If you’ve ever worked in business or education, you’ve likely heard the term “touchpoint.” Defined as “a point of contact or interaction”, a touchpoint is basically when you talk to someone that you are or want to be in business with. Touchpoints are essential to a business growing or a college retaining students. So many touchpoints are built into the systems that sustain growth, things like phone calls, newsletters, personalized birthday cards, and the like.
When working to integrate our faith communities and bring together people of different generations, it can be tempting to fall into the trap of programming and forget that sustained growth takes touchpoints, connections that happen on an ongoing basis outside the regular planned interactions.
What does this mean for us? Just like a business or academic institution that wants to maintain consistent financial growth, it would be advisable for churches who want to promote spiritual growth in intergenerational community to incorporate some “touchpoints” into their regular practice. In this case, these would be places of connection that promote ongoing relationships outside of regular church programming.
Touchpoint #1 – Service Projects
When kids and youth are asked to describe their faith, they are far more likely than adults to use action terms rather than theological or “belief” language. For them, faith in action is faith so one of the best ways to connect generations in discipleship is to create space for service, especially serving alongside adults from other generations.
- Partner with a local rescue mission to create “welcome home” baskets for newly housed individuals.
- Make and bring a meal for a local addiction recovery center.
- Plant flowers at a local park.
- Mow yards, pick up trash, or rake up leaves for your neighborhood.
- Go door to door to collect toiletries to donate to clothing ministries or canned goods for a food bank.
Touchpoint #2 – Pray for Me (Intercessory Prayer)
In my opinion, there is no better place for a church to begin to connect generations than through intercessory prayer for each other. Begin with a simple commitment to pray for one another throughout the academic year. If you are praying for someone, you start caring for that someone, and as a result, relationships begin to grow.
- Check out the Pray for Me Campaign by Tony Souder which offers a guide to follow.
- Create bookmarks or postcards to exchange as prayer partners.
- Include a “prayer guide” or “Scriptures to Pray” each week in your church bulletin.
- Create a couple of intergenerational prayer chains using phone or group text to share prayer needs.
Touchpoint #3 – “Post It” Notes
In a world of email and text, it’s always fun to actually get something in the mail. And for some generations, USPS is their preferred media! So this presents a beautiful out-of-the-box space for connection.
- Provide church notecards to members to send notes to one another throughout the week.
- Set up a specific mailing club for young people who go off to college or families that move away!
- Create a Pen Pals club for homebound or elderly members and the younger Sunday School classes.
- Send birthday and anniversary cards at the beginning of each month.
Touchpoint #4 – Fan Club
If the kids and youth at your church are involved in sports, community theater, dance, karate, etc. there is a huge opportunity to create space for connections and relationships simply by extending an invitation to others to join their fan club.
- Consider dedicating a space like a bulletin board for parents and kids to post their sports/extracurricular schedules so that older church members can make plans to attend.
- Use your social media spaces to do a weekly highlight of places your community has been involved throughout the week.
- Twice a year in the worship service, pray over all those families who are involved in with extracurriculars and pray over them to “send them out” as lights to their community. And be sure to ask them to come back and share any testimonies of how they shared God’s love with others.
In the recent Connect Generations case study, one of the findings regarding intergenerational relationships was that churches that observed greater connected cited specific instances of interaction frequently in several areas not just one. Even more interesting, the case study revealed that intergenerational connections that took place outside of the church building led to more relationships and opportunities for generational discipleship especially in service opportunities. Our goal is always to move from connection to relationship to discipleship.
These are the touchpoints we want to emphasize and grow as we seek to promote generational discipleship for our communities. The ideas above can act as springboards to identifying the bridges that bring us together and help create lifelong disciples.
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Back to Basics: Connecting Generations at Your Church
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About the Author
Christina Embree is the founder and director of ReFocus Ministry. She holds a masters in ministry focused on Children, Youth, and Family Ministry and a doctorate in spiritual formation with a focus on age segregation and intergenerational ministry. In addition to coaching churches of multiple denominations and traditions all around the globe, Christina serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship for the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ and as a pastor at Plowshares Brethren in Christ in Lexington, Kentucky. She is widely recognized as a speaker and author in the areas of generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and family ministry. As the mother of three children, she is familiar with the challenges of faith at home and pastoral ministry. She along with her husband Luke share a love for the church, their community, and the global work of peace and restoration through Jesus.