Until the last fifty years, the Christian faith was imbedded in our culture. The Christian ethos and atmosphere was inherently part of the fabric of our secular society and as a result, the church did not have to work as hard at getting everyone's attention. It was part of the "mainland" if you will. Public schools were extensions of church - prayer in schools, hymns and carols were taught in music class. Churches were the epi-center of the community. There was less mobility in families. Most folks married and raised their children in the church in which they were baptized. There were Blue Laws, prohibiting little else other than Sabbath happening on Sundays (and sports and birthday parties on Sundays were unheard of). Digital media wasn't what it is today, and most television and radio programming was flooded by church worship on Sunday mornings.
Fast-forward to 2018. The church has become so isolated, counter-cultural, like an island floating away from the "mainland". The traditional structure of Christian Education that was created after WWII (Sunday school modeled after public school education, Sunday evening youth groups), is no longer effective. As an isolated atmosphere happening in a vacuum, it only intensifies isolation and gives children and youth very little experience of "church". As a result, it will be impossible when our youth become adults to replicate their church experience if it is only limited to that of craft projects in an education wing or bowling with their peers on a Sunday night. Fortunately, churches like ours that value intergenerational ministry have found a way to lift children and youth and incorporate them into the body of church in a variety of creative and meaningful ways. As a result, we have seen vitality and growth that many of our mainline peers have not. I am convinced that where many churches find their youth programs struggling and disappearing, ours is strong and stable because we are intentional in supporting a well-rounded faith formation program. Intergenerational worship, fellowship and opportunities are a facet of our church life in which we must invest, we cannot afford not to. It is an investment that is both wise and worthy, and capable of great returns.
Many theological studies support the value and importance of intergenerational relationships ministry and worship. Research shows that to grow up healthy, youth need to be supported by at least 5 adults in addition to their parents and caregivers, adults who are willing to invest time with them personally and spiritually. Research shows that young people with strong intergenerational relationships are more resilient in the face of stress and trauma and that they report a wide range of social-emotional strengths. Research shows that the active presence and engagement of an intentional and consistent adult relationship is the single greatest influence on a young person's faith.
The research is enlightening, but it only supports what I've always known to be true. Firsthand, I know the value of the intergenerational experience because I benefitted from it myself as a child in my home church, where I felt lifted by caring adults in the congregation. But even more than that, I've seen intergenerational friendships blossom in our church. I've certainly seen its impact on my three sons who have special relationships with so many of you. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing the love and care that is so apparent among the children, youth and adults in our church. We all witness it at coffee hour and the passing of the peace, but I've certainly seen it consistently outside of our four walls as well. The energy and dynamic created through intergenerational ministry is rich, but it also sets church apart from other community organizations and experiences. There is something so powerful about folks of different ages, stages, interests and ideas coming together with the common goal of developing a relationship with God.
I encourage not only the adults in our congregation to reach out and get to know a child, and make good on the baptismal covenant of supporting these children on their faith journey, but I also encourage our families to reach out and get to know an adult member of our congregation. Commit to making an investment in each other. Not only will you be extending God's love and modeling that love for your family, but it will enrich your life in ways that may surprise and delight you.
Upcoming Intergenerational activities, events and opportunities:
February 4th, 10:00 a.m. Intergenerational Worship - children and youth will participate in our worship service which will explore healing and prayer, using the lectionary stories as our inspiration.
February 4th, 11:00 a.m. Pancake Breakfast - our annual Superbowl Breakfast is not only a great fundraiser for our retreat to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for intergenerational fellowship.
February 9th, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Game Night - all ages invited to bring a favorite game, snack or sweet. Break the monotony of the winter with a night of laughter, fun and friendly competition. Transportation is available, phone or email the church office to make arrangements.
Lenten Prayer Partners - We'll be creating a "Pray for Me" wall in the fellowship hall and will be grouping intergenerational participants, who can then leave prayer requests in envelopes provided. Prayer partners will commit to praying for one another during the season of Lent. All children and youth will be asked to participate. If you would like to be an adult partner, please connect with Amy firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-241-2403
Journey to Adulthood (J2A) Lenten Visits - as is tradition during Lent, members of the congregation will visit the J2A class and share their personal faith story. These meaningful meetings have had a deep impact on our young people. If you have a story to share, please be in touch with Amy. Visits happen during church school time in the J2A room (following the Time for the Young at Heart).
Confirmation Mentors - our current confirmation class is paired with mentors, but we have an upcoming group of wonderful 8th and 9th graders who will be in need of adult mentors. These special relationships have proven to be very rewarding to both the confirmand and mentor. If you'd like more information or are interested, please reach out to Amy or speak to one of our current, past mentors.