What are you planning for Easter? As you think about your services over the coming Easter season, what preparations are in place to ensure you are caring for the different generations in your church?
Easter is often a time where churches gather everyone together during the Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. While these gatherings may be ‘multi-generational’, they are commonly not as ‘inter-generational’ as they could be.
Intergenerational ministry focuses on the mutual discipleship of all people through the intentional gathering together of different generations. It is a way of doing ministry that seeks to hold in balance the need to pass on the gospel to the next generation (Ps 71:17-18), whilst allowing for children to also minister to adults (Matt 18:2-3). It recognises the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet 2:5) and the mutuality of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13). It is the ministry that each of us can offer to those who are both older and younger than us (see 1 Tim 5; 1 Jn 2:12-14).
Because intergenerational ministry is intentional, we don’t seek to include children simply to give the leaders a well-deserved school holiday break. Rather, we are eager for their inclusion. Likewise, we are not looking for ways to distract children during the service time, but seeking ways to include them, hear from them and have them being co-contributors to our time together.
The authors of Growing Young, Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad M Griffin, found that churches that are going well in their ministry to young people had a number of things in common. One of these, which the authors labels as ‘key chain leadership’, is the inclusion of young people in the leadership of the ministries in their churches. By being contributors to ministry, not just consumers, children and teenagers have a deeper connection to the ministry, to the church and ultimately to the people who are the church in their local setting.
It should be no surprise then to hear from the Growing Young research that churches who are thriving in their ministry to youth and children are the ones doing exactly what the Bible calls us to do; valuing children and young people, not just as the church of tomorrow, but as the church of today. And as the church of today, to genuinely contribute to the ministry of the church, today.
With this lens in place, how might we shape our church time together to be more genuinely intergenerational?
All generations contributing to the service
Rather than see children as a problem to be solved, an intergenerational service will look to include them and value their involvement in the same way we would the different generations of adults in the service.
As you choose songs, Bible reading, and lead the teaching time, prayers and communion, be thinking about the full inclusion of children and young people. This will be evident in the choices of language in each of these elements but will also seek to involve children in the leading of these elements.
Here are a few questions to help you think through this:
Are the generations represented in the people up the front during singing and prayers and ‘behind the scenes’ in welcoming, distributing morning tea, or collecting the plastic communion cups?
Where can you involve children and young people in genuine service and contribution during your gathered time together?
All generations gathered for a meal
Meals can be a great way to gather the generations together in meaningful ways. Sitting together around a table for a meal slows us down and ensures that we have longer conversations with our family and friends. This helps build our community together in deep, relational ways.
You might consider having a reflective dinner on Maundy Thursday with some roast lamb and unleavened bread, or a celebratory lunch on Sunday to revel in the good news of the resurrection.
However, remember again that having all the generations together in the same space is a great start, but does not necessarily create ‘intergenerational’ experiences. Do not miss the opportunity for intergenerational ministry by neglecting the intentionalcoming together of generations. Encourage families to not only sit together but to purposely invite non-family members to join them. Encourage a small group of teenagers to adopt spiritual grandparents for the meal and sit with them and hear their stories. And by all means, avoid the temptation to create a kids’ table which gets children ‘out of the way’ and therefore ‘out of relationship’ with those who can minister to and be ministered to, by these children.
All generations equipped to take the message back home
Those in children’s ministry will be familiar with the idea of a ‘take home’. It is the craft item, or memory verse bookmark, or list of questions that will help the family reinforce the day’s story during the upcoming week.
You don’t have to get everyone at church making something out of cotton wool balls, PVA glue and split pins in order to broaden the ‘take home’ idea into an intergenerational concept.
Here’s a couple of quick ideas:
If you have an image you are using to promote your Easter season or sermon series, make it available as a background image for phones, desktops, or social media posts.
Provide a ‘take it home’ postcard that has further readings and questions on the teaching time so members can keep engaging with the message during the week. Include one group activity idea that can be done at home by a family or small group of friends.
Create a playlist of songs from your gathering and other related tracks that people can continue listening to during the week including both regular worship songs as well as some children’s songs in the playlist. You could give out the names of the songs on a card or create a Spotify playlist to electronically share with the church.
Intergenerational ministry does not expect that every moment and every aspect of your time together will have all ages mixing together. However building in intentional intergenerational moments throughout your Easter weekend will be of great benefit to the maturing faith of your members; children, teens, adults and seniors alike.