As a child, who were the adults in your life who pointed you towards God? What difference did their relationship with you make?
Tara and I recently attended a workshop called Becoming an Intergenerational Church and I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts from it.
An intergenerational church not only encompasses all ages, but all ages learn, grow and experience faith alongside each other. Age specific groups are valued but so too is the time spent crossing the room to engage with those younger/older than you.
Research has shown how crucial intergenerational relationships are, to younger people in particular:
- Churches are more likely to have young people grow in faith when they build on warm peer and intergenerational friendships (Sticky Faith)
- 5:1 Ratio – 5 significant adults of faith for every one young person – with that ratio there is more likely to be a faith that sticks into early adulthood (Sticky Faith)
- Millennials who had a personal friendship with an adult in the church were more likely to stay connected to church in their 20s (The Barna Group).
You might be familiar with the passage in Ephesians 4 describing the Body of Christ; how each part plays an important role in building up the family of God.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Each one, regardless of age has something to give, to contribute.
Messy church, Homechurch and our regular all age activities play a key role in helping us be intergenerational. How we structure all together times and what they look like is always up for (constructive!) discussion but perhaps we need to decide –
It’s not so much about what we do, but it’s that we do it together. All together. Intentionally engaging across the generations.
Possibly my favourite thing about Ignite is how this happens so naturally. (The above photo fills me with joy!). It’s serving food alongside each other at Ignite weekend, it’s a younger person teaching an older person PowerPoint, it’s painting a wall in the community or doing a craft together. Building each other up generation to generation. Not all of us feel we’ve learnt a deep truth on each occasion, but we’ve walked/served/experienced alongside someone of a different age and that has value in itself.
The research above motivates me – how can I be more intentional in reaching across the age divide? Could I be one of a young person’s ‘5 adults’?
To older folk in particular – Young people need you in church. Your support of them will influence whether they want to stay in church at all.
I am in Ignite today because adults in my home church Bray Methodist, got to know me, prayed for me and encouraged me to love God. For years.
When people ask, ‘What difference could I really make to a child or young person?’. ‘I don’t know what to say/do’. My advice is simply – just be there. Show up. Month after month. Smile, ask for their help with a task or making a decision, say thank you for being a part of the church family….God will give you ideas if you ask.
Where else but church, are all ages, races, sexes, abilities experiencing life in all its facets together? Christ’s family is unique and transforms lives. Let’s make the decision to be part of it.
One Response to “The Beauty of Intergenerational Church”
I was reminded by B’s blog of how I grew up in a relatively small church community, where intergenerational church … well, it just happened. Either the leaders were ahead of their time, or, as B suggested about Ignite, it happened naturally. There were 4 people my age, eight families with the same surname, one pianist (my Mum), and a couple of visitors every summer. What this meant was that there were no rotas; everyone regardless of age had to chip in to make church happen. As children we couldn’t wait to do our bit and were completely unaware of any ‘weight of responsibility’ in praying at the front, or reading a lesson, or even putting a service together. Kind of risky? Absolutely. But what a platform of faith confidence to go out into the world with. And, like B, I remain extremely grateful for that faithful, forgiving community of people who knew me by name, gave me a smile or a hug, never let go of me prayerfully and who are undoubtedly responsible for the foundation of faith I stand on today.