Establishing an intergenerational community does not mean eradicating age-specific ministries. As important as it is to embrace intergenerational values, it is also important to keep that in balance with age-specific ministry.
Research shows that age-specific ministry has not proven sustainable for ongoing faith transmission. This is particularly applicable among young adults who have grown up exclusively in age-specific ministries. At the same time, all ages still need their own space to grow and develop at their pace.
Friendships and connections through peer relationships are vital for young people.
As teenagers transition from childhood into adulthood, parents and mentors will need to take an active role in helping them make confident choices. Creating positive peer environments is an important step in ensuring our young people stay connected to their church, and their families and have a continued relationship with God as lifelong disciples.
We believe everyone needs to be part of a web of relationships that includes peers and members of other generations.
Peer relationships are valuable and provide:
- A safe place to try new things with others.
- An opportunity to see how our responses affect others.
- A shared history of a long-term friendship over time.
- A space to reflect similar family values that can be a strong influence as values are reinforced.
Important things to consider when rethinking your age-specific ministries:
- Provide opportunities to talk with young people about issues relevant to their age (i.e. wise choices, actions and consequences).
- Create supportive spaces and discuss topics where those of the same gender can openly discuss issues that affect them.
- Encourage families to open their homes to ‘host’ the youth group so their kids can have the opportunity to host their peers.
In the 21st century, faith formation needs to be seen as a lifelong journey of discipleship—a process of experiencing, learning and practising the Christian faith. By providing opportunities for young people to learn with their peers, we are creating a safe place for them to explore. We also need to provide opportunities for them to hear the faith stories and wisdom of other generations.
One thing they need is a network of intergenerational relationships. They need people of varying ages to come alongside them during the journey to encourage, listen, teach, help, explain and celebrate all that God is doing in their lives.
Age-specific ministry is also an opportunity to connect children and youth with members who want to invest in young people.
People may want to offer:
- prayer or encouragement
- a sense of belonging
- others will have specific ministry skills to share such as reading scripture or praying
- or other gifts and life skills like cooking or woodworking.
- Still others may be willing to be mentors.
When designing your age-specific- ministry consider ways you can integrate all ages into the leadership of these ministries.
Look to older generations to participate in ways that will help to build intergenerational connections and relationships. Ideas might include:
- Invite an older member of the congregation to share their faith-life story at youth group or confirmation.
- Create intergenerational teams to lead your First Communion and/or Confirmation sessions.
- Encourage mentoring in your congregation as part of your youth ministry.
- Invite young adults to lead games or activities that are woven into your children’s ministry or youth program.
- Invite a guest storyteller to your children’s ministry event as a way of involving people with particular gifts.
Age-specific ministry is an exciting opportunity to connect young people with adults in the congregation other than their parents. There is compelling research about the impact adults can have on children and teenagers as they grow in their faith. Teenagers who have five or more adults invested in them during the ages of 15 to 18 are less likely to leave the church. What better time to begin connecting adults and young people in meaningful ways.