Forming Faith Blog

Faith Together (Cross+Generational Ministry)

Free Resource: Worshipping Together: Breath of Life (Cross+Gen Worship)

Together or Separate?

One of the new innovations in children, youth, and family ministry is cross+generational ministry. Cross+generational ministry, also known as intergenerational ministry, is simply the idea that all generations should learn and work together. This is opposed to multi-generational ministry where all (most) age ranges are present but are not interacting. Examples of multi-generational ministry would include the typical worship service, as well as a Christian education model where different age ranges (generations) are in separate groups/classes.

In fact, cross+generational ministry is not a new concept. Throughout much of history, different generations had more contact with each other. All generations lived together, so the young and the old and everyone in between were together from the start. However, a number of factors have led to fewer and fewer interactions between the generations to the present day. What was once the only model has become something rediscovered.

Forming Faith Together

When I use the word “ministry,” I’m talking about actions that further the mission of the Church. I see this mission as having two dimensions. Inwardly, the mission is to form faith in the various members of the Body of Christ. Outwardly, the mission is to spread God’s  love throughout the world. These two dimensions are inextricably linked, so I think of them as a single mission. Faith formation for me is any action, relationship, or experience that nurtures a transformative relationship of trust with God and shapes the way we see and interact with God’s world. (Read more about this in What is Faith Formation?). This is purposefully a broad definition.

So, ministry can include just about anything, and should include everything that a congregation does (directly or indirectly). What about cross+generational ministry? To make sure that the ministry your congregation does is cross+generational, then you would need to intentionally include all age groups in your various ministries, and (re)design them to ensure participants are building relationships together.

Building Relationships Together

The key to cross+generational ministry is that participants are not only doing the work (e.g. learning, doing service projects, worshipping), but they are building relationships between members of different generations while they are doing so. The Church is the communion (community, fellowship) of saints and this community is based first on our identity in and relationship with Christ, and second on our relationships with one another. Relationships with people our own age are great, but if that is where the fellowship stops, then it is like we have separate communities within our congregations. With separation comes division and a weakening of the church. Each member of the Body of Christ has something to contribute, and we have something to learn from each person (of every age) in our congregations. Creating intentional, cross+generational ministries helps us build these relationships together.

Doing Ministry Together

When ministry participants (disciples) work together across all our differences (in the scope of this post we are looking at age differences, but this applies to everything that divides us), our ministries are stronger, our work more effective. We can unite the wisdom of the most experienced among us, the energy of the youngest, the new perspectives of the young and young of heart, and the endurance of those in the middle. In this dynamic community, individuals discover a sense of belonging, something necessary but all too rare.

Facing Reality Together

You might (hopefully) find all of this exciting and inspiring, but one look at most of our congregations can cause us to throw up our hands and sigh, “I wish, but let’s be real. This isn’t going to work.” I truly believe it can work in any context (we do believe in a resurrected Lord), but the main trick is to start small, maybe very small. Pick one ministry area and try one minor change. Add a small, participatory moment in your worship service. Plan a special cross+gen educational event. Plan an intergenerational service project or mission trip. Then, (and this is the critical part) keep going. Add another minor change, in the same area or in a different one. Don’t forget your indirect ministries either. Can you imagine adding a youth or young adult to your church council (etc.) or committees? To repeat: Start small and keep going.

Spirit & Truth Publishing can help you start this transformation to cross+generational ministry with our various cross+generational faith formation resources that you can adapt and use in your own context. You can start with something like our free resource of the week, called “Worshipping Together: Breath of Life,” an in-worship activity that engages worshippers in valuable conversations.  Also, check out our page What is Cross+Gen Ministry? for more information.

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

 

2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation materials are available for purchase. Fall lessons and more can be downloaded right away! You can download the 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence to start your planning for the next program year!

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

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