Last week, I had the privilege of teaching two different groups of folks about my research and intergenerational worship in general. On Monday, I spoke with some of the church music students at University of Cumberlands in Kentucky, where my friend Joey Wolfe teaches. On Wednesday, I spoke with a Doctor of Ministry seminar on mutigenerational ministry for my alma mater, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Both teaching times were different due to the students in the seminars/classes, but I found it interesting what I learned when speaking with each group. The questions the arose from those teaching times have certainly gotten me thinking even more about how to be more intentional about being intergenerational in our churches.
Many of these students wanted to talk more about the “terms” I have used in my blog to describe intergenerational (intentional/pure, organic, modified) and how their own personal churches fall into one of those categories. One of the DMin students, who serves an intentionally intergenerational church, wanted to know more about how my church is intergenerational in other areas besides worship. While my list will not be exhaustive, hopefully it will start the conversation among your leadership on how can we be more intentional in our interpersonal relationships among the various generations in our churches.
- Church-wide fellowships. Why not? You’re already doing them, so be creative in how you promote and engage all generations in this biblical practice! For instance, if family togetherness is your goal, you can have family (extended even) activities planned. If getting to know your fellow members (no matter how big your church is) is your end-game, make it a “requirement” to sit in specific places where it’s easy to meet new people. However you do it, I promise, people WILL mingle and most of the time, especially if you have multiple services as we do, meet some new people.
- Outreach. Our outreach and evangelism teams continue to be made of folks from every generation. In addition, several of our church-wide events are geared for all ages. Next month, our annual Fall Festival brings well over a thousand people to our campus…families of all ages. While many might see this event as a children’s event only, we do not. Every one of our ministry teams is involved in making this event a reflection of who we are as a church—a body of believers that values all generations.
- Bible Study. Believe it or not we actually have an intergenerational Sunday School class that meets at 8:30 every Sunday. Young Marrieds on up meet together. Often, the class has young marrieds that enjoy Bible Study and worship with their parents.
- Men’s and Women’s Ministry. Several things can be done here, but I want to highlight one great things happening right now. Recently, our ladies ministry has started a recurring intergenerational event called the “Chat and Chew.” Ladies of all generations sign up to participate and are grouped in dinner groups of various generations. Young moms are given free child care and so it’s easier for them to participate. These groups head out local restaurants and have fellowship, prayer, and build meaningful relationships. Topics can be “seeded” by the group host.
- Missions. Our yearly mission endeavors have always been intergenerational. The last several trips we’ve taken have had families (often three generations) serving together in mission projects.
- AWANA. We love our children here at Ivy Creek and we want to make sure that they hide the Word in their hearts. Many, many of our workers and listeners are from much older generations and they invest (both spiritually and relationally) with our kids. Here at Ivy Creek, it’s not just parents serving in this ministry.
I’m sure there are many more you might add. I’d love to hear your additions! There are a few themes, however, that are present in each of these I’ve listed. These global perspectives help guide our leadership in making decisions of what to do and WHY.
- Intentionality. We are constantly thinking…who will this involve? how can it involve more in different generations (if it can- hear me, we are not opposed to age-specific ministries).
- Promote a family atmosphere where older and younger can learn from each other.
- Relationship Building is key. We realize that in order for intergenerational philosophy to work, both older and younger have to believe in it. Further, learning from those in other generations rarely happens if you don’t get to know the other person and believe that have anything of value to contribute.
- Being intentionally intergenerational at this point is like swimming upstream. Seems like everywhere I turn, I’m confronted with people who can’t understand why we don’t cater only to Millennials. They believe that our church will be dead in 20-25 years if we don’t “fill up” the worship center with young people. While in some ways this is true, I’ll tell you, our church is not the hippest church in our zip code, but we are being faithful to who God has called us to be. We are growing (20+ percent growth annually for the last 5 years) and many of our newest members are younger. We believe that the KEY to lasting growth and continued Kingdom building is involving ALL generations in ministry. That way, our young members will be connected for life.
In closing I’m including some literature that might also be of interest to you on the subject of intergenerational ministry in general. The Spring 2012 Christian Education Journal is particularly wonderful if you are looking for ways to promote intergenerational behavior in discipleship and education ministries.
If your church is interested in “coming back together” after splitting apart for music reasons, or some other reason, David Hasker’s project is worth reading among others. Just so you know, if you are interested in some of these DMin projects or dissertations and don’t have access, I can send a copy to you if you would like.