Intergenerational: relating to, involving, or affecting several generations.
All too often, in ministry, intergenerational refers to an event or gathering where all the ages come together for an activity or event several times a year. Serious thought about intergenerational opportunities as a regular practice or as a way of life in the church does not seem to be the norm. Using the word intergenerational is not something we normally understand to be happening each time we gather. It is set apart.
A few weeks ago, the children’s message included an invitation to take home a diagram of a family tree. Children were to place names on the tree of those in their family who taught them about Jesus. I received an email last week telling me I was one of the names appearing on the tree of a young girl. I was humbled by this thought and very thankful for the relationship I have begun to build with her. She is being raised by her grandparents. Her tree included many from her family at church.
I began to reflect on how easy it was for her to name family members not from her nuclear family, but those surrounding her every week in our congregation. Through the eyes of a child, the intergenerational family we have in the church is so easy to explain.
Through the eyes of adults, there is often criticism and skepticism when we hear the wording “church family” or “intergenerational”.
I recently finished reading a book by BC Crothers, Church-Filling Techniques for Building Community. When addressing the growing community within the church walls, the author wrote, “You want your congregants to become a strong, loving, welcoming, vibrant family – the type of family who shows others how heaven comes to earth. Bring this about and you will have a ministry beyond your wildest imagination.”
The look of our families can vary. Grandparents are raising grandchildren and many parents are single-parenting. The look may vary, but the make-up of a family always includes a variety of ages. Several different generations are present under one roof.
It is the same under our church roof. How we live and what our children see is role modeling our faith and our beliefs more than we can ever imagine. This role modeling happens in the congregation and at home.
There is much talk on Facebook and in blogs about including children in worship and about attending to the needs of children and youth. What challenges could be resolved if every time we gather we see ourselves as an intergenerational family?
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
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