Practices

From Age-Isolated to Age-Integrated: Initiating Intergenerational Ministry in Your Church

Initiating intergenerational ministry

From age-isolated to age-integrated. How do you go about initiating intergenerational ministry in your church? Before answering this question, let’s define intergenerational ministry …

Intergenerational ministry is two or more age groups intentionally cooperating in worshiping, witnessing and working together to connect people with Jesus and His Story. It’s where the experiences, voices and contributions of each generation are genuinely listened to and valued. It’s all ages welcomed, invigorated and engaged to reach, rescue, root and release one another to love and live for Jesus. A church where everyone comes together to mutually and collaboratively use their gifts to build each other up in the faith and knowledge of Christ until they become fully mature (cf. Ephesians 4:13).

Here, then, are ten practical suggestions for initiating intergenerational ministry in your church:

Take stock

Understand your context. Where are you on the continuum between age-isolated and age-integrated relationships? What are the existing age-isolated and age-integrated ministries/activities? How entrenched and dedicated are the church leaders to the current ministry model? Is the congregation open to change?

Enlist help

Procure the assistance of influencers and stakeholders. Intergenerational ministry requires buy-in and intentionality from those in leadership, including modelling and thoughtful cultivation of the attitudes and activities that advance intergenerational engagement.

Teach biblical principles

God’s Word should inform and shape intergenerational ministry. Comprehensively instruct older generations about the foundational imperative to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” Psalm 78:4. If adults aren’t convinced it’s their God-given purpose and responsibility to invest in successive generations, progress will be stalled.

Commit to change

Intergenerational ministry is a paradigm shift. Every person needs to understand that intergenerational ministry is more than a strategy; it’s a core value, a fundamental change in approach and underlying assumptions. As much as possible, everyone should commit to change and prayerfully pursue it.

Be strategic

Prepare and equip every age group. Develop strategies that foster relationships in and between different age groups. Avoid large-scale program changes. Understand and reorder your ecclesiology so the individuals who make up the whole are clusters of primary relationships which function as a family of families.

Start small

Identify existing intergenerational links and activities. Tweak what you’re currently doing to enhance and consolidate intergenerational connections. Try integrating all age groups in a Bible study group, outreach event, or unique program. Experiment, maybe once a month, with a multi-generational Sunday service that actively involves all generations in planning and running it.

Integrate into existing structures

View every activity through an “intergenerational lens.” Ministry plans and procedures should fit with and help your church become an authentic intergenerational community. No two intergenerational ministries are the same. To effectively initiate intergenerational ministry, you must carefully align it with your church’s culture, community, and context.

Build momentum

Cast vision. Inform and inspire. Bridge generational gaps. Share inspirational stories that show the benefits of intergenerational ministry. Celebrate progress. Lovingly and patiently correct and rebuke selfishness and entitlement – they’re the enemies of intergenerational ministry.

Adjust expectations

Help adults understand the different expectations and outcomes when children and youth are involved. Help children and youth fine-tune the way they interact with adults. Be prepared for a bumpy ride. Cultivate an attitude and a commitment of the whole congregation to “honour one another above yourselves” Romans 12:10.

Maintain balance

Keep intergenerational ministry in balance with age-specific ministry. All age groups have unique needs and require space to grow and develop at their own pace. Everyone needs peer and multi-generation relationships. So, as you become more intergenerational, don’t do so at the expense of age-specific ministry.

What are your insights and experiences with initiating intergenerational ministry in your church? Please comment below.

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© Scripture Union, 2023

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