Intergenerational ministry is quite a buzz term in Christian circles these days. But we know from research that it’s more than a trend and massively helpful in the development of lasting faith. It creates fertile soil in which seedlings can flourish. And yet, your church may be like so many on Sunday mornings with different age groups scurrying to separate corners of buildings to learn on their own. So, how do we get away from this? What can you do as a ministry leader to forge a new path?
Intergenerational Ministry: More Than Just Planning More Fun Activities
If you’re a ministry leader, you may feel at times like your primary role is to pump out fun activity after fun activity. This can be particularly true for children’s and youth pastors. This is well and good…and fun. But do you ever get the sense that this isn’t all you’re called to and that you have far more to offer the congregation you serve? Here at ICM, we’ve been pondering how we can help you move from activities director to one who facilitates deep and lasting intergenerational relationships within your church. Really, doing so is church. In connecting across all ages your whole church will thrive, creating deep roots together that will last lifetimes.
Read on for eight ways to foster intergenerational ministry in your church.
8 Ways to Foster Intergenerational Ministry
- Church Grandparents: Invite older adults to come alongside families and become a “grandparent” for a child. This person could take the child on fun outings, send birthday cards, attends sports games, help support parents on Sundays and beyond. This will foster cross-generational relationships, help families feel loved, and older adults feel needed and helpful. This could also be opened to all adults as church “aunts” and “uncles.” Even better if children are paired with adults who share their interests.
- Laundry Parents: Invite families to sign up to open their homes to college students who are living a great distance from their own families. Students can set up times with their “family” to go over for dinner and laundry. College is a formative and potentially lonely time. Having a family’s support can be wonderful. And these relationships may last for years after they have graduated and moved out of the area.
- Community Garden: Speak with the city about starting a community garden on church grounds. Donations are often plentiful from local stores. Children and adults of all ages can lend a helping hand and learn a whole lot about gardening and life while working together. And not only that, but this is a great way of providing fresh produce for your city.
- Food Pantry: Speak with your local food pantry about becoming a distribution site. This brings together children and adults of all ages to serve those in need in your city. There are sorting and bagging jobs even toddlers can do on distribution morning. And exposing our children to all different kinds of people encourages compassion and inclusion for the rest of their lives.
- Fix-It Kids: Invite youth to sign up to help older adults who need minor household tasks done. These could include office filing, decorating for holidays, light cleaning, window washing, etc. For more major repairs that the kids aren’t qualified to do, have a list of local referrals ready to give to homeowners.
- Most Important Thing Speakers: Invite adults of all ages to speak at Sunday school and youth group. Ask them to share the most important thing they’ve learned in their life thus far and a Bible verse or passage that speaks to that. This opens relationships between adults, children, and youth and makes for incredibly memorable lessons.
- Pen Pals: Pair congregation members with youth and young adults who are abroad, away at college or serving in the military. Invite them to write letters and send care packages, particularly around holidays and exam weeks. This makes a huge difference to those who are away, helping them feel important and loved.
- Confirmation Mentors: Invite congregation members to serve as mentors for youth involved in confirmation. Mentors can be present in class and available for questions and discussion anytime. Additionally, mentors can stand up with their students at confirmation and be a support to families in the years ahead. A child’s church “grandparent” would be a great confirmation mentor if they have one.
We hope these ideas have given you food for thought as you find ways of becoming ever more intergenerational. Mix and match any of these to help foster deep, lasting relationships and sustaining faith in our church. Be sure to complete background checks for ALL adults working with children. In the comments section below, share with us what’s already working in your congregation!
Katie Cunningham says
These are great ideas with some I never thought of like dinner and laundry! I love your posters. They worked well as a centering activity for a Lenten retreat.
Michele Bowden says
Our Women’s Ministry started a Bible Journaling night every other month and were blown away by the number of mother and daughter pairs attended. We had never had teens join our events. We think this is revolutionary for all of us because these young ladies will now grow up with involvement in the Women’s Ministry and won’t need a point of transition later after college. They will already know how to join right in.
Also, our Retreats invite girls 16 and up. We make sure the age indicator is listed right on the invitation.
Rev. Jenny Drewitz says
Over the summer we had “summer connection partners.” Any age were asked to sign up and all names went into a hat and were matched up. I sent out a focus question for each week of the summer to each pairing. (something like, “where did you see God this week?” or “how has your faith been challenged this week?”) Pairings could connect by phone, email, text , coffee or whatever worked for them. It was especially good as most people were scattered over the summer, but kept community with their partner while they were away. Some pairings worked better than others, but one of my favourites was the 13 yo with the 87 yo. They found they had a lot to talk about!
Daina Kraai says
We started a Girl’s Night, where women and girls of all ages come together once a month for a meal and different activities they can choose to do and a small devotion that is all age accessible that we do around the table. Everything is co-op style, so we take turns signing up to cook or clean-up, and the activities we find out what people like to do or have skills in and ask them to sign up to lead that activity (weaving, poetry reading, art, baking, fire-building, etc.). It has been really wonderful to see little girls interacting with ladies of all ages in the church in a really natural way- just chatting with each other as they’re coloring or eating or chopping up carrots. It’s been a huge success in terms of intergenerational. We plan ours on a Sunday evening from 5-7pm so all ages can come.