“I am beginning to understand how important it is to connect the generations in my church across generations for the purpose of discipleship, but I feel like when I try to share that with others, they don’t get it. How do I help the people I work and worship with understand why I think this is important?”
Have you ever felt this way or asked this question? If so, I promise you that you are not alone. In fact, when I first start working with a church, doing an initial consult, or just striking up a conversation, this is often one of the first things I get asked. So, what’s the answer?
The answer is… there is no answer. I mean, there is no simple answer. But there are important foundational truths that can help you begin to answer people’s questions as they come up. Below is a simple list of 7 possible answers to the question of “Why?’ along with some places to start sharing about the need for generational discipleship to be a primary focus in your church’s ministry. It’s not exhaustive, but it is a good start and I hope it will be a helpful tool for you as you enter into important conversations with your faith community.
So, why should a church “do” Intergenerational Ministry?
1. Because that’s the Discipleship Model in Scripture. Brian Haynes, pastor of Bay Area First Baptist Church in Houston, TX and author of the book Shift, says that it is of utmost importance to base every action and proposed action of your ministry in theology, in the Word of God. The Bible is chock full of examples and exhortations that help us understand how faith is passed from one generation to another. For more on that, including specific examples, check out this post.
2. Because the Research tell us. The Sticky Faith group at Fuller Youth Institute have studied the reasons young people walk away from the church, looking for a “silver bullet” for churches and parents to use to keep that from happening. While there was no “silver bullet” churches that encouraged intergenerational connections and worship and youth that felt involved and connected to the larger church had a much greater chance of remaining in church post high school. (The findings can be found here). Additionally, they found that time spent talking and living faith in the home was the biggest indicator of a faith that sticks in kids. According to Jim Burns at HomeWord ministries, kids that talk about their faith at home with mom and dad have a 80% chance of remaining in church once they leave the home.
3. Because Faith Formation is a Lifelong Process. By the age of 9 a child has already formed his or her basic moral foundation and by age 13 they’ve come to an understanding about God, His love, and eternity. But, we don’t stop there. According to research done by James Fowler on faith formation, our faith continues to transform and grow throughout our lives as we move through stages of reflection, resolution, and redemption. And guess what? We need each other for that! In a study published in 2017, researchers found that three things are necessary for intergenerational learning, 1. There must be space to learn about one’s own generation with other generations, 2. All generations must act as learners and teachers at the same time, and 3. The learning must motivate participants towards in a particular way. (Source). In church, the “way” is Jesus and the “learning” is discipleship.
4. Because Time doesn’t Stand Still. Studies show that on average, kids will spend about 24-40 hours a year at church. Contrast that with the estimated 2,000-3,000 hours they will spend at home or with their parents (For more on this, click here). If we want faith to be a significant, ongoing part of their lives, we need to connect the home with the faith community through meaningful relationships and ongoing connection.
5. Because Parents need the Church. Most parents of elementary-aged kids today grew up in churches that had age-segregated, traditional models. Many times faith was compartmentalized and not talked about at home. Because of that, parents don’t know how to talk about their faith or worship with their children. They need help. They need supported. They need ministry. They need their faith community to do what they promised on baptism or dedication day and walk with them as they raise their kids in the faith.
6. Because the Next Generation need the Church. An average child will be engaged in some kind of media (television, video games, social network, etc.) for 40 hours a week. Remember that statistic about church? At most, 40 hours a YEAR at church. The messages they receive all week long cannot be addressed in one hour on a Sunday morning. Kids need a church family that is engaged in their faith walk in the everyday so that faith is not a “Sunday thing” but a life thing.
7. Because God calls us to Make Disciples. The final commission left to the church by Jesus was to “Go and make disciples.” Discipleship goes beyond church membership, service attendance, or biblical assent. Being a disciple means being a follower and imitator of Christ and making disciples means leading others to do the same. As Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Generational discipleship calls us to bridge the generational gap and strive towards a community that truly worships, learns, serves, laughs, cries, and grows together.
Sometimes all we need is a starting point. Hopefully, this post fulfills that need for you.
Let me know what other answers you have to the question of “Why Intergen?”
Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?
ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings.
Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.
Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.
Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.
Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.
Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!
For More Information about how you and your church can participate in this webinar experience, fill out the Contact Form Below with “ReConnect” as your subject.
For more information about…
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.
About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.
With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.