When people of all ages have opportunities to serve together locally and/or globally, helping others, seeking justice, and sharing God’s love, wonderful things start to happen:
- Faith is formed as people work side by side in shared experiences, praying together and encouraging each other.
- All ages recognize that as followers of Jesus they are called by God to serve others and seek justice and that they are equipped by God to serve in ways that are valuable and important.
- Busy families spend quality time living out their faith together.
- Relationships are built, generation gaps narrow, and a sense of teamwork is fostered.
At a church in Iowa, serving together looks like this:
A group of people spanning nine decades of age met together for six weeks to support Days for Girls, an international ministry that helps girls living in poverty by providing them feminine hygiene kits so that they won’t have to miss school when they’re menstruating. After packing 75 bags with supplies, the group spread the bags around a table, gathered in a circle, and prayed together for the girls in Haiti who would be receiving the kits. The group also gave thanks for the new community they had formed while working together.
At a church in Ontario, serving together looks like this:
Each time there’s a fifth Sunday in the month, all ages meet at the church to divide into smaller groups before heading outside to extend God’s love to their community in different ways: handing out hot chocolate on cold days and frozen treats on hot days, singing with residents at a nursing home, picking up garbage, helping a community member with a painting project, raking leaves for neighbors, going on a prayer walk, distributing socks at a shelter, and more. Afterward the groups return to the church to share a meal and stories.
At other churches, serving together may look like this:
- two or more generations serving in the church nursery together
- an intergenerational praise team singing Christmas carols with residents of a retirement community
- several generations participating together in a community walkathon or a Ride for Refuge
- teams of two or more generations preparing, serving, and cleaning up coffee after the worship service
- intergenerational teams providing a meal each month to clients at a local soup kitchen
- parents and teens participating together in short-term missions in another country
Consider the following:
- What does serving together look like in your church? How might you build on what you are already doing?
- What other ways might two or more generations be invited to serve together?
- With whom might your congregation partner to serve the people in your community and beyond, even internationally? And how might you involve a variety of ages in that work?
Use the resources below to support intergenerational service in your congregation:
- Use the Intergenerational Service Survey to help you identify strengths and weaknesses in terms of an intentionally intergenerational approach to service and community engagement (adapted from Together All God’s People, Faith Alive, 2005, p. 73).
- Changed for Life is a free online resource designed to help short-term mission teams and their hosts craft a well-organized mission experience that will be meaningful for everyone involved.
- During the Blanket Exercise, participants of all ages walk through the history of relationships between Native peoples in Canada or the U.S. in a “practical, powerful, experiential way” (Acts of Synod 2015, p. 640).
- #talkjustice, a series of posts by Lisa VanEngen, contains excellent ideas for engaging children and families and intergenerational small groups in advocating for and learning about justice. The DoJustice website also contains thought-provoking information to jump-start conversations with youth and adults.
- How and Why of Intergenerational Mission explains the hows and whys of doing intergenerational ministry. It includes theological foundations, ideas for mission projects, and guidelines for effective mission projects.
- The Generosity Project is an intergenerational, household-focused approach to stewardship. Its goals are to connect generations, create centers for the faith practice of generosity, and grow in God’s grace from generation to generation. The six-session curriculum was created by the Evangelical Lutheran Church and can be downloaded for a nominal fee.
- Leading Intergenerational Service Projects and Trips That Stick contains eight helpful tips from experienced leaders.
- You’ll find practical guidelines and ideas for intergenerational service in A Congregational Toolkit for Becoming Intentionally Intergenerational (pp. 137-144), made available by the authors of the book Generations Together.
- This Volunteer Thank You video, created by Oakdale Park CRC, uses images, music, and words to paint a beautiful picture of how “we’re all part of God’s big family.” How might it inspire your congregation?
- Jump-start your thinking with these 25 Ideas for Intergenerational Service.
- Visit our Intergenerational Learning and Growing board on Pinterest for many inspiring ideas.
- Relationships are built as children learn creation care through the garden ministry of Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- This pictorial service project story tells how an intergenerational group packaged 20,000 meals together.
- All ages are invited to get involved when this Ontario CRC Reaches Out with Kindness by loving its city.
- Read this story to learn how families, individuals, and small groups at Jubilee Fellowship CRC send some love each to their college students every December.
Organizations with Opportunities for Intergenerational Groups
- Visit World Renew for ongoing local and global intergenerational service opportunities.
- Rise Against Hunger gets food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable people. Contact them to inquire about hosting a meal-packaging event.
- In this video conversation on Service and Learning, Eugene Roehlkepartain of the Search Institute speaks about the benefits of having cross-generational groups involved in service together.