Not long until Intergenerate! Rachel Sangster, Co-Pastor at Riccarton Baptist Church, shares with us some of the intergenerational discipling vision behind this event and how you can be a part of it. Scroll down to find more details about the Intergenerate Conference.

When you think about your church or faith community, how many opportunities are there for generations to connect? In most settings, age-specific opportunities like Sunday School and youth groups are the “norm”. They are not in and of themselves wrong. However, if communities don’t create opportunities for generations to connect, develop meaningful relationships, and grow in God together through intentional discipleship, they miss out on some incredible ways to grow with God and one another.  

In our church, as we have intentionally embraced an intergenerational approach to discipleship, I have seen some fantastic growth in the faith journey of individuals. The sense of belonging and acceptance has brought a fresh wind of the Spirit and is building a thriving, vibrant faith family. I celebrate when I see the different generations within our faith community engaging together in many different ways. These kinds of relationships are bringing transformation and lifelong disciples.

Christina Embree, a senior leader and strong voice for intergenerational discipleship, highlights five powerful ways intergenerational relationships can transform a faith community, as described through the Psalms.

Shared Spiritual Journey

Psalm 78:2-7 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done…so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

This is the heart of a community’s spiritual journey. Faith communities serve as spaces where individuals embark on a shared spiritual journey, regardless of age. By nurturing intergenerational connections, we create opportunities for diverse perspectives, experiences, and spiritual insights to intersect. Older members can offer guidance and mentorship to younger individuals, while the younger generation can infuse fresh energy, passion, and new perspectives into the community.

Mentorship and Discipleship

Psalm 145:3-7  “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds.”

Intergenerational relationships in the church provide a fertile ground for mentorship and discipleship. Within a church setting, older, more experienced members can guide and mentor younger individuals, helping them navigate their faith journey, offering wisdom, and serving as role models. The younger generation, in turn, can bring enthusiasm, curiosity, and a willingness to learn, invigorating the community and fostering a sense of continuity and generational growth—from one generation to another.

Strengthening Family Units

Psalm 68:4-6 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord., A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing..”

Churches often welcome families of different generations and varying compositions, including single parents, stepfamilies, foster and adoptive families, and grandparents or other relatives serving as primary caregivers.

Intergenerational connections within a faith community contribute to the strengthening of all types of family units. Families are nurtured, and bonds across generations are deepened by providing a welcoming place for interactions between various age groups. Children, parents, and grandparents can engage in shared activities, worship, and service, fostering a sense of unity and shared values.

Worship and Celebration

Psalm 95:1-2

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;

   let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

 Let us come before him with thanksgiving

   and extol him with music and song. 

Intergenerational connections enrich worship experiences and celebrations within a faith community. Different generations bring unique perspectives, musical genres, and spiritual expressions to the worship setting. Intergenerational collaborations in choirs, music ministries, and worship teams can create a diverse and vibrant atmosphere, uniting multiple generations in worship and fostering a sense of belonging for all.

Service and Outreach

Psalm 112:1-5 “Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely who conduct their affairs with justice.“

Intergenerational connections empower faith communities to engage in meaningful service and outreach. By bringing together the talents, resources, and experiences of individuals from various age groups, the whole community can have a more significant impact in serving others, caring for the vulnerable, and spreading love and compassion. Intergenerational partnerships in mission projects and community initiatives exemplify our shared values and commitment to following Jesus and engaging the work He is already doing in the world.

So now you may ask, “But how do I do that in my church? What are some first steps I can take? Is the Sunday gathering the only place these intentional intergenerational connections can happen? How do I go about preaching to all ages?” These are all wonderful questions; I am glad you have asked them.  

To hear what other leaders and faith communities locally and internationally have done and to learn from some key thinkers and researchers in this area, I suggest you come with your team to: 

Intergenerate Aus/NZ Conference 2023

Christchurch 8th August- Riccarton Baptist

Auckland 10th August – St Mary’s by the Sea. 

At this one-day event, you will hear from experienced leaders and practitioners and be inspired by ways you can communicate the Gospel thoughtfully and deeply, strengthening the faith discipleship of your whole community across all ages.  

If you would like to discuss this topic with me, I am more than willing to grab a cuppa and have a conversation with you and/or your teams.

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Cover photo: Supplied by Rachel Sangster for her Alpha on Sunday mornings?! article.

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