Sardines. That’s the word the older kids chose years ago when asked to come up with a name for their intergenerational small group. Rebekah Hazeu from Covenant CRC in Winnipeg recalls that the kids wanted the name and the adults figured “why not, they’re part of this group too” and went with it. She adds, “It’s not such a silly name when you think about it because [Sardines] is a game about sticking together.”
It was that sense of togetherness that connected with Rebekah’s family when they were invited to join the group 9 years ago. At the time, their third child was just three weeks old and they appreciated being part of a group that welcomed their children too. “When we start separating people we lose so much,” says Rebekah. “We think we’re doing something good but we lose wisdom, understanding and relationship. In being part of the intergenerational family of God each member—whether old or young—understands they are a valuable part of the family of God.”
The intergenerational family of God that is Sardines has participants that range in age from 3 years to 60-something and almost every decade in between. The group bonds regularly by gathering twice a month—one time for a meal and one time to simply meet together. They’ve found that the shared meals provide wonderful opportunities for fellowship and the deepening of relationships with each other as
The format for their meeting time varies. They’ve watched the Walk Through Israel videos together, studied Marriage with Mark Gungor and used the Focus on the Family’s Family Project series. Sometimes they have a discussion that’s not appropriate for all ages so, after beginning with an age appropriate question for all, they let the “littles” go.
The always end their time by joining hands and forming a circle to pray. Often the prayer is done in a popcorn style—with people offering words of prayer as they feel led to say them—and a volunteer opening and closing the prayer. Sometimes prayer requests are written on slips of paper and each person pulls the name of a member to pray for during the following two weeks.
Although finding appropriate study material can be challenging and discussions can be hindered at times because of the “little ears” in the room, Rebekah is quick to point out that “it’s not the material that keeps us coming back. We’ve shared life altering moments between us.” Moments that include the time a couple who had been struggling with infertility for more than 7 years finalized baby adoption papers and brought their new baby to Sardines because the first people they wanted to tell were the ones that had walked the journey with them. And the time not so long ago when one of the group leaders died suddenly and the group gathered on the date they were scheduled to meet anyway; eating and mourning and remembering together--along with the teens who didn’t normally come—as the children wandered in and out. It’s at times like these Rebekah says that we’re reminded that ”There are mountains and valleys [in life] but we are here.” The group is also reminded of God’s faithfulness. As Rebekah says,
“In the Bible we have [the stories of] Daniel, Moses and others to show us God’s faithfulness but we also have those stories of God’s faithfulness in the people sitting next to us. You can know and have hope and understand God’s relationship with you through your relationship with others.
That’s what it’s all about.”