The Generation Game (and how to play)

My oldest daughter recently (jokingly!) said to me, “Okay Boomer…” when I was doing what she considered to be an “old person” thing (taking a selfie the wrong way…who knew?). I gave her my sternest “mom” glare and said, “Just to be clear, I’m not a Boomer, ‘kay? I am an X-er.” Her amused glance back at me had a “Whatever…” feel to it, but it did lead her to ask the question, “Who came up with the generations anyway?”

Now that’s a great question! Just where did the rules of the Generation Game originate? And how do they apply to intergenerational ministry in the Church?

Let’s start with the latter; What is intergenerational ministry?

Sometimes it is easier to describe what something is by exploring what it is not. Many people associate this term with children’s ministry or family ministry within the church. While those ministries may be partners in intergenerational ministry, the scope of these ministries are not broad enough. Intergenerational ministry encompasses the whole church, all generations, in a communal and corporate context.

Intergenerational ministry is more of a cultural characteristic than it is a ministry area; it is a culture that values & creates space for meaningful connections to be made across generational boundaries in a variety of settings for the purpose of generational discipleship.

As the term implies, intergenerational ministry is an intentional approach to ministry that both allows for and encourages interaction between multiple generations in such ways as corporate worship, relational mentorship and lifelong community.

In order for a church to recognize the need for this generational connectivity within their faith community, the following question must be answered: What does each generation need from the church and what can each generation contribute to the church?

So, we have to ask, where did the generational labels originate?

Generational theory, the grouping of individuals into particular social groups with a shared identity predicated on the year of their birth and life experiences, began in the early 20th century and gained steam in the mid to late 20th century. Why? Marketing firms began to explore how to best market to specific groups, coining nicknames for them in order to create a collective conscious. In other words, they wanted to sell us stuff that they thought we wanted to buy.

Currently, the most likely generations that would be found in a given faith community would be the Silent Generation (born 1924-1942), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-2000), and Gen Z (2001-current). These five generations offer unique experiences in both spiritual and communal practices for the church (see chart below). And that is how the generations fit into intergenerational ministry.

  • The older generations bring a wealth of faithful testimonies, historical worship practices, and community-sustaining disciplines.
  • The middle generations offer a bridge between past experience and current ones through experience with a vast array of communication tools from rotary phones to high-speed internet conferencing and the latest social media trends.
  • The youngest generation offer the heartbeat of current culture and the application of spiritual truths in a dynamic cultural environment.

Likewise, each generation brings its unique needs to the church. The chart below uses Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial stages to outline these needs in a church setting.

  • The older generations need to be needed; the desire for generativity and legacy-leaving are uniquely found in these generations and to be left isolated from those to whom their legacy can be left (the younger generations) is stifling and leads to stagnation.
  • The middle generations are those seeking intimacy in deeper relationships with others, such as mentorship and discipleship, but if those opportunities are found lacking, will retreat into a placed of isolation.
  • The youngest generations are looking for a place to be industrious (an important part of the community) and find identity (a role to play in the community); thus faith communities need to be intentional not just with providing safe and fun environments like Kid’s Church and youth group but integral participatory environments that allow for identity and industry to be rooted in the church.
Graph of Generations, their gifts, and their needs within a local church.
Generational delineations derived from https://www.cnn.com/2013/11/06/us/baby-boomer-generation-fast-facts/index.html
Erikson’s stages derived from https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

What does this all mean?

Simply this: As ministers in the local church, as members of the larger Body of Christ, we need to be aware that in our churches are multiple generations that bring multiple gifts and have multiple needs. Many of the ways to engage cannot be “programed” into the church experience but require us to creatively find space to relationships to be cultured and meaningful communication to take place. For ideas on how this can start to become a reality in your faith community, check out the links below.

There is a richness to be found in connecting the generations; let’s discover it together. Okay Boomer? 😉

If you’d like to explore some practical ways to begin making space for intergenerational worship experiences, click here.

Looking for practical ideas on how to (painlessly) connect the generations in your church? Click here.

Want to dig into what the Bible has to say about connecting generations in discipleship, community and worship? Here are a few links to check out:

A version of this article by the same author will appear in the Brethren in Christ Shalom! journal this summer.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog
The Embree Family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements on this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author.

No, You Are Not Having Intergenerational Worship on Sunday

When the “stay-at-home, school-cancelled” executive orders began to spread across the United States, a lot of social media posts began circulating that parents of school-aged children would now all be homeschoolers. Since I am friends with a number of people who homeschool, I immediately began to hear from them that this thing that most people were now doing (Zoom class, online work, turning work into a teacher in a different location, navigating new technology, etc.) was most definitely NOT homeschooling.

