Who’s doing this well?

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.

Fabric Good, Quilts Bad.

Fabric Good, Quilts Bad.

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.

nini-up-6856275-1280-10244.  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?


6 thoughts on “Who’s doing this well?

  1. In my experience, models and templates become problematic with young adults, and without a template, it’s almost impossible to determine levels of success. That’s why this age is so difficult from a ministry perspective.

  2. This might be a bit idealistic, but the way I see YA Ministry is the way I have seen the church at large for some time now – as a family. I believe we’ll have real success when our church bodies are pursuing Jesus as a family. Concerned, loving, forgiving, frustrated, like any typically dysfunctional family. But, ultimately, eager that all the family walks into heaven when they walk out of this world. Programming helps define things, but family helps us live and breath Jesus together…

  3. Hey Ian, Thanks for bringing this up for comment again. It’s such a challenge to find that balance and even how to think about what the “win” looks like in the realm of building meaningful and lasting relationships within the church. This even provokes the question of what does it mean for a church to do “well” and how do we qualify/quantify that concept?
    Do we have successes? Sure. Do they need to outnumber the circumstances we see as “failures” in order for us to consider ourselves successful? Where does that even come from?
    The thing that has stuck with me and been a burr in my thoughts for a couple of days now is honestly that image from the movie UP. I don’t know if you used it deliberately or if it was just a convenient image of a young man and an older man together, but I had never really thought of that movie in the context of this discussion. After seeing the image, I was struck by the fact that the relationship between Carl Frederickson and Russell is a fantastic example of what this kind of relationship looks like. It certainly starts full of dysfunction, it seems certainly one-sided from time to time, it’s messy and borderline dangerous, and in the end it resolves into a beautiful friendship that goes both ways and blesses the two of them. Now, I know UP is not really the best for building a ministry model, but man that is an inspiring image of the end result.
    So yah, I don’t have any real answers either, but I do know I want a Carl Frederickson in my life to pin my scout badges on and I want to find the opportunity to reach out to some Russell somewhere.

    • I think you nailed it. I actually stumbled across that pic, and then used it intentionally as I got to thinking the same thing you just expressed. It is a brilliant theme in that movie.

  4. Pingback: Who’s doing this well? Part 2 | *andcollegeministry

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