
- Generations Together: Caring, Praying, Learning, Celebrating, and Serving Faithfully includes practical examples of intergenerational practices for congregations.
- Shaped by God: Twelve Essentials for Nurturing Faith in Children, Youth, and Adults is an accessible book of essays on faith formation. (Chapter 9 is worth the price alone.)
- Will Our Children Have Faith? This classic book by John Westerhoff III is considered one of the most important books in Christian education, and for good reason.
- It’s not rocket science to Be in Relationship. Learn six simple rules for doing so with teens and young adults.
- Find out how one church is experimenting its way into forming intentional intergenerational relationships through prayer partnerships in Grandma, Partner, Friend.
- Casting a Vision for Intergenerational Ministry includes the inspiring invitation that one director of faith formation used to engage her congregation.
- Simple Things, Faithful Teaching, and A Church Pew Friendship demonstrate how intergenerational relationships nurture faith.
- In Beyond Cool: The Gift of Intergenerational Community, the author contrasts his intergenerational community with new “young hipster churches” and describes three things he’s learning from being part of an intergenerational church.
- “Victor Becomes a Braverman,” from the TV series Parenthood, Season 5 (available from iTunes), provides a beautiful illustration of belonging and being adopted into an intergenerational family. It could also be used to illustrate the promises we make as an intergenerational family at baptism.
- Jonah and Bob is a heartwarming story about an intergenerational friendship.
- Music Students Living in a Cleveland Retirement Home and/or the poignant Present Perfect movie trailer demonstrate what the old and the young can learn from and teach each other.
- Millennials Show Us What Old Looks Like could be a fun video to begin a conversation on ageism and/or how we can all learn from each other.
- Check out this video for a glimpse into a study of how daily contact with preschoolers benefits older adults.
- Practical Resources for Churches provides a broad selection of recorded and live topics.
- Check out Youth Ministry and Intergenerational Faith Formation, 10 Steps Toward Intergenerational Youth Ministry, and The Intergenerational Church.
- vibrantfaith.org includes blogs about what people are learning and sells intergenerational resources (we especially love the Visual Faith project images).
- stickyfaith.org posts research-based blogs and best practices for families, youth, and those who work with them.
- At The Network you can sign up to receive fresh posts on faith nurture, intergenerational ministry, and more.
- For excellent worship-specific websites, check out the Worshiping tab of this toolkit.