As churches are looking ahead to the future, there are lots of considerations for nurturing a healthy intergenerational church.

Larry Green, a ministry friend of David Salazar, Washington Conference’s youth director, shares some insights, ideas and inspiration for churches to consider. Both Green and Salazar are working on their Doctor of Ministry degrees in intergenerational ministry at Andrews University.

Green writes:

As generation clashes over social, doctrinal and ethical issues such as worship style, sexuality, racism and injustices and a myriad of other dividing issues, parents, pastors and other church leaders are under significant duress and in a state of panic. Ministry leaders, parents and spiritual guardians in churches across the globe are faced with this mutual challenge of bridging the gap to experience faith transmission, fellowshipping and mutual sharing and learning across generational divides.

Rightly equip, churches, parents, ministry leaders and the total membership can better communicate to closeness among different generation.

Green worked with his colleagues Aundrea Thompson and Mark Ewen to develop a model for a Growing Young Adventist Intergenerational Sabbath (GYAIS) as a springboard to answer the real issues between generations. They modeled this intergenerational Sabbath at Mississauga Adventist Church (in Canada) during a one-day symposium.

GYAIS Action Plan

  1. We adopted and communicate a clear vision “to educate and stimulate an interest for the creation of an intergenerational community that will enthuse the worship, fellowship, mentorship and outreach ministries."
  2. Actions taken:
    • Communicated in two separate lectures the six core principles of Growing Young (keychain leadership, empathized with today’s young people, take Jesus message seriously, fuel a warm community, prioritize young people and family everywhere, and be the best neighbor).
    • Intentionally showed the importance of intergenerational faith transmission through the seminars, lectures, and group dynamics by focusing on gaps between generations and fostering a hospitable atmosphere for outreach ministry.
    • Provided the tools and resource materials as a springboard to create an intergenerational community where all generation mutually learn, share and grow. Furthermore, we facilitate intergenerational interaction through:
      • Intergenerational model with an interactive Sabbath School class
      • Intergenerational worship event/experience
      • Intergenerational outreach planning session

Nurturing Intergenerational Church

In the process of developing the Intergenerational Sabbath curriculum, Green read Intergenerational Christian Formation by Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton. This book shares how to bring the whole church together in ministry, community and worship.

Green shares:

Intergenerational Christian Formation “offered biblical, theological, sociological, empirical, developmental, and anecdotal support for the idea that aged-integrated faith communities are places of spiritual blessings to all concerned…and activities, events and ideas for intergathering the generations” (178).

The culturally adopted practice of age segregation has characterized churches across the globe. However, intergenerational spiritual formation biblically occurs when church intentionally gathered for ‘cross-generational’ activities.

When families with children are intentionally integrated into religious authoritative communities for multigenerational interactions, biblically, faith is passed on and the church grows.

Intergenerationality was established practice of God’ people throughout scripture as well as it is His directives that generations to be mutually influential (Deut. 6:1-13).

Green reflects:

This book provides a clear and comprehensive understanding and appreciation for what intergenerational experiences in congregations should involve. It not only challenge ministry leaders, pastors and volunteers to be keen and intentional about applying intergenerational ministry, but it provides tools on how to do the same.

The authors supports that each generation can contribute to each other’s growth. Adjacent to this point is that different ministry leaders must cooperate with and learn from each other in order to discover and apply intergenerationality within the church.  

Faith communities will not become intergenerational simply by reading this book, but it is certainly a starting point to sparks the discussion while providing a roadmap to developing rich and intentional intergenerational faith communities.

Spark a conversation online with your church community. What can you do better intergenerationally as you phase back in to in-person church life?