In reflecting upon experiences in leading groups over the years, my understanding of faith formation for children and adults has shifted my ministry focus. The passion I now have for creating spaces where all generations, old and young can be shaped by God’s story is shown in the work I believe God has called me to in this season of my life. These new insights have encouraged me to share ideas that may inspire others to proclaim and celebrate faith more intentionally for all ages together in worship and many other discipleship opportunities.
I now see more clearly the reality of the importance that Intergenerational experiences offer with support for people of all ages. Besides being scriptural, it offers the whole church opportunities to benefit from each person’s individual God-given gifts. It can enable believers to fully live out being the body of Christ. In Allen and Ross’ book, Intergenerational Christian Formation, they talk about “belongingness”, the third in Maslow’s hierarch of needs, as being met through intergenerational experiences as well as character growth, better use of resources and unique benefits by all age groups. What better time than now, following the unprecedented year of 2020, to focus on growing together as a community of believers.
These experiences of faith formation can even become side-by-side experiences as generations partner together to tell their stories, where older and younger adults share their faith, model and guide children and youth through faith talks during a “break-out” time during worship (See a previous post, “Break-Out Time for an Intergenerational Experience During Worship-The First Post in a Series” under Leadership). All ages can learn and grow together as they give glimpses into what ‘God with us” means and looks like to one another. These glimpses builds the vision into something easy to talk about when families continue living out their faith throughout the week. These experiences can be played-out through regular church activities when planned intentionally for Christian formation by a leadership team.
But why should United Methodists and many other denominations be looking into venturing into intergenerationality? When children in the United Methodist church are baptized, there is a question presented to the congregation and the congregation responds to the The Baptismal Covenant.
Pastor: Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care?
Congregation: With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.
I love this sacrament. The sacrament of baptism is one of the two sacraments we acknowledge in the United Methodist Church. These two acts have a special place in the church because Jesus commanded them and participated in them.
“In the service,” Burton-Edwards explains, “the congregation is taking vows too. They’re going to surround you with a community of love and forgiveness, and pray for you, that you may be a disciple of Jesus Christ who walks in the way that leads to life.”
For this reason, baptisms are to take place in the presence of the community of faith. The congregation welcomes their newest members, and renews their covenant to live a life of discipleship.
“Baptism is not an act that imparts something just to you,” Burton-Edwards clarifies. “It is an act that brings you into a spiritual relationship with the whole body of Christ. In which you are becoming one with them and they are becoming one with you.”
Together the baptized — the Church of all ages, nations, and races — walk in the way that leads to life.”
Yes, the congregation, as a whole…the young and the old take this vow. It saddens me that most congregations are entirely age-segregated in the majority of our churches and many adults may not know the names of all the older and younger adult members, children and youth and single families within this body of Christ.
It is important to continue our connectional journey in our churches with urgency as we strive to pass along our faith with adults, children and youth. We need to remember, that all in the community of faith need each of our faith forming life stories on our journeys. Everyone needs to see how others fought the good fights and conquered battles with Christ by the sides of all the people.
We are all in this together as we consider our next right steps for our congregations. We can look for opportunities we have today through our existing church ministries for engaging everyone, together in creative ways for intentional intergenerational ministries, so we can live up to our covenant commitment to our congregations as a whole.
Learn about more essential ingredients for the creation of opportunities within churches to grow together in communities of faith, while keeping our small group ministries strong. More information is coming soon through my website and within upcoming Round Table discussions in the New River District.
Additional Resources-Intergenerational Ministries-Added for 2022: