Intergenerational groups benefit small churches

I just got my March/April Outreach magazine today.  I have looked at some of the online version, but I missed the article, Shaping Generations by Alicia Kazsuk.  Trinity Lutheran Church in Pembroke Pines, Florida, has an IGSS — intergenerational group Sunday School, and Alicia writes about their experience and Pastor Keith Spencer’s comments.  This was just the article I needed to get me going on more IG stuff at our church. 

Intergenerational groups are the wave of the future, I believe, and are especially important to the small church.  Why intergenerational groups?   Because they offer a lot to the small church experience.  Check out these six reasons to explore IGs —

  1. Finding volunteers is easier.  Interegenerational groups are not composed of teacher and students like the traditional age-graded Sunday School, but are made up of all ages as participants.  Someone has to lead and facilitate, but does not have the sole responsibility for creating, planning, and executing the session.
  2. Young participants learn by doing.  Remember reading about the apprentice system in colonial America?  Young craftspersons learned under the watchful care of a master in the trade.  Why should church be any different?  I remember the opportunities I had to teach and lead during our annual Youth Weeks as I was growing up.  Loving adults guided and appreciated my efforts then, and those experiences helped shape my call to ministry.
  3. Rich experiences are passed on to the next generation.  Most families no longer live close enough for grandma and grandpa to pass on many stories of life in the “old days.”  Children and senior adults make a great team as children bring life and energy to the group, while seniors bring nurture and life-stories.
  4. Age-graded Christian education is a recent phenomenon.  The church really started age-grading and dividing families into adult, teen, children, and preschoolers in the early 1900s.  The rise of Sunday School, started originally for children of the streets, flourished particularly after World War II, with the baby boom of the post-war era.  While some division by ages can provide positive benefits, we’ve overdone the division-by-age model in the church.  It’s time to bring some balance back to how we group people at church.
  5. People get to know each other across age divisions.  I think this is the most important outcome of all.  I grew up in a church where children were known by other adults, not just their parents and Sunday School teachers.  Granted, times were different, and the pace was slower, but all the more reason to intentionally create opportunities for children and adults to get to know one another. 
  6. Intergenerational groups can be ministry action groups, too.  Kids and adults can work together on ministry projects as equal contributors.  We have children on some of our deacon-led team ministries, such as Small Jobs Group, which does minor household repair for our members.  Both those doing ministry and those receiving ministry enjoy the contribution of the children in this group. 

Group Publishing’s VBS curriculum, Holy Land Adventure, is intergenerational.  We’ve used it for two years and love it!  If you know of intergenerational group resources, or if your church is trying out an intergenerational group, let me know.  I’d love to feature some of those experiences here.