Cory Seibel, in the introduction to his book, Engage All Generations, writes about how churches are coming to recognize that they inherited some strategies and structures that, at this point in time, may be hindering the church in its growth movement. He is speaking of the influence, that homogeneous units of age specific groups alone, that provided growth in the past, may not be the right path to take on our faith journey in this day and age.
How and why should we gather in worship for intergenerational faith forming experiences with all ages, together? To answer the primary “why” first,we can say that intergenerational gatherings are clearly Biblical. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 it clearly signifies the importance of generational transmission for faith development. We’ve also discovered that sharing faith together while learning and growing with all generations, can receive distinct benefits within all age groups. It was noted in the book Intergenerational Christian Formation, by Allen and Ross, that “the process of becoming Christlike in one’s attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviors-that is Christian formation-does not happen alone.” We need the faith community of all ages and maturity levels to be together, knowing one another and experiencing life in the body of Christ together through intentional faith forming activities.
In this article we’ll explore one example of what it might look like to involve the entire church in experiences during worship using a specific Scriptural Presentation during the Worship Celebration using Ephesians 2:14-22. When all are hearing the same message during church, this presents many opportunities for families to continue this faith talk at home during the week. See the ideas for “Faith At Home” near the end of this article.
The theme, coming from this passage, is based on Christ being our peace. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divides us. We are one within God’s household and we are built on the foundation that Christ is our Cornerstone.
14 “Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. 15 He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. 16 He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God.
17 When he came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. 18 We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit. 19 So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. 20 As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. 22 Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.” Ephesians 2: 14-22 (Common English Bible)
The scripture could be read by three people. The “Break-Out Time”, following the reading of scripture, involves four or five people of differing generations located within areas of the congregation. An adult, older child or youth can reread the scripture reading: verse 14 and 20 as the groups pair off. Here is a list of options you could use as hands-on for visual, tactile, and kinesthetic learning styles designed for engaging and visualizing God’s Word.
Theme: We are built with Christ and He is our Cornerstone…our faith foundation, We are strong, and we can break down barriers that divide people (Could also include welcoming the stranger)
Children and/or youth may want to use their chair or pew as a table for this activity, if the congregation is not gathered around tables. Depending on your time frame, this activity could continue for 5 minutes.
Materials for Break-Out Time:
Lego pieces, Lego base, Lego Duplo, 2 Lego people figures per group, paper and crayons and/or scissors
Read the scripture (verses also should be on cards for at least 4 or 5 people for every table/group)
Create your house with walls and a door with a person inside and a person outside.
I Wonder Questions to Begin the Activity
I wonder what we could create with blocks (or paper) to make a picture of the words in the Bible verse come alive? Let’s create together.
(Have one or two people building the house and/or several drawing a pictures. Be sure to emphasize that this is a quick build and/or a quick draw. They might want to cut out strips of paper to “build” the house)
I wonder what a cornerstone might be? I wonder where it could go on my Lego house or drawing? I wonder if the pastor will mention the word, “cornerstone” in the sermon this morning? You can raise your hand if you hear that word today.
I wonder how Christ is our peace today?
I wonder why Jesus is called the “cornerstone”?
I wonder what we should do to the house we built to show openness to all people? (open the door/take walls down quickly)
I wonder what it might mean for us today when the reading said “with his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us”?
I wonder how we can “break barriers” to welcome everyone into our church family?
The older and younger adults in the group could also share briefly, what they see as barriers for joining together all people in our churches and share how we might want to break down some barriers. These “I Wonder” questions provide ideas for parents to continue this talk at home.
As the groups finish, one adult or older child could hold the figure as the sermon, song, offering, etc. continues. The figure can be a reference point for the people to refer to during the sermon.
My passion for developing creative ways to share God’s Word is reflected in designing Intergenerational Worship and Intergenerational Experiences in church activities. This is a wonderful way for our adults, children and youth to share faith talks. More ideas for engaging the generations while reading scripture along with Bible Studies, Fellowship Gatherings and more, will be forthcoming in future posts. Let’s everyone begin or continue to reach out to all generations during our worship and fellowship times together.
Faith At Home:
Build the figure or draw the picture again at home during play time or snack time. Build a house out of playing cards, Legos or even crackers and talk about the sermon activities from Sunday’s worship service. When you open the door to leave your home, talk about opening your heart today to others you meet. During play time, encourage siblings to open their play area and include brothers, sisters and playmates. The opportunities are endless!
NOTES: To provide the children and youth with a background knowledge before the sermon, a member of the circle might share the definition of a “cornerstone” and a picture will be provided for each table group. Your technology team may want to use this picture of the cornerstone as a background for sermon title, slides, songs, etc.
Additional scripture for this theme could be the following:
A Children’s Bulletin, would also be very important when all are gathered together in a service. The bulletin design would follow the order of service for the main bulletin, only with more visuals and larger print. Here are a few pages from one Children’s bulletin for Easter. I would encourage developing bulletins for worship gatherings, even when the children are present for only part of the service and then dismissed to Children’s Church. The benefits are insurmountable!