Lately I have been having a lot of conversations with people about bringing the generations together in our churches. Usually the conversations are fueled by excitement at the prospect of seeing different generations learning from and with each other. Ideas of all-age retreats, all-age service projects, or meeting for a meals & celebration bubble up in excitement. Intergenerational approaches to children and youth is inspiring us back to our communal call to discipleship.
But why intergenerational?
The term intergenerational is arising a lot in attention in our denomination in the discussion of children and youth ministries. Books like Kara Powell’s “Sticky Faith, have drawn quite a bit of attention to this aspect. When she set out to study the factors that make for a “sticky faith”, a faith that would stick with kids into adulthood, the results overwhelmingly pointed to “intergenerational” relationships.
Pulled from Powell’s book:
Factors that make for a “sticky-faith”
- Congregations that maximized intergenerational relationships
- Involvement in intergenerational worship during high school
- The more that teenagers serve and build relationships with younger children,
the more likely it is that their faith will stick
- By far the number one way churches made teens in our survey feel welcomed and valued was when adults in the congregation showed an interest in them
- An increasing ratio of adults to kids in the church, increases the likelihood of youth staying a part of a church when they get to college.
Chap Clark of Fuller Seminary suggest a 5:1 ratio.
Children and Youth having building relationships across the age-spectrum is hugely influential as to whether they continue to keep their roots planted in a faith community as adults.
In addition to their faith community, there also faith experiences that we want our kids rooted in.
These would be the central experiences and practices of what it means to be the church. Just in general sociological terms, we could look any number of studies of religious groups and observe similar patterns.
In one study “Growing Up Religious” by Robert Wuthnow, it was that affirmed that effective religious socialization comes about from embedded the following practices into your culture:
- Eating together, especially the power of Sunday meals and holidays
- Praying: Bedtime rituals and prayer, grace before meals, family seder
- Family Conversations
- Displaying Sacred Objects and Religious Images, Especially the Bible
- Celebrating Holidays
- Providing Moral Instruction
- Engaging in Family Devotions and Reading the Bible
Wuthnow found that when spiritual practices were woven into the very fiber of people’s being; it was total immersion. For these people, being religious was a way of life.
Now I am not saying, is that the aim of our churches is to make kids religious! What I do find interesting though is the process of enculturation. Maybe even if our aim is not to enculturate children into “Religion”, there is still an element wanting to see children enculturated into faith nurturing experiences that they will practice into adulthood.
In sum, I would my nutshell of these two studies would tell me that:
A. To see kids rooted in their Faith Communities, we need to develop our intergenerational relationships
B. To see kids rooted in Faith Disciplines, we need to practice those core tenants with them as children.
What does that mean for our Sunday mornings?
I think it means we need to explore new ways of being together.
If having relationships with all ages, and being formed around the core faith formation practices are essential to children staying in the church and staying on the path with Christ,
I wonder if there are more meaningful ways to meet together and to be together as the body of Christ where we can walk alongside children and embed them into a culture that prays aloud,
One of our CBOQ churches is asking these questions and setting out on a quest of sorts to see if there is space to Be together differently, to engage children differently.
Once a month they try something new, they invite the children to partake and they debrief. Each of these experiences is explore and prepared for by their lead pastor in their monthly publication.
If you are interested in opening up space for something new to take root in your community,
perhaps your will find encouragement and inspiration in travelling with them on this journey out of the box.
Check out each month’s initiative here:
Spring Garden Church: Intergenerational Initiatives, Pt.1
Spring Garden Church: Intergenerational Initiatives, Pt. 2
Spring Garden Church: Intergenerational Initiatives, Pt. 3