A caterpillar changing into a beautiful butterfly is an oft-used image for transformation. From crawling to flying. From plain to beautiful. From unnoticed to wow! And though it’s a powerful illustration, perhaps we need something else to describe a congregation transitioning from multigenerational to intergenerational. That systemic change from multiple generations in the same building to those generations in relationship, is much less of an overnight “eureka”!
Could a moving train describe a church traveling from “here” to a planned and purposeful “there”— transforming to a new way of being the church, growing disciples, and impacting the world for Jesus Christ in the way, we believe, God intended?
The train meanders along the countryside, through cities, and occasionally into dark tunnels. It chugs slowly up steep mountains and around dangerous bends, sometimes careening down the hillside, with the break on so not to travel too fast. It stops at stations to let people off and to let new people on. It arrives at a destination but always has another place to go. The track might be re-laid, repaired, or rerouted. The crew may change for refreshed energy.
The train is a useful illustration for the complicated and long transition for the culture in a church to change. Where all feel a mutual sense of belonging, as equal parts of the body of Christ—the intergenerational church.
GenOn Ministries provides direction and support for congregational transformation by leading a church through the process of nurturing Christ-centered relationships between and among the generations. The gradual change is the result of intentional movement, with a destination in mind and a purposeful “all aboard” approach for staff and lay leaders.
How does it happen? How does a church get from “here” to “there”?
Cory Seibel’s chapter “From Multigenerational to Intergenerational” in the book InterGenerate includes, among other important insights, an approach to bring about adaptive change in a church inspired by Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation research. There are five steps that take time and intentionality. At GenOn Ministries, we agree with this approach and offer some questions for you to ponder for each step.
Awareness: What does it mean to be intergenerational (not just multigenerational)? What are the benefits to this approach for your church?
Understanding: How can you learn about ways to move forward? What are the options?
Evaluation: How can you evaluate your current church culture and what might this evaluation mean in light of your new understanding? Are you providing enough time for prayer and discernment for making this change to being intergenerational?
Experimentation: Where can you bring more generations together that feels manageable, building on current strengths? How can you experience short-term wins to put your new direction into practice?
Commitment: Are you ready to go deeper into ministry, starting with events and programs and growing an intergenerational culture?
We believe it’s important to circle back (again and again) to the “understanding” and “evaluation” stages for long term sustainability of this new way of doing church. Remembering why you decided to make a change in the first place must be recalled and affirmed or the church slips back into old practices that you were seeking to change. We also believe that outside facilitation is beneficial to accountability and moving the process forward.
Can we have a conversation about where you are in these five steps? And where you would like to be? We offer training, resources, coaching, networking, and experiences to help with all of them. Start small, start slow, just start. Set your eyes on the destination. Recognize movement. Reward progress. Keeping chugging forward.
If you have questions or want more information, contact GenOn Executive Director Liz Perraud.
Other GenOn Connect Jan-Feb 2019 Articles