Many generations, one roof
Youthworks is seeking to reconceptualise its intergenerational ministry, spearheading the effort with its Growing Faith week of conferences.
Growing Faith has long focused on how to nurture faith as a family, but the new extended week of events – including House Conference, the Intergenerational Forum for senior ministers and the Growing Faith conference itself – will expand its focus to how the church body as a whole can foster intergenerational connections within the church.
“We are trying to get rid of the myth that intergenerational ministry means making all ministries multigenerational,” says Youthworks youth ministry advisor Ed Springer. “We are saying rather that one of the key principles of the local church needs to be an aim to build intergenerational relationships across the whole life of the church.
“Where are the opportunities to do what you’re already doing, but by mixing the generations? So perhaps instead of having single-generation music teams, we actively look to have multiple generations serving together.”
While he says Youthworks isn’t trying to provide a one-size-fits-all way of looking at the issue, he believes it’s important for ministers and lay people to think hard about intergenerational issues, highlighted as one factor among Christians who have left the church in their late teens or twenties.
“One of the factors [behind drop-out rates] has been a lack of relationships with people older than themselves,” Mr Springer says. “Part of that is due to the way we age-segregate ministries and the difficulty many young people have in transitioning into what we would define as family church or adult church – and part of that is due to a lack of those links with other generations.”
Growing Faith Week, held in May, will see Dr Timothy Paul Jones – professor of Christian family ministry at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – presenting at all three conferences, with other speakers, papers and ideas also included across the week.
Mr Springer says that apart from the pragmatic reasons to look hard at intergenerational ministry, it is also important as a truer reflection of the kingdom of God.
“At a very simple level, 1 Corinthians 12 says that each part of the body of Christ needs the others,” he says. “The church is made up of different ages and gifts, and not only are we all equal, we actually need each other to function well. Throughout the Bible you see children, parents and elders all participating in the life of God’s people. It’s not just a pragmatic issue but it’s to do with what it means to be God’s people as well.”
Feature photo: Children’s and youth ministers discuss ideas at a previous House Conference at Port Hacking.