It was my third year ecclesiology class that captured my heart for all things faith-related that ended in “ology”. This world of church, faith, God, and mission, could be studied and traced, chewed on, and debated until the cows came home? I was in my element. Papers on women in leadership, the priesthood of all believers, and projects of denominational differences started flowing out the wazoo.
Like most Religious Studies majors, I graduated with a briefcase full of zeal to spark passion in the pews. To make matters worse I went straight into seminary, and my zeal was amped up even more by new perspectives from our Anglican brothers and sisters.
It was around this time that my husband and I joined a small group from our church, in which there was another seminary student. Beauty! With passion we discussed the endless possibilities for our churches if our ecclesiology could be better theologically grounded, Wow- wouldn’t our missiological purpose just flourish! What a difference we could make!!
I was sure that our passionate discussion must be fanning the flames of faith in others until a member pulled me aside after small group one night and I’ll never forget her words:
“Being in a small group with Seminary students.. its the worst ever”.
Ouch. She wasn’t teasing us either, her statement was a reprimand.
In other words, “Bring it down from the rafters people- No one knows- or cares- about what you are talking about”.
Ever since that moment, I have had the impression that if we really want to flourish and grow and make a difference, the big ‘ology’ words need to simmer down a bit. Similarly, while it doesn’t end in ‘ology’, phrases like intentional intergenerational community, probably need to simmer down too…
Maybe, for now, instead of the eye-glazing “intergenerational” we could just say “generations together”?! Because what we are really just talking about is family, a family of various ages that we want to spend time together. A family that loves each other, wants to be together, wants to serve each other, and grow together.
Why do we need all ages to spend time together in the church?
Because we’re a family, and families are bigger than one age group.
Why do we need to blend ages together more?
Because we’re a family, and we need each other.
What good is an community strengthened in intergenerational relationships?
We’re a family. And families care for each other, supports each other, and learn from each other.
Because of my appreciation for things brought out of the rafters and back down to earth, I deeply appreciated a book I recently read about Intergenerational relationships in the church called “Generations Together”. An Intergenerational community is simply a church family, a family where generations are together. Togetherness. And just like any value or culture that is passed through family systems, through togetherness, our faith is passed down and shared through our togetherness. Faith development is “cyclical through generations” (p. 53).
Authors Amidei, Merhaut, & Roberto say that quite simply, any aspect of Christian community can be shared by the whole church family. Those aspects Caring, Praying, Learning, Celebrating, & Serving Faithfully” are meant for us as a whole, together as a family. When we practice these things together, our younger generations are adopted into that family culture of mindset, values and practice.
Additionally, the factors that are key to a child’s faith formation at home are key in the church as well. Factors like sensing belonging, positive warm family, faith relevance to the world, seeing “parents” serving and committed are all important. However, the authors point out that the biggest factor of all for socializing children is the climate of the heart. This is true of the family of origin and the Spiritual Family (the church). Who we are creates a soil of culture to plant good things.
If I have one criticism of this book, it is a criticism that I have about most “family ministry” practices in general. It doesn’t make sense to me that the tone of family ministry would elevate family togetherness to the exclusion of those “without family. After all, we are the church- we are Family!! For instance, on page 86 of Generations Together, the authors suggest that within our communities we practice ‘Family Prayer Huddles”. The idea is that we facilitate a large group prayer time during a community time, and that families will all huddle as their own little unit. As these families are all clustered off, the authors remark that:
“Single adults will also enjoy gathering together in their own huddles during the prayer”.
I can say now, from the years that I wasn’t married and the years that I didn’t have children that,
No I don’t think I would not “enjoy” this time of family prayer huddles.
I would say, thank you for this acid on my wound of childlessness.
In those times I needed to know that I was an essential part of this family of God, with or without biological children, and that these family units needed me as their sister in Christ.
What is the point of “Generations Together” if you are going to just cluster them off with other various exclusions? However, short sighted suggestions like these were few and far between. To be fair, the majority of Generations Together focused on practical ways that we could incorporate story-telling into our communities, that we could use digital means and social media to bring generations together, and ways that we could share in small groups and serve together. As the authors explored those core factors of our community life (Serving, Caring, Celebrating, Learning, and Praying) they creatively engaged the challenges and offered thoughtful reflection.
In conclusion, Generations Together keeps it simple. Without lofty ‘ology’ words and high theology, its brings things down to ground level. It keeps the Christianese to a minimum. If you are looking for a book with practical and insights on simply Bringing the Generations of your church family together, this is your book.
(And don’t worry, if you quote this book in a training event, your volunteers aren’t likely to glaze over and sigh ‘working with you is the “worst ever”‘ ;))