In today’s landscape, the Christian Church has an amazing opportunity to make a difference to all generations. When you look around your local congregation you may see all generations present; babies, children, young people and adults are gathered to worship God. It is extraordinary. It is one of the few places in Western society where all generations of a family are present. The young bring their energy and questions; the mature model wisdom and share their life experiences.
Intergenerational ministry helps to build and nurture relationships between different generations. These relationships in the midst of faith and life transitions are important. Children, young people and families need the greater faith family to provide the support and care they need during these transitions.
Unfortunately, in our congregations today, many people never experience the gift of this care and support by engaging with other generations. Children and youth are often siloed into age-specific teaching ministry programs with their peers, having little engagement with the wider church community.
What is Intergenerational Ministry?
Intergenerational ministry can be difficult to define because it is a way of being rather than doing. It is not a new program to be added to what the congregation is already doing, rather it is a culture change that can be effectively woven into the fabric of a congregation’s current ministry.
Intergenerational ministry is more than bringing the generations into proximity with one another, it is most effective when generations intentionally gather for the same activity in the name of Christ. They interact with one another in ways that reflect mutual respect and appreciation. The aim is to bring the congregation together in ministry, worship, service and community to nurture spiritual growth.
‘To experience authentic Christian community and reap the unique blessings of intergenerationality, the generations must be together regularly and often—infants to octogenarians..‘ (Intergenerational Christian Formation, p84, Allen and Ross.)
The Biblical foundation
Intergenerational ministry highlights the truth that all people are valuable and important members of the Body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5). Children need the adult members of the Body of Christ to grow as involved faithful members. Likewise, the ageing and adults need youth to grow as fruitful courageous members. This synergy encourages a vibrant and purposeful community where all members feel valued.
Throughout scripture, there are many examples of God’s story being passed on from one generation to the next as communities gathered for worship, celebrations, for feasting, for encouragement and in times of danger. Households and communities would gather ‘…to tell of God’s mighty acts.’ (Psalm 154:4). Today as we come together as Christian community we should be encouraged to do the same.
The Practice of Intergenerational Ministry
Intergenerational ministry is about culture change and begins with congregations making intentional intergenerational relationships a core value of their congregation.
The second step is to assess all current individual ministry programs and groups through the lens of intergenerational ministry, identifying opportunities for engagement and storytelling. Every ministry program, from Sunday worship to small groups, children’s ministry to youth group, provides an opportunity to intentionally bring generations together.
To become a life-giving intergenerational spiritual community;
- Cultivate relationships across generations,
- Include all generations in worship,
- Engage all ages and generations in learning together,
- Encourage a community of prayer.
Intergenerational ministry is further developed by creating new opportunities for the generations to serve. There are so many opportunities for generations to serve together, from youth leadership teams, to intergenerational music teams to special projects the church undertakes. Serving together levels the ground for intergenerational relationships to grow.
Intergenerational ministry seeks to embrace and capitalise on the gift each generation provides to the other in God’s church. There are so many opportunities to build intentional interactions between the generations in our churches.
‘Every age has gifts we need and every age has needs we gift.’ (Rich Melheim)