"We naturally gravitate toward people most like us which usually means those of a similar age. The church has long been a bastion of age-segregated programming and activities."
A sure sign that a church is committed to intergenerational ministry is a stepping stool behind the pulpit. It’s what I saw recently when visiting a church in Winchester, Virginia. The stepping stool was needed for the children leading various parts of worship. It was the only way they could be seen over the pulpit and reach the microphone to be heard. Another memorable image was the pairing of older adults with children to collect the offering. They helped one another - and were serving together. When the line blurs between “too old” and “too young” then we know we’ve reached the point of age not mattering. God didn’t think Abraham too old nor Samuel too young. The church functions best as the Body of Christ when we are the body TOGETHER.
Perhaps that’s easier said than done. We naturally gravitate toward people most like us which usually means those of a similar age. The church has long been a bastion of age-segregated programming and activities. We have “youth mission trips” and the “adult choir” or Bible studies for adult women during the week and for youth or children only on Sunday morning. The activities for the “men of the church” usually don’t include the “boys” unless it’s a father-son program. And often worship is touted as open and affirming to “all” but we excuse the children to go do something else while the adults worship.
Rethinking Church Programs
It usually takes an intentional plan to incorporate all ages in whatever we do — which also takes more effort. Sometimes however it’s as simple as asking, “How can we do it differently so that all ages are together?” Maybe it means starting with the activities for children and youth and looking for ways to include more adults. It also means considering how we can include younger people in aspects of the church that are more traditionally for older folks.
Everyone benefits from this “coming together" . . . we all stretch beyond our comfort zones and learn from those older and younger with different perspectives and interests.
Liz Perraud is the Executive Director of GenOn Ministries, a non-denominational Christian organization that works in partnership with local church leaders to build disciples of Jesus Christ through intergenerational relationships. This article originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of “Discipleship,” a publication of the Presbytery of Baltimore.
Featured image is artwork from Synthia Saint James.