I recently participated in a discussion with a group of college ministry leaders and their senior pastors. The topic of our conversation was essentially geared towards the problems of living as an intergenerational church. I was both intrigued by the thoughts and questions of the senior pastors involved. One senior pastor, whom I’d never met before, poignantly asked us the following question:
What churches are doing this well?
I looked him right in the eyes and told him I thought it was his church. I wasn’t joking, I really did. He seemed concerned by my answer.
That question has really stuck in my mind though. Who is doing this really well? One of my friends reminded us at that meeting that most churches, if not all, are multigenerational rather than intergenerational. This simply means that more than one generation is co-existing in the same congregation. Usually this looks like all the generations being divided by the structures and programs of western evangelical culture. Basically, this looks like your church and mine.
So we’re all multigenerational, but going back to my friend’s question: Who is doing the intergenerational thing well? I can’t think of one. I’m sure they exist, but I don’t know any of them. My church is becoming mindful of these problems, but we’re not leading the way. My friends’ church is farther along than we are, which is why I thought his church was doing it well! He didn’t necessarily agree.
Since I didn’t have an answer I’d thought I’d ask myself more questions. What would it look like to have an intergenerational church? What would be the markers? What would the fruit and/or end results? Because I don’t have a model and I’m on this journey myself, I’m going to take some guesses.
1. People know more than just names and faces. I think the church should be like a fabric, intertwined with relationships, time spent and shared experiences. We’ve made it into a quilt; piecing together the various parts of our community, but keeping them segregated to their place.
2. Young people respect older people, seek them out and are comfortable going to them with issues and problems. Conversely, older folks are seeking to be an active part of the adolescent process. Hmmm…that sounds nice.
3. They’re not attempting to answer this programatically. Rather than concerning themselves primarily with how to make their worship service more attractive to young people (which be honest, we’ve all sat through that meeting more than once!), they’re living in real relationships that can’t be quantified by the systems of church administration.
4. Young people are learning from the elders of their churches. This isn’t a Bible study or a Sunday School class. This, I think, is the natural byproduct of authentic, intergenerational relationships.
Again, I really don’t know and could be way off. Thoughts? Do you know of any churches doing this well?