For Part 3 of our blog series on What Is Cross+Gen Ministry?, we now look at intergenerational ministry in our homes as family. To do this, I have asked Debbie Streicher of Milestones Ministry to write a guest post. See her impressive bio at the end.
Gathering as a Family
Opportunities to talk about faith and learn traditional faith practices, ones that all ages can be involved in, happen naturally in our homes. Parents, grandparents, guardians, youth, and children often gather in one another’s homes or other locations for special occasions. All the generations together in one place can be described as an intergenerational experience. When we are intentional in these intergenerational settings about including caring conversations, reading Scripture together, and praying for and blessing one another, God’s presence is evident in our midst.
Seeing God’s Presence
Honestly, how often do we take the time to recognize God’s presence in the home? How often do we say grace at mealtime or a bedtime prayer? Although the home is a prime setting for all ages to connect with one another and talk about faith, the reality is it does not happen very often unless we create an opportunity to do so. We often celebrate birthdays, getting a driver’s license, or an anniversary. We also recognize times when one loses a tooth, moves away from home, or gets braces. But how often are we intentionally made aware of God’s presence in that moment? These mark milestones in our lives and provide opportunities to engage in faith talk.
What is a milestone? Every mile along the road on most major highways, there is a marker. In years past, markers were made of stone and called milestones. These markers help travelers know the distance they have gone. Each marker passed is another step in the journey. Throughout our lives, we are on a journey of faith. Every step along the way is a time to embrace and connect memorable moments to God’s presence. These are faith-forming, important milestone moments and become markers on our journey of faith. Each marker on our journey provides an opportunity for us to talk about our faith.
Milestones in our lives vary from house to house and family to family. There are five steps you can take to engage in faith talk with all ages in the setting of the home.
Five Steps to Celebrate a Milestone
- Name it – Identify a meaningful time in the life of someone you know. Birthdays, anniversaries, leaving home, beginning a new school year, or an accomplishment. Special times in our lives are numerous and can be happy, fearful, or sad.
- Equip it – During the special time, as your family is gathered, be intentional about inviting every age present to answer a question related to the event and the person being honored. Find a Scripture verse or story that relates to the occasion being recognized. Look online or in the reference part of the Bible to help find Scripture if needed. Read the Scripture for all to hear. Ask if there are thoughts about the reading or what relates to this milestone in someone’s life.
- Bless it – Say a prayer for the person and give them a blessing.
- Gift it – Give a present to the person that is a visual memory of this occasion.
- Reinforce it – After some time has gone by, be in contact with the person to ask how they are and share memories of the time you were together for this milestone in the life of a loved one.
- Name it – John’s graduation from high school
- Equip it – Ask John, “What is your favorite memory from your high school years?” or “What is one thing you look forward to next year?” Ask others present who already graduated from high school, “What is something you did during the first year after high school?” Read Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.Ask everyone to take a moment and think about this. Then ask John, “Where do you think your path will lead you in the next year?”
- Bless it– Have everyone gather and form a circle around John. Place a candle in the center (John can be holding it or it can be placed at his feet), light it, and pray: God of creation, pour out your Spirit on John as he enters a new period of life and faith. Be with John as he begins new ventures. Be with us all and help us to be reminded of your guidance in our lives. Amen. After the prayer, invite one person or each person to stand in front of John, lay hands on him, and say a blessing, “May you know that God’s word gives light to you wherever you go.” Then invite John to extinguish the candle.
- Gift it – The candle can be a reminder to John of this occasion. Other gifts can be reminders as well. Perhaps a framed picture of the family signed by those present to remember the milestone.
- Reinforce it – Weeks and months after the graduation milestone was celebrated, remember John and let him know he is included in prayers, send him an email or text to connect, or during holidays and other family gatherings be sure to ask John how he is doing and what is new and different in his life.
Begin a Tradition
Graduation is one example of taking the time to talk about faith during milestone moments that happen naturally in the home and when gathered with friends and family from all the generations. Think of milestone moments that are happening in the next few months in the lives of your family and friends. How will you recognize this moment with them? I encourage you to identify a milestone in someone’s life, using the five-step outline here as a guide. Invite all ages to join you and embrace this opportunity to build relationships and strengthen family ties by beginning a tradition of recognizing God’s presence in those times to make them memorable.
Three Principles for Passing the Faith
There are three principles of faith formation that are foundational for passing faith from one generation on to the next.
- Where Christ is present in faith, the home is church, too! – The church is beyond a building. The congregation is where we worship together as a faith community regularly. When we speak of our faith in the home and are intentional about building traditions of prayer and reading Scripture where we live, the home is church, too.
- Faith is caught more than it is taught. – Parents are the number one role models for their children. Often, children will imitate their parents, whether bad habits or good ones. Parents can be reminded they are also the number one faith role model in their children’s lives. If parents are seen and heard praying in the home and seen and heard reading Scripture, children notice. Learning how to practice faith cannot be taught, but it can be readily caught through our actions and words.
- If we want Christian children and youth, we need Christian adults who practice the faith with them. – There is an old saying by Confucius, “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.” When we pray with and read Scripture with our children and give them opportunities to be involved in the prayers and reading, they learn. This is how traditions are passed from one age to the next.
Think about these three principles. How can you use them as part of a discussion with parents, grandparents, and other adults in your setting as a tool to encourage faith talk in homes?
Debbie is Co-Director at Milestones Ministry, providing resources and materials that nurture the Christian faith and strengthen relationships. Every Milestone Module and Milestone Moment from Milestones Ministry includes the five-step process found in this article and includes milestones that can be used from birth through adults. She serves as Past President of the Christian Education Network of the ELCA. She has coached and helped congregations across the country and in Australia develop faith formation programs for all ages in the congregational setting for almost 30 years.
Her background is in teaching language. Coupled with her passion for family ministry, she uses her knowledge and experience learned from teaching foreign languages to help parents, grandparents, and other adults understand the importance of daily immersion in the language of faith. Her vision is to involve all ages in faith formation, strengthen family relationships through spiritual growth, and empower God-given gifts to do ministry.