Sometimes it is easier to describe what something IS by exploring what it is not. Many people associate the term “intergenerational ministry” with children’s ministry or family ministry within the church. While those ministries may be partners in intergenerational ministry, the scope of these individual ministries are not broad enough.
Intergenerational ministry encompasses the whole church, all generations, in communal and corporate contexts of friendship, mentorship, discipleship, and relationship.
Intergenerational ministry is more of a cultural characteristic of a church than it is a ministry area; it is a culture that values and creates space for meaningful connections to be made across generational boundaries in a variety of settings for the purpose of generational discipleship, faith formation, and community building. 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 faith community to recognize the need for intentional generational connectivity, the following question must be answered:
- What do we mean by a “generation?”
- What does each generation need from the church ?
- what can each generation contribute to the church?
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 as marketing firms began to explore how to best market to specific groups, coining nicknames for them in order to create a collective conscious.
The most likely generations that would be found in your church would be the Silent Generation (born 1924-1942), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-2000), and Gen Z (2001-2020) and Generation Alpha (the children). The years applied to these generations have some variability depending on who you talk to, but these are basically the breakdown of generations alive today.
These six generations offer unique experiences in both spiritual and communal practices for the church.
- 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 graphic below uses Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial stages to outline these needs in a church setting. Note, the research on Alpha generation is just starting to make its rounds so they haven’t been included this this particular graphic.
- 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 placed 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.
As we create communities that encourage relationships to be built across generations, it is important for us to find ways for each generation to both give and receive. And isn’t that what church is all about? The body of Christ, receiving from Christ and one another and, in turn, giving of itself to the one another and the world; just as Jesus has done and just as we will celebrate this upcoming Holy Week. Intergenerational ministry is, at its heart, the church, built and fitted together, as the body of Christ.
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.