It didn’t take long for new social media posts to begin circulating that said, “You are not homeschooling; you are schooling at home in crisis.” Within a few weeks, distinction having been made, people began to accept that the experience of homeschooling and the experience they were currently facing were not one and the same.

Enter “Church Re-Opening.”

In many states, churches are beginning to re-open their doors, albeit with a number of cautions and restrictions. One major thread that appears similar across the board is that children’s ministries are delaying their opening even longer which means children will be joining their parents in corporate worship (or “big church”, a name that is a personal pet peeve of mine but generally understood in church circles).

Church People Believe Faith Religious

I’ve seen multiple helpful posts regarding how to help children to engage in the worship service or, at the very least, keep them engaged so that others can worship. Ideas, very many of them similar to ones I’ve shared here for years, are floating about and people are trying, some for the very first time.

This has the potential to be an incredible boon for connecting generations and creating space for corporate worship across America.

My concern however is that it will have exactly the opposite affect. 

You see, first and foremost, intergenerational ministry is not about putting people of multiple generations in a communal space where worship, prayer, and/or teaching takes place. That might be what happens BUT that is not the heart of intergenerational ministry.

True intergenerational ministry is a culture which strives to create environments that foster generational mentorship, intergenerational relationships, and multi-generational experiences that focus on welcome, belonging, and discipleship.

It’s not about putting people in the same space and making sure that everyone can somehow make it through an hour together and hopefully not distract one another too much. That’s online schooling in a crisis. It’s a current reality that we have not chosen but that has been thrust upon us and we are dong our very best to work with.

Intergenerational ministry is something that needs time and cultivation. In churches that are strongly separated along generational lines, the introduction of intergenerational worship, study, and prayer is something that should be entered into circumspectly with care given to community needs and corporate identity. Like homeschooling households, there is no cookie-cutter method for intergenerational ministry. Each faith community has particular needs and considerations that must be addressed as intergenerational culture is lived into.

The danger that exists with creating a few busy bags, printing out sermon sheets, making coloring pages available, and the like, isn’t that those things are inherently unhelpful (I actually recommend them in certain contexts); it’s that those things do not an intergenerational worship service make.

My encouragement to those of you dipping your toes in the waters of corporate worship for perhaps the first time is to take the next few Sundays in stride.

You might find that your faith community is ready to begin exploring ways to connect the generations in corporate worship, learning, and serving settings. GREAT!  I would be happy to point you in the direct of some fantastic resources.

You might find that your faith community is not ready to engage in fully-integrated worship and learning settings for all ages. That’s fine too. Forcing a square peg in a round hole doesn’t work. But, changing the shape or the culture can work and given time and community buy-in, you might find ways to begin to overlap generations and find space to allow generational discipleship and intergenerational relationships to flourish. I’d be happy to walk alongside of you as you begin to explore ways to make that happen. (A great place to start is here)

Regardless, the major takeaway of this post is simply this: What will be happening in most churches over the next several weeks, while inclusive of all generations, will not likely be true intergenerational worship or ministry. Accept it as it is –  a way to worship during a state of global crisis – and know that God’s grace is sufficient and His presence is promised wherever we gather in His Name.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author.

Book Review: Children & Family Ministry Handbook by Sarah Flannery

Every now and then, I have the great privilege of being asked by an author to review their book on my blog. Often the books have something to do with my area of training and ministry (children, youth, family ministry) but rarely do they deal directly with my passion, intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship.

So I was especially Sarahsbookblessed when fellow minister, Sarah Flannery, asked me to consider reviewing a chapter in her newly-released book, Children and Family Ministry Handbook, entitled “Intergenerational Ministry”. I jumped at the chance…and let’s be honest, I, of course, read the whole book because I so appreciate her voice (I also loved Chapter 7 on Milestones so I might review that one at a later date).

Sarah does a great job up front defining what she means by “intergenerational ministry” and offering several examples of what that could look like in specific congregational settings and homes.

But the key takeaway from this chapter is one that I can wholeheartedly echo: Intergenerational ministry is not a program; it is a culture, a way of doing church, that invites the entire congregation, every age, every generation, into meaningful worship and service together.

Consider these words taken from Chapter 6, page 116:

Intergenerational ministry does not fit in the context of a programmatic approach because it is too messy and too unwieldy to be programmed. Programs limit the audience in order to maximize the effectiveness for that one target group. Ministry asks us to expand the audience to include majorities and minorities, young and old, anyone and everyone.

Often, the dilemma that churches run into in creating space for intergenerational ministry is that they try to take a programmatic approach rather than a ministerial approach. They may look for a particular curriculum or a series of specific events or a special service project and, while all of those things could be good for the church, they may also be unhelpful or even detrimental depending on the congregation.

