“As Christians, how we relate to each other should set us apart” (Douglas Powe)
Earlier this week a team of six people from our synod attended a virtual conference by InterGenerate and the Children’s Spirituality Summit. We spent Monday through Wednesday listening to thought provoking keynote presentations by world leaders of children’s and intergenerational ministries, attended a broad variety of workshops and/or research paper presentations led by leading practitioners and academics, and joined affinity breakout groups that applied to our areas of interest in faith formational ministry.
It was a great week!
It was even better that we got to attend together as an intentional team from the synod; listening and asking questions not only for ourselves but on behalf of the synod and our churches. We wanted to know what’s out there on the cutting edge of faith formation for children, how we all might grow together in faith across all age groupings, and how we might better imagine meaning-filled intergenerational worship and even intergenerational preaching. We wanted to know how all of this might influence where we are at now in our churches and and what we might do moving out of Covid shut-downs. So we listened, and then we listened some more.
Our brains became full and new ideas began to swim around exciting us and causing us to ponder things from different vantage points. So, we got together every day to reflect on what we had heard. We told each other about the things we each were hearing in our workshops and breakout groups, and we chose activities for each day that we thought might add further layers to what keynoters were saying.
We’ve got a lot of reflection yet to do, but we wanted to let you in on some of the key statements that jumped out at us and prompted us to keeping wondering.
So, in no particular order, and with very little background from us, we invite you to ponder some of the following quotes we took down from the speakers at InterGenerate and the Children’s Spirituality Summit.
From the keynote address ‘It Takes a Church to Raise a Parent: Family Discipleship in a Post-pandemic World’ by Rachel Turner, Parenting for Faith Pioneer at Bible Reading Fellowship in the United Kingdom and author of seven books including It Takes a Church to Raise a Parent.
- From Deuteronomy 6 we find that “Every child is within a family, every family within a clan, and every clan within a tribe. The church has placed its focus on the the clan and tribe, but has forgotten the family… The church must wrap itself around the family and parents offering encouragement and support.”
- Equipping and supporting parents and nurturing an environment where the whole church begins to understand that as their role is crucial.
- “An intergenerational church helps us to learn how to disciple others – it helps people to learn how to spiritually parent. There is no age limit for spiritual parenting; just as you are always a parent no matter how old your children are, you can always learn more about spiritual parenting.”
- “Create windows; show your life with God,” and “Sprinkle ideas; they will travel like glitter,” and “Tell stories; so parents know what is possible.”
- “Your story is the one your child needs to hear this week”
From the keynote address “Intergenerational Ministry in a Post-Pandemic World” by F. Douglas Powe Jr., Director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership and the James C. Logan Professor of Evangelism at Wesley Theological Seminary and author of The Adept Church: Navigating Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
- “We need a new seating chart!… Why do we have two tables? Why do we have a marginalized group, and why is that our children and our young people? Let’s bring the generations together!”
- “Pay attention to how everyone is made welcome; create space for all to be fully present.”
- “As Christians, how we relate to one another should set us apart.”
On imagining new paths for faith formation
- “Experiment with new ways of intergenerational faith formation and find assessments other than numbers. Collect stories as a way of assessing progress.”
- “Are we programme reliant?”
- “Discipleship is not an activity; discipleship is relational, not a programme.”
On planning intergenerational worship experiences for all
- While churches have embraced many aspects of intergenerational worship, preaching has been untouchable. “Perhaps our theology of preaching is at fault?”
- “Start by considering Jesus as an intergenerational preacher.” and “Jesus spoke to intergenerational audiences.”
- “Preaching is a cultural artefact – therefore it is open to revision and change.”
On re-entry to our church buildings after the pandemic
- “We often ask for the gift of tongues, when it might be more helpful to ask for the gift of ears.”
- Children missed their church and Sunday school classes; seeing and being with others in worship and communion. They thought the crackers in the pre-packaged communion elements tasted like styrofoam.
- Children thought it might feel awkward coming back to the church. Many have experienced grief and loss. They worry about those that might be sad and might need a place set aside to cry or laugh without lots of people watching.
- Children do not want to be overwhelmed when they come back; don’t force them, instead encourage them to join in. Help everyone feel welcome.
- Consider arranging playdates with families of your church, one family at a time, to chat about their experiences of church with the shift to online worship and Sunday school during the pandemic and what their hopes are for re-entry. One educator spoke of families missing singing, but also spoke about their concerns around people taking their masks off in worship. Others expressed anxiety around not knowing who’s vaccinated. They wondered about people coming back to the building in stages.
- Relationships continue to be what children long for most in the context of the pandemic and re-entry.
We promise, we’ll get back to you in the weeks ahead with more thoughts that we hope will be further developed and helpful for us all.
In the meantime, if you bump into Rev. Bethany McCaffrey (Pickering Presbytery), Mirim Kim (HanCa East Presbytery), Rev. Laura Duggan (Oak Ridges Presbytery), Rev. Karen Pozios (Brampton Presbytery), and/or Rev. Courtney Crawford (Waterloo-Wellington Presbytery) over Zoom say hi, offer a thank you for their attending on behalf of the synod, and then ask them what they’re contemplating as a result of attending.