If Covid did anything, it showed us our deep need for one another and for community.
We are, as one study put it, hardwired to connect. It’s not surprising then that when Jesus gave us the Great Commission to go and make disciples – not converts – disciples, we find that that happens best in community. Throughout Scripture, we see that faith is passed from one generation to another.
Discipleship is first of all relational.
It requires time spent building in relationship, learning and growing and worshipping together. Generational connection has to be more than just someone who volunteers to teach a class or host a club once a week. It must cross over into a meaningful relationship where love is experienced and pain is processed and life is shared. The reality is, our faith is primarily passed from one generation to another; it’s relational not programmatic. It’s not passed in a class or an after-school program or a club that meets once a week, even though those things can be part of the process.
Covid-19 has both complicated and simplified this reality. In the absence of our normal schedules, we have been pushed to expand our discipleship options. However, I still see so many trying to find just the right curriculum or program or activity to make discipleship happen.
But at this time, perhaps more than any other, we need the community of faith to step in and begin to press forward with meaningful and intergenerational relationships in intentional community.
Our tendency might to try to find a way to make this happen without disrupting the “normal” church programming. But that’s problematic because many of the structures we often have in place actually inhibit relationships from being forged across generations. But 2020 taught us that what we long for most is one another. This is our chance to connect one another in new ways as we are not held back by long-held traditions, rigid schedules and age-specific classes and curriculum. Many people have multiple generations present in their own home and others can connect virtually, but relationships can be built around faith, even during Covid times.
Why? What is our motivating factor? The Great Commission.
That call is to make disciples. Discipleship is a lifelong process. Which means even the oldest members of our congregation need discipleship. It just looks different for them than it does for kids. It looks a lot like legacy-leaving and story-telling and intercessory-praying. For kids, it looks a lot like getting to see their parents worshiping, getting to have their name be known and spoken by adults in their church, getting to participate in the things that identify us as believers like communion and worship and reading Scripture in community.
But here’s the heart of the issue: We need each other.
Lifelong discipleship necessitates interactions with multiple generations.
Studies show that age homogeneity in social networks leads to isolation and loneliness. Younger people experience delayed socialization. Older people experience a lack of generativity needed for positive cognitive health (Source). And sometimes, the way those things manifest, are in things like apathy, busyness, and disconnection….sound familiar? Scottie May of Wheaton College points out that “Within many churches today, children and parents rarely share experiences. This generational separation makes it difficult for parents to learn how to nurture their children spiritually” (Source). Combine that with a lack of intergenerational relationships in the church and what we are left with are lonely, exhausted parents, disillusioned ministers, and a congregation just waiting to be connected together, on mission, in relationship, with each other and with God.
And let’s be real a second (for just a millisecond) – when relationships in a church are based around agreement on social, political, and even theological issues rather than the foundation that is Jesus Christ and the revelation of God’s love through the Bible, they easily crumble when disagreements arise.
Disillusionment with the church among rising generations is at an all-time high. But it’s not Jesus or even the Bible they take issue with; it’s church members that they trusted who put agenda before truth and politics before Christ. As they “deconstruct” their faith, they grow confused why people they looked up to in church so readily dismiss them when disagreements arise in social and political matters instead of listening, reflecting and embracing the hard conversations and challenges they want to have.
The importance of genuine intergenerational connectivity in meaningful relationships cannot be underestimated especially when it comes to relationships within a faith community. These relationships sustain us. They combat apathy with genuine care. They reduce the need to hide in busyness by creating safe spaces to learn and grow. They nullify the disconnection by normalizing shared experiences and life on mission.
I truly believe this division and lack of connectedness is the biggest challenge facing, not only children’s ministry, but the Church in general. But this is not a “forever and always” situation. We can begin to create connections within our churches and our homes that will lead to more engage parents, kids, and congregation.
And there is literally no time like the present to begin to pursue this time of intentional, intergenerational, life-giving, loneliness-busting, prayer-focused, integrated, invested community.
Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?
ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings.
Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.
Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.
Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.
Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.
Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!
For More Information about how you and your church can participate in this webinar experience, fill out the Contact Form Below with “ReConnect” as your subject.
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 this Blog
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.