Indeed for what purpose do we older folks exist, other than to care for, instruct and bring up the young? | Martin Luther
Forty days after Jesus was born, his parents took him on his first big outing. They went to the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-40). Imagine the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions these first-time parents must have experienced around the extraordinary events of Jesus' birth. The words anxious, confused and stressed come to mind! But at the temple God met them at their point of need, through another generation. At the temple they found hope, encouragement and blessing for their calling as parents. Their newborn child was enfolded in the embrace of loving elders.
Simeon was an elderly man of Jerusalem, 'righteous and devout'. When he saw the infant Jesus he took the child into his arms, and spoke words of promise and hope to two new parents. And then he blessed them, imparting God's peace and strength into the midst of their uncertainties. Next, Mary and Joseph met Anna the prophetess, an 84 year-old widow with buckets of life experience and hard-earned wisdom. She too became a giver of hope and promise, speaking about the child 'to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.' Mary and Joseph were no longer so alone. They and their child had been lifted up and carried forward through the active love and faith of the wider people of God.
From the very beginnings of Jesus' life he was caught up in a ministry of generations.
His growth into the fullness of his calling and purpose as the Son of God took place in a thick and rich web of cross-generational community. Luke tells us that Jesus grew physically, mentally and spiritually in the town of Nazareth, nurtured by a network of relatives and friends of different ages. Jesus' own life experience reflected God's design for the healthy growth of children and young people: it is meant to be the product of a community of generations, living, sharing and growing together.
For many children and young people today there is no Anna or Simeon.
There are very few ‘Nazareths’ left in our wider society. The generational threads that used to weave their way into the fabric of growing up are missing. During the last 100 years, steady changes have occurred in society that have separated families and segregated age groups, not only in educational settings, but also in life in general. Faith communities are perhaps the only places where families, singles, couples, children, teens, grandparents, all generations, come together on a regular interacting basis.
The presence of different generations within the church is a great gift and asset!
Let us endeavour to be intentional and ensure congregational programs and activities bring the generations together. Encourage worship practices that draw on the gifts and talents of all generations, giving them equal space and value.
Let’s use this precious gift we have to grow as God's people by bringing generations together.
The goal of Grow Ministries is to support and equip congregations to move from isolated programs for children and young people to an intergenerational ministry culture that nurtures faith for life. Our guiding principles have been created to help you understand the different facets of intergenerational ministry. The culture of effective ministry at any age, but especially with children and youth, is about building relationships and being intentional about creating opportunities for those relationships to be formed.
Find out more at www.growministries.org.au