InterGenerate, is that even a word?
Not according to the Oxford dictionary, but in faith formation circles it’s filled with meaning and implication for our congregations.
Over the past couple of decades ‘intergenerational’ has become the buzz word circulating among church educators and worship leaders. While programmes designed for age groups to meet separately for learning and faith formation have their benefits, a steady diet of graded classrooms, youth group events and mission trips, and adult focused worship and study groups has taken a toll on our church families. By revisiting of the practices of the early church, re-reading the work of foundational developmental theorists, and paying attention to more recent generational theory studies, the church has been prompted to reconsider its dependance on the ‘age and stage’ ministry that has dominated the past century. New research has revealed to the church that we do better when we’re together. People of every age are more able to grow and mature in their faith, care for one another and become the body Christ spoke of when our churches place a priority on being intentional intergenerational communities of faith.
Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross help us understand what intergenerational ministry looks like through this working definition:
“Intergenerational ministry occurs when a congregation intentionally combines the generations together in mutual serving, sharing, or learning within the core activities of the church in order to live out being the body of Christ to each other and the greater community”
Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bring the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship
Many of you will know that I am a strong advocate for intergenerational ministry. When I was working on my doctoral dissertation I discovered that if we wish to provide great ministry with children in congregations with fewer than ten children we must make a deliberate shift toward intergenerational ministry. This shift is not only is paramount for faith formation in churches with few children, it is a best practice for all church contexts.
In 2017, I was invited to attend the inaugural InterGenerate conference held at Lipscomb University to present a paper on intergenerational ministry with children in small churches. This event brought together researchers and practitioners from around the world to learn from each other as we considered the ways the church might best move forward with intergenerational ministry as its priority. It was wonderful to be able to rub shoulders with and learn from some of the best researchers and practitioners in this area. Getting to know these wonderful people and listen to them has helped me provide new and helpful learning for our own Canadian Presbyterian context.
This past spring an InterGenerate Australia conference was scheduled to be held in June. The planning team was hoping 50 to 70 people would attend from Australia and New Zealand. Key leaders were booked to speak from around the globe. And then, the Covid-19 pandemic meant the conference would have to be cancelled. Or, would it? The planning team quickly moved the event to an online platform, and over 400 participants from around the world signed up to hear (and see) the best leadership in intergenerational ministry. Not wanting to stop there, each of the presenters were asked to participate in individual, post-event podcasts to revisit their plenary content for the benefit of an even wider audience.
Because of this commitment to sharing a passion for intergenerational ministry with as many people as possible, I get to introduce to you some of the best leaders in intergenerational ministry theory and practice. Over the course of the summer a new podcast is being released each Wednesday for our listening. These podcasts are being hosted by the Uniting Church in Australia, and I am thankful to my colleague, Chris Barnett with the UCA, for passing them on to us.
So let me introduce you to some of my friends.
John Roberto began working in Connecticut in youth ministry with the Roman Catholic Church upon his graduation from college with a degree in sociology and religious studies in 1973. His youth work experience led him shift his focus beyond youth ministry to life-long faith formation, paying particular attention to family faith practices and generational faith formation, while continuing to apply this to a youth context. In 2006 Roberto established Lifelong Faith Associates, allowing him to envision, research, write and develop faith formation strategies for the 21st century. Roberto also serves as a staff member with Vibrant Faith Ministries, a consultative body serving churches in their reimagining of inclusive educational ministries. John Roberto has written a number of books including Faith Formation 20/20: Designing the Future of Faith Formation and Generations Together: Caring, Praying, Learning, Celebrating and Serving Faithfully.
John Roberto’s July 16, 2020 podcast on Intergenerational Ministry can be found here: https://workxpc.com/intergenerational-ministry-with-john-roberto/
Holly Catterton Allen is the Professor of Family Science and Christian Ministry at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. She and GenOn Ministries envisioned and hosted the inaugural InterGenerate conference held in 2017 at Lipscomb University. Allen also serves as the president of The Society for Children’s Spirituality which hosts an annual, cross-denominational Children’s Spirituality Summit. Her book, Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship, co-authored with Christine Lawton Ross, is foundational in intergenerational ministry theory and practice. Her most recent book is an edited collection of articles written by a number of the presenters at the 2017 InterGenerate conference entitled, InterGenerate: Transforming Churches Through Intergenerational Ministry.
Holly Allen’s July 23, 2020 podcast on Knowing the Generations can be found here:https://workxpc.com/knowing-the-generations-with-holly-allen/
Cory Seibel is the minister of Central Baptist Church and an affiliate professor at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta. Cory has been researching generational dynamics within society and the church for much of the last two decades and has the unique opportunity of applying his research in both of his ministry contexts. Cory served as a keynote speaker at the inaugural InterGenerate conference in Nashville, and is an active participant in an International Intergenerational Roundtable, which was held in London, UK in 2019. This group of twenty 20 researchers and practitioners in the field of intergenerational ministry are continuing with this roundtable with the hope that they will be able to support, resource and influence the church in this area. Cory published an edited a collection of articles on intergenerational ministry in 2019 entitled The Generative Church: Global Conversations About Investing in Emerging Generations.
Cory Seibel’s July 30, 2020 on Leading Intergenerational Communities can be found here: https://workxpc.com/leading-intergenerational-communities-with-cory-seibel/
There is more yet to come. Further podcasts with keynote leaders will be uploaded on subsequent Wednesday’s and can be accessed here:: https://workxpc.com.
If the sound of an InterGenerate conference appeals to you, know that planning is underway for a May, 2021 gathering at Lipscomb University that will combine both the InterGenerate and the Children’s Spirituality Summit conferences.