Written by:
Kelly Peterson-Cruse

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We’re Here… They’re Here…This Should Be Easy …NOT!: Strategies for Integernerational Ministry

Kelly Peterson-Cruse

Time and time again we’ve emphasized that RELATIONSHIPS are the key to any successful ministry; this is especially true in ministry with young people. So when you find yourself exploring intergenerational ministries, it is usually because of the following: You don’t have enough young people in your church to form a “youth group” or your youth ministry is such that it is isolated from the rest of the church body and the only time your young people interact with the other members is during fundraising efforts. Ok, a little simplified in definition, but the point is, just because there are multi-generations belonging to the same church body does not mean there are relationships to build a ministry upon.

The Fuller Institute has done some research on this and says the following are some of the crucial considerations for succeeding in the ministry.

  • Assess the current conditions- (of the church members and leaders on value placed on intergenerational ministry and their openness to change).
  • Creating a Core Value- (it’s not something they “do” it is who they “become”, assimilating young people as the church of the NOW, not someday).
  • Leadership is fully vested and accountability and support are built in.
  • Programmatically you should: Be intentional and strategic, willing to experiment and begin with existing structures.

Starting with the history and culture of your congregation, “what SUCCESSFUL ministries are you currently doing that you could move towards becoming intergenerational”? Who are your stakeholders to help in the process?

Think about it—

  • Do you have a successful ministry around knitting or quilting?
  • How about VIM work/teams at your local camp that your young people attend?
  • What about baking, cooking, other outreach/fellowship ministries?
  • How about the sharing of skills; youth sharing social and technology knowledge, older generations simple tasks like car repair, looking at each other’s “gifts” and finding those that are of interest to others.
  • Go beyond a “youth” Sunday; recruit young people to be a part of the worship team and intergenerational music teams.
  • Even your socials such as “game night”, if you include the young people in the PLANNING and DESIGN, you cultivate that core value of what you “ARE”.

These are just a few examples of how easy it can be to start with an intentional and strategic approach and development. Now, this is not to say that intergenerational ministry development should replace age specific ministry. There are important “life stage” topics and faith development that serve a purpose to a specific age group. You have to find BALANCE so that you’re not just adding to an already full life and schedule of ministry…again strategic and intentional ministry planning and implementation.

Finally, watch out for some obstacles that can sabotage the success. The Fuller Institute identifies the following:

  • Time not given to UNDERSTANDING between the generations. Goals and outcomes for a particular event, activity etc. may differ between generations. This should be discussed and considered. A prime example can be something as basic as communication; a phone call or email is not the most efficient form of communication to young people.
  • Not treating the change as a cultural “shift” in how you do ministry rather than a method of ministry.
  • Uncommitted leaders- a lone youth leader CANNOT lead the charge of cultural change within the congregation; it takes complete buy-in and active participation from all those in leadership.
  • Realizing that you can’t be “in it” for success in just your area of ministry. This is a healthy core value shift for all.
  • Not allowing “it’s just too hard” to do you in. As stated above, start slow, be intentional; don’t just pile on new programs. Start with what you have and build the relationships, the ministry and the cultural shift to successful intergenerational ministry.

Sources: The Fuller Youth Institute: https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/art-ministry-beyonethe-rhetoric
Promoting Intergenerational Youth Ministry Within Existing Evangelical Church Congregations: What Have We Learned? By Brenda Snailum.