White clapboard houses and red barns were everywhere--not that we noticed except on the trip to and from the Hartford airport. We were more focused on soaking up the conversation from the 100 folks interested in and passionate about intergenerational faith formation. The leaves may have been turning outside but we were turning to one another inside to listen, learn, process, brainstorm, and vision about the impact on the church of intentionally bringing generations together.
Long time lifelong faith pioneer John Roberto (of Lifelong Faith Associates) brought together a crackerjack Resource Team (Jim Merhaut, Holly Allen, and Kathie Amidei) to share their expertise in short TED Talk-like presentations that drew us in. The "us" were the fortunate ones who registered before the 100 person cap was reached and journeyed to Connecticut from all over the US, Canada, and even Australia.
"The Future of Intergenerational Christian Faith Formation" was not just a time to listen to a few but also to talk about our own experiences in lots of small group circles. We met as "kindred" groups too (clergy, national/regional people, faith formation staff, and youth ministry leaders) to connect principles to practices and then to build an agenda for action. This was not just some navel gazing think tank! My favorite discussions were with the other national/regional leaders (Faith Alive, Vibrant Faith, and those serving on their diocesan level were in my group) to consider attention needed and strategies to support our churches in intergenerational ministry.
I had conversations with people from a multitude of denominations: Lutheran, Christian Reformed Church, United Church of Christ, Unitarian-Universalist, Church of God, Episcopal, and a lot of Catholics. Not sure where the Methodists, Disciples, (other) Presbyterians and the rest of the denominations were! We marveled more than once about the commonality in our discussions. There should be more of these, we said.
I enjoyed sharing the principles and practices of LOGOS with many who had absolutely no previous knowledge or experience. And I was thrilled with how it aligned with Generations of Faith gatherings (an intergenerational model out of the Catholic church). LOGOS also dovetailed well with other resource providers and consultants.
What were the results of our work...the fruit of our labor? Here are some early take-aways from my notes:
--Intergenerational experiences benefit children by increasing their circle of adults who know God.
--We cannot speak of the Body of Christ with generations missing.
--For years we've misread developmental psychology assuming it meant we needed to keep the generations apart. Now we know there must be interaction in order to launch to the next stage of development.
--Peer groups in the church are the doors into the all-age community (or should be).
--Empirical data shows that a sense of belonging is needed for faith formation which results from a warm, welcoming environment and relationships from interaction with the larger church community.
--Clergy make or break an intergenerational approach in a church.
--Churches need ideas, resources, and tools that are flexible and adaptable enough to use in their own setting.
--Churches need help with assessment so they know what they need.
--We need to move beyond just the idea of intergenerationality to doing it.
--Often "starting" means working with those who are willing to start. But drawing others in means addressing what they value.
--Some need to understand this approach with their head (empirical evidence) and others with their heart (stories) or hands (experiential).
--Intergenerational experiences in the church really are the norm and we need the language to say that (avoids the "freaking out" response).
I asked John Roberto if there will be another gathering or if it was a "one and done." "One and done," he said. I'm counting my blessings that GenOn Ministries had a seat at that table for the connections and conversation. Check out the intergenerational faith formation website and check back for added shared resources, case studies, recorded interviews from the attenders, and a slew of other things that will help us move forward in gathering the generations together in faith communities.
Would you like to receive regular emails from GenOn Ministries with helpful articles, ideas and reminders about resources available? If so, please subscribe here.