Intergenerational ministry is more than the latest buzz word in youth and children’s ministry. According to Brendan Moar, long-term youth minister at St George North Anglican Church, intergenerational ministry is, "just wisdom”. Here Brendan shares the wisdom of committing to intergenerational ministry.
Ed: Why are you passionate about seeing young people love and follow Jesus?
Brendan: All people, including the young, fall short of God’s glory and justly deserve his wrath. They need Jesus. The gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe, regardless of race, class, gender or age: how can I not want them to have that and share that good news with others? There’s also a great joy in seeing young people mature in Christ and exhibit godliness that surpasses many adults. This is a real testimony to the power of God to work in us by his Spirit.
Ed: What has been your journey towards intergenerational ministry?
Brendan: The older I get and the longer I’ve been doing youth ministry, the more I appreciate the wisdom and experience that my older leaders bring to the youth ministry context. At the same time, over the last 15 years or so I’ve seen how the extending of adolescence has meant that many of the leaders are dealing with the same stage-of-life issues as our youth. There is still a lot of faith-formation happening: questions about their faith-life and what it means to navigate this world as a Christian.
On the other hand, this isn’t the key question for me! For me, intergenerational thinking didn’t start with the question, ‘How can I connect teenagers with 30, 50, 80-year-olds?’ For me, it flowed out of my thinking about how to manage transitions from one stage of the youth ministry through to the next, right up into integration with the 6:30pm adult congregation. Really, it started with the question: how do I help youth keep connecting upwards?
By connecting, I mean establishing genuine friendships where the older seek to serve and disciple the younger, speaking the gospel into their lives and praying with them. It’s modelling the faith. So, that meant working hard on connecting Year 6 with the rest of the youth, connecting juniors with seniors, and connecting seniors with our 6:30pm congregation. Connecting parents and adults with youth sits alongside this. The gospel shatters age barriers—we are ‘all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28) – and I want our young people to experience that blessing.
Ed: Why are you convinced youth need relationships with more than just their friends?
Brendan: It’s just wisdom. I’m convinced because of the naïve young man of Proverbs. It’s not wrong that he’s naïve: it’s just a function of his limited experience. He needs the wisdom of the more experienced elders to show him how to apply what God’s word teaches into every sphere of his life in the community. In particular that responsibility falls on his parents, as it does in the New Testament, but there’s a strong sense in Proverbs that what he’s being taught is about how the whole community of God’s people—young and old—should interact and encourage each other to live lives in the Fear of the Lord.
Ed: What are some intergenerational strategies you have tried?
Brendan: Every week our Year 7 and 8s stay in church. After the sermon they head out for a 15 minute debrief with one of the dads from the group to clarify what they learned and explore the implications together. This is as much about the dads as it is the teens! It helps the dads to see their own teen in the context of what teens are like in general, it helps them see just how much our teens take in and how they love to be pushed to follow Jesus, as well as giving them the confidence to talk to their own teen about living for Christ. It builds connections between our teens and the Christian dads at church, who become trusted adults they can seek when they feel they need wisdom, not just when they’re in Year 7 or 8, but on into the future.
In Term 3 and 4 last year, we brought Years 7-12 together for Youth Group and ran our small groups as mixed-year and gender, with an even spread of senior and junior guys and girls in each group. We noticed almost immediately that the seniors all stepped up in taking responsibility for leadership, that they were more intentional in discipling the juniors in their group beyond the small group time, and that the juniors were thriving in this environment.
Ed: Where have you seen the fruit of these intergenerational strategies?
Brendan: The biggest area of growth happens when Year 12s finish school and settle into 6.30pm church. The relationships that they’ve been forming with adults over the last three years grow into one-to-one discipleship relationships where they read the Bible and pray every week. The three previous years of rubbing shoulders forms the seed-bed for these one-to-one relationships to quickly blossom.
The weaving of intergenerational ministry into our youth ministries grows our ability to disciple the next generation. Where could you utilise opportunities to bring generations together for meaningful interactions?