There is no cookie-cutter approach to intergenerational ministry.

The needs and gifts of each generation represented in a faith community as well as the culture and tradition of their church tradition and their local community must be considered. Which is why intergenerational ministry can be “messy” and “unwieldy.”

But take heart!  Messy and unwieldy does not mean impossible.

In fact, it means the possibilities are endless.

Within your church are gifts and graces that can be shared among the members of your congregation if space is created for them to flourish. And that is the meat of this chapter in Sarah’s book; she not only offers a guide to intergenerational worship and service that is helpful in knowing your own church, she provides multiple practical and easily implementable ideas for how to dive into intergenerational in each church context.

Her final paragraph reminds us to “Always maintain a perspective of ministry, not programs.”

That is the heart of generational discipleship.

It’s about relationship and connection.

It’s about making space for old and young and everyone in between to fill the role in the body of Christ that they have been gifted and graced for.

And it is about hospitality and community lived out in our corporate worship, mission, and service.

If you are interested in learning more about Sarah and her book, I encourage you to visit her website at sarahmflannery.com.

To put your hands on a copy of her book, check it out at CokesburyAmazon or any major book retailer (pssst…free shipping with Cokesbury right now and only $12 for the book!).

 

 


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author.

The Church Has Left The Building

I miss church. I bet you do too. And I bet that you or someone in your house has said this exact phrase over the past 6 weeks.

Theologically, we all know that “church” is not a building. We understand that “church” is the body of Christ. So more precisely, I think, when we say we miss “church”, we mean more than that. We miss the people. We miss the things we do together as people; worship and communion and conversation and prayer and hugs and food. We miss the community of faith. We miss each other and we miss the practices that renew our faith each week as we reenact the promises of Scripture through our worship and celebration.

The challenge for us as parents and ministers is to consider; how do we model authenticity and consistency as Christians safe at home while still acknowledging we are all struggling with our new reality?

Consistency in what we teach and how we live is critical to creating an atmosphere of authenticity both at home and at church. 

We are the church, when we are at home and when we are together. Who we are and how we are living should flow seamlessly between those worlds without friction or tension. What we do in one place, we should be able to just as freely do in another place and our faith should reach beyond the walls of church into the everyday life we live.

churhccomeshome

Consider these five “church” activities that we often engage in easily and freely when we gather together but can struggle to engage in our homes along with some ideas for how to simply and easily add them into our “healthy at home” life:

Worship

Every Sunday without fail, voices are raised in song in churches around the world, praising and worshiping the Lord through “songs, hymns and spiritual songs.”  Have you ever considered hosting a worship service with your family at home?  Worship through song isn’t limited only to the walls of a church, in fact Paul says we are to to always be “singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.” Many church services are online now and offer singing as part of their worship but if yours doesn’t, it’s perfectly fine for you to sing in your home. Easy ways to incorporate singing? Sing a song instead of praying a prayer before dinner. Teach a favorite song to your kids. Check out resources on Psalmody and pick a Psalm to learn and sing as a family.

Prayer

Whether it be a pastoral prayer or the communal recitation of the Lord’s prayer, we frequently engage in spoken prayer in a church setting; do we do the same in our homes?  The Lord’s Prayer is a great way for you to begin praying with your kids and creating that seamless flow between church and home.

Giving

In many churches, every week, the plate is passed and our tithes and offerings are given to the Lord.  But we don’t have to limit our giving to the church offering plate.  It can be hard sometimes to remember to give from a cheerful heart if we don’t see the need or if our gift is automatically withdrawn from our checking account Maybe your family could talk about ways to  support your church or a missionary or provide meals for families in need so they can be a part of the gift of giving.  The cheerful heart of giving isn’t only for church.

Bible Reading

If the only time our children see us open the Bible (or pull up the app on our phone or tablet) is in the church building, the model they see is one where the Bible is only for certain times not all of life.  But the writer of Psalms says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” This the perfect time to add some daily Scripture meditation into your family rhythm.  The Scripture is for everywhere, every day.

Fellowship

Let’s face it; a big reason for going to church is to see  friends.  I had someone tell me the only time they saw their friends was on Sunday morning.  It’s really hard for your kids to see the community and family that is the body of Christ if they only see people for 1 hour a week, 4 times a month.  Invite people over, even if only by Zoom for now, build and maintain relationships with those you miss and create space for fellowship all week long.

When our children see consistency in who we are and what we do at church and who we are and what we do at home, it will be easier for them to understand the providence of our God who is present with us in the everyday.

When we are consistent, we are authentic, and when we are authentic, we are modeling the truth of Jesus to the next generation.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author.