“Hey Christina, would you tell Naomi I finally found cactus plants at Lowes? There were 4 in a pot with gravel glued over the top. I finally chiseled them out with an ice pick and got them repotted…Anyway, the pots are fantastic and hopefully the plants will survive. She is a great artist and I think of her every time I look at them”
I got this text at 8:30 last night. It was from my daughter’s prayer partner at church. The pots she speaks of are clay pots my daughter had painted for her.
A little over a year ago, these two people didn’t know each other.
Melanie, my daughter’s prayer prayer partner, attends the 8:15 service at our church; our family attends 9:30.
Melanie teaches a Sunday School for older adults at 9:30 while Naomi is in church.
Melanie goes home at 11 am when Naomi heads down for Kids Church and small groups.
Melanie is older. Naomi is younger.
Melanie spends her week working and with her friends. Naomi spends her week at school and with her friends.
But about a year ago, Naomi (through me) asked Melanie to pray for her throughout the upcoming school year. Melanie said “Yes!” and thus began a beautiful friendship. These two ladies have become bosom buddies. They have shared many special moments of laughter and sorrow; they’ve prayed through times of grief and celebrated through times of joy.
Both Melanie and Naomi have expressed how deeply they’ve come to care for each other and how meaningful this relationship has become in their own lives. Melanie says, “I am humbled and honored to pray for Naomi. As the older generation, we feel we will be doing the giving. So so precious to realize that the younger ones help grow us as we are helping grow them. What a beautiful part of God’s plan.” Naomi says, “When I grow up, I want to love kids the way Miss Melanie loves me.”
Recently I wrote a paper regarding generational discipleship in the church in which I state,
“Generational discipleship, passing the faith from one generation to another through relationship within a community of faith, can be difficult when a church is structured in a way that tends to segregate members by ages and stages of development. Creating space within the church for the types of relationships that support, nurture, and equip children and the family can be difficult.”
But, what if we could find a space to connect the generations, a vehicle that brings people together, regardless of age or service preference or location in the church building? Something like intercessory prayer.
The inspiration for our prayer program at church came from Tony Souder‘s book Pray for Me which connects children and young people in the church with prayer champions of three older generations. The commitment is simply to pray for one another throughout the school year. But our church quickly found that if you are praying for someone, you start caring for that someone, and as a result,
relationships begin to grow.
At the end of our first year of praying for each other, I interviewed our participants to see what they thought of their experience. What I found out was really quite amazing and worth our attention.
- Parents felt more supported by the church in general even though they were only interacting with a few prayer partners. Simply knowing that other people, older generations, were intentionally praying for their children made them feel more connected to the church and more supported by the faith community. Texts like the one I got last night are a huge part of that experience.
- Prayer Partners felt more connected to the families in the church. Instead of just seeing the families passing the hallway, they were more like to stop and ask how things were going, how they could pray for their child, and how they could be more intentional in their prayers. As a result, they began to feel more connected to the family as a whole, not just to the children they were praying for.
- Prayer as a spiritual discipline took on greater importance, not just for the prayer partners, but for the church as a whole. 65% of prayer partners indicated that the intentionality of praying for their child led to substantial growth in their own prayer lives that spilled over into praying for others including other adults within the church.
The conclusion of my paper read like this:
“One of the beauties of the church is that it can be an intergenerational community bringing people of all ages, including the elderly and the young, together to learn about God and life from each other” (Stonehouse, 2010, p. 127). In order for this beauty to be experienced by all who enter the church building, there must be times of interaction that take place between the generations; times where names can be said, hugs can be exchanged, faces can be seen.
While intercessory prayer cannot create that space, it can create a means by which names and faces can be made known and intentional thought given to persons regardless of age or service preference. As Dr. Catherine Stonehouse (2010) goes on to share, “Wishing for such an intergenerational faith community will not be enough; it will take intentional planning on the part of church leaders” (p. 128). Perhaps intercessory prayer could be the start of that intentional planning.
If you are interested in knowing more about how your church can begin an intentional intercessory and intergenerational prayer program at your church, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of the book Pray For Me by Tony Souder. If you’d like to know how our church put the program into action, feel free to message me and I’ll share what we did to create space for these prayer connections.
And if you want to experience the joy of seeing your child connect with an older friend who can pour the love of Jesus, the experience of a walk with Christ, and grow in their faith within the community of believers, I cannot recommend enough having them ask the simple question, “Will you pray for me?”
Quotes taken from Listening to children on the spiritual journey: Guidance for those who teach and nurture written by Stonehouse, C. and May, S. (2010). Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Books.
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About the author
